The Wild West

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 7 December 2019 19:22

This is my big spider weekend in the south west. Can I close the gap between myself and Matt? Yet what better way to get distracted from the spiders than with the gorgeous Blue Ground Beetle Carabus intricatus. It had been very wet, so yesterday morning was damp but good for spidering, the afternoon though was pretty soggy and a heavy down poor made suction sampling difficult. I met up with John Walters who kindly agreed to show me one of these magnificent beasts and also unexpectedly Kev Rylands, who I have not seen for nine years and is now a fellow top 20 pan-species lister. Just re-read that and it sounds like we found Kev in the field like a woodland creature (I can confirm Kev came with us and we didn't record him).

It's always a pleasure spending time with naturalists in the field on their patch, the last time I met John was the day that inspired me to write the first of my two Calosoma sycophanta blogs. I learned so much in the couple of hours we were together. Here are some more shots of this gorgeous beetle and a wee video showing how long and gangly it is.

And here is a common Carabus problematicus for comparison, just to show how different intricatus is. It looks very squat and plain in comparison.

And on the way back Kev spotted this amazing Witch's Whiskers Usnea florida! A lifer.

What a stunning landscape Dartmoor is. I have never really spent much time here.

Now for the spiders. The first species I recorded at Yarner Wood was actually Micrommata virescens! (if you don't include the two species I got at a service station that is). You know it's gonna be a good day when that's the first spider you find on a site.

By 10.30 am I got a new site/new 10 km square record and my favourite genus. Walckenaeria nodosa and Matt tells me only the third record for Dartmoor, this was in Sphagnum moss. I also picked up Stenus kiesenwetteri which John says is new to Dartmoor!

My other new spider for the day was Tenuiphantes alacris, Which just shows how little spidering I do in the north or west, it's really scarce in the south east.

Here is the spider list up to yesterday for the trip. Quite a few added today in another amazing day in the field but that will have to wait for another day! Loving it down here.

Amaurobius fenestralis
Bathyphantes gracilis
Centromerus dilutus
Cercidia prominens
Crustulina guttata
Dolomedes fimbriatus
Gonatium rubens
Gongylidiellum vivum
Mangora acalypha
Metellina mengei
Metellina merianae
Micrommata virescens
Nesticus cellulanus
Pholcus phalangioides
Phrurolithus festivus
Pisaura mirabilis
Savignya frontata
Steatoda nobilis
Taranuncus setosus
Tenuiphantes alacris
Tenuiphantes cristatus
Tenuiphantes zimmermanni
Theridiosoma gemmosum
Tiso vagans
Walckenaeria nodosa
Zilla diodea
Zora spinimana
Zygiella x-notata

So long and thanks for all the spiders

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 1 December 2019 06:48

It is with great sadness that I must announce that I will be leaving Sussex Wildlife Trust by the middle of the month. I am going to become a full-time freelancer which will hopefully also free up more time for other natural history activities, such as becoming more involved with the BAS in Sussex. It's been a fantastic 12 years, I will still be very much involved with the 32 reserves, continuing to do a great deal of recording. Such as yesterday's spontaneous survey...

Shaun Pryor and I headed to Woods Mill, our target; to look for two common linys that I have frequently recorded at Woods Mill but I have not seen this year. Centromerita bicolor and Bathyphantes nigrinus. We saw neither. We did however see a whole load of really good stuff. Here is the full list with those in bold being new to Woods Mill. Some of these species are well known from the site (Such as Drassyllus lutetianus and Ero apahana) so I am making an informed ID on a few immatures here.

Agalenatea redii
Ballus chalybeius (NS)
Bathyphantes gracilis
Clubiona phragmitis
Clubiona stagnatilis
Clubiona subtilis
Drassyllus lutetianus (NS)
Episinus angulatus
Ero aphana (NS)
Ero furcata
Gnathonarium dentatum
Gongylidium rufipes
Hypomma bituberculatum
Hypsosinga pygmaea
Kaestneria pullata
Larinioides cornutus
Lepthyphantes tenuis
Lepthyphantes zimmermanni
Mangora acalypha
Meioneta mollis (NR)
Micaria pulicaria
Microneta viaria
Monocephalus castaneipes (NS)
Neriene clathrata
Neriene montana
Ozyptila brevipes
Pachygnatha clercki
Palliduphantes pallidus
Panamomops sulcifrons (NS)
Pardosa amentata
Pholcus phalangioides
Pisaura mirabilis
Porrhomma pygmaeum
Tallusia experta
Thanatus striatus (NS)
Theridiosoma gemmosum (NS)
Walckenaeria acuminata
Walckenaeria cuspidata
Walckenaeria unicornis
Zora spinimana

We recorded at least 10 new site records and almost as many new 10 km square records. Four of these new species had conservation status, a really significant result to add to our understanding of the site. One of the last things I will do next week is write the biological information for the next Woods Mill plan and these findings will get a mention. So even after I have gone, expect me to keep adding to the understanding of these fantastic reserves in such a way.

The highlight was totally unexpected. A female Monocephalus castaneipes from Hoe Woods. This is the first time I have seen this species, my 50th new spider in 2019 and my 347th spider of 2019.

Almost as unexpected was the species at the top of the page. Panamomops sulcifrons. I have picked this up twice before, both times from chalk quarries. This time it was sieved from litter along the river at Woods Mill. The male is less than 1.5 mm long (smaller than 97% of our spiders) and it's really funny looking.

In the Box hedge right outside my office window, Ballus chalybeius new to the site.

Also there is a colony of Ero aphana which I already knew about.

In the same hedge, some tiny Theridiosoma gemmsosum. Who knew?!

And the first Walckenaeria cuspidata in West Sussex since 1964. That's the one in the middle with unicornis on the left and a female acuminata on the right.

In the valley field, lots of Thanatus striatus.

And a female Palliduphantes pallidus.

And perhaps most surprising, an adult male Pardosa amentata. I haven't seen an adult Pardosa for months so this was quite a surprise.

So Friday the 13th is my last day at the Trust, and hopefully we will wake up to a fantastic red sunrise that day too. We have one month left on the spider challenge. I've closed the gap a little, Matt's now 15 species ahead. Next weekend I am off to the south west for a long weekend of spidering so it's all to play for.

Nature Blog Network