Buffed up

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 27 November 2018 11:37

On the 8th June this year, I ran a day's training for Seaford Natural History Society up at Seaford Head. The aim was to show how much you can do in the field but equally how much you can't do. I took a print out of the species list from the spreadsheet so we could tick off species as we went and also so we could know when we had found a species new to the reserve. In all we named 106 species in the field and 13 (12.3%) of these were new to Seaford Head. It's interesting that whenever I do one of these events, even on sites I have heavily surveyed for several years for invertebrates, we always get just over 10% of the species new to the site.

The star of the show wasn't one of these though, the Clouded Buff was last recorded at Seaford Head in 1961, some 57 year earlier. With all the recording that myself and SNHS do up there, I think it's unlikely this striking relative of the tiger moths has gone unnoticed. Interestingly, it is the only record I have ever made of this moth away from heathland. It is listed as eating several foodplants but heather is the main one. This explains much of the distribution, particularly the West Sussex heaths, Ashdown Forest and Chailey Common. What is less obvious is the unusual distribution at the east end of the South Downs (of which Seaford Head lies on the western edge - across the Cuckmere). Waring, Townsend & Lewington lists Sheep's Sorrel, Devil's-bit Scabious, Common Dog-violets and plantains as just some of the foodplants. Now there is quite a lot of chalk-heath in this area (but not at Seaford Head) and it may well be that this is the reason for the stronghold at the eastern end of the Downs as this would explain why it's not everywhere along the Downs. Hot off the press are these new maps from Bob Foreman...

Here is SNHS enjoying the Clouded Buff.

This is Ethmia terminella and IS one of the 13 species we recorded new to the site. It is nationally scarce a and feeds on Viper's-bugloss so is a good record for the site.

We also found Variimorda villosa, a nationally scarce 'tumbling flower-beetle' that is common enough at this time of year.

Other species new to the site included Blue Shiedbug, Chrysolina hyperica (below), Malvapion malvae, Hemicrepidius hirtusm, Taeniapion urticaria, and Tetrops praeusta.

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