It's not just the spiders that benefit from spider year-listing!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 29 June 2021 09:12

Yesterday started off very frustrating but ended up being pretty awesome. I started work late as the Sun was meant to appear about midday. On the Cuckmere I did find an area with Divided Sedge, Marsh/Golden Dock (I've never seen either in Sussex and will go back to confirm which species) and a Spotted Redshank flew overhead calling in the sea fog. But by midday, the forecast said about 4.00 pm. Without sun, the farm vegetation I was working on was going to remain sodden. So I went recording to Seaford Head. My target was linys on the saltmarsh and Lasaeola prona at its only known Sussex site.

The little saltmarsh at Seaford was hard work. It started raining as I got there and the sea fog was frustratingly stubborn. But then I saw a beetle flying over head, it looked like a longhorn in flight so I netted it. I looked in the bottom of the net and was about to dismiss it as Rhagonycha fulva when I realised it was a Wharf-borer (Nacerdes melanura). I have only seen one of these before at Rye Harbour. That's the 1st species I had new to the reserve.
I tried the suction sampler on the black litter that builds up at the base of Yellow Horned-poppies and got a spider new to the site and new for the year for me, Argenna patula! A nationally scarce saltmarsh species. It made up for the lack of linys. I did find Sitticus inexpectus immatures though but I already have that this this year, from Rye Harbour. 

I walked along the cliff top and kicked up a surprise, Palpita vitrealis. It flew off into some bushes but I got a good look at it although couldn't get a photo. That's three new to the reserve! I tried some suction sampling along here and got this nationally scarce tortoise beetle. Cassida prasina is amazingly new to the reserve network! Also around here was Formica cunicularia, again new to the site. It's amazing how you can work a site really hard for years and still find things, in numbers, that are new. There are lots of reasons for this.

  1. Many inverts occur at low densities, so luck is a huge factor. Especially for the things you only ever find one of.
  2. Sites are changing all the time, through succession or better/worse management. This can have a big impact in a short pace of time.
  3. Climate is changing things too, from migrant moths to colonising insects from the continent. Plus we have an ever increasing proportion of non-natives. A wet year like this with a lot of growth is going to be very different to a summer drought year like last year.
  4. I've changed. We all have. I am definitely better at finding things than I was five years ago and probably will be again in another five years time. I'm also faster and more efficient but I think this has plateaued.
So, the idea you can do one invert survey over one year (even with lots of visits) and expect to find everything is bobbins. That's why I created the Species on Reserves list in the first place for the Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves. Long-term effort is a great way to accumulate all these records together, so I am very glad that Glenn is keeping it going!  I also like to accumulate survey data from repeat surveys I am carrying out as a way of edging closer (but never ever getting there) to a site's true fauna. Anyway, I'm currently five up for the reserve.

Then I got to Hope Gap and in one suction sample I got two new to the site, including another new to the reserve network. One was the myrmecophile ladybird Platynaspis luteorubra (a Na species that is spreading) and the other was a new shieldbug. The Sand-runner Sciocoris cursitans. This really is a small shieldbug (5 mm) but until now, the only site I have seen it in Sussex is the Crumbles. Another nationally scarce species but you would be lucky to find this without suction.

And then after about ten fruitless suction samples, I found FOUR Lasaeola prona in one sample! Here's a sub-adult male.

I also added new for the year Ozpytila claveata (known from the site). Which leaves me on 290 for the year! I am going for the 400 this year by the way, but that's another story. So, in a three hour period wandering around I added all these new to the site:

Nacerdes melanura
Drassodes lapidosus
Meioneta simplicitarsis (Nationally Scarce)
Argenna patula (Nationally Scarce)
Drassyllus pusillus
Palpita vitrealis
Cassida prasina (Nationally Scarce and new to network)
Sciocoris cursitans (Nationally Scarce and new to network)
Teniuphantes flavipes
Formica cunicularia

So ten species! Four with status and two never recorded on a Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve before.  I had forgot how much I enjoy that spreadsheet. Pleased to have made a contribution with a few hours to kill. The sun came out about 3.00 pm so I dashed back to the farm I was working on and got Andrena hattorfiana and Atylotus rusticus before the thunder started. It was very strange to see cloud come in from the north at the same time as a sea fog slid in rapidly up the valley from the south. 

By working like mad through the heatwave, I've bought myself a tiny amount of free time at the end of June. So that's why I have been hitting the SWT reserves when I could. Also new to the reserve network this week is the smart woodlouse Armadillidium pulchellum from Graffham Common, appears to be a county first.

And the Dark Giant Horsefly (Tabanus sudeticus) from Black Hole, Burton Pond!

So, if you think spider year-listing is just about ticking things off a list you couldn't be further from the truth. As well as getting better at spiders, it has a direct benefit to spider recording that in turn, spills out into a wide range of other taxa! So what are you waiting for!? I still want to try year-listing Heteroptera one year but I am yet to find anyone to play with :(

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