When the pennyi drops

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 2 July 2021 07:49

Yesterday was a significant day for me. Twenty years since I started my career in conservation, at Dungeness RSPB Reserve. So I took the day off the day before, to go spider hunting to Surrey. I have decided that year-listing spiders is on again this year. So I have notched up my efforts in the last few weeks. I headed out to Surrey, to Whitley Common that I know well and to two sites I have never been to be for. Chobham and Whitmoor Commons, both Surrey Wildlife Trust reserves. All in all, I recorded 86 species of spider in one day, which I was pretty pleased with. 

I'll start with Whitmoor Common, where I found a couple of the amazing Cheiracanthium pennyi (Nationally Rare/Endangered), very much restricted to a few Surrey heaths, not seen away from Surrey heaths since the 1990s it would seem. Look at this beauty! That's a lifer for me.

And of course, no trip to a Surrey heath is complete without Oxyopes heterophthalmus (Nationally Rare/Vulnerable). Rather pleased with this first shot.

Then on to Gracious Pond for my second lifer of the day. Calositticus caricis (Nationally Rare/Section 41). Took a little while to find but found two females thanks to Mike Waite's gen.

Whilst searching, I found a few other nice goodies here. What seems to be the first Theonoe minutissima in Surrey since 1987. Agyneta cauta and Aphileta misera was also in the area, both new for the year.

Evarcha arcuata is common across all these sites.

And here he is with his mate, Evarcha falcata on the left.

Witley Common now, a site I looked at quite a bit last year. So was pleased to pick up a load more spiders with status there. Such as this impossible to photograph Theridion pinastri. A species that is really spreading in the south east and does not seem too tied to any particular habitat.

This male Neriene furtiva was a real cracker. The males have these really odd shaped abdomens, with over-sized palps, making for quite the ant mimic. Very dark too.

And on one pine tree I had Hypositticus pubescens (a surprisingly hard spider to find) and also under there, an adult female Micaria subopaca.

But the real excitement happened when I got home. Four funny looking linys that I swept all in one go were bothering me. Turns out, they were not linys but Dipoena erythropus! I have only seen one male of this spider before, at Southwood Woodland in Hants, amazingly on the 30th June too (back in 2019). This was definitely find of the day and is a whole new 10 km square for this  Nationally Rare/Vulnerable spider. The dark body and all-pale legs are quite different to the other 'Dipoena' (or whatever they are called now) species and make it far more like a liny in the field than those species.

But it didn't stop there, I had also picked up a Philodromus emarginatus female without realising it! Yet another Nationally Rare/Vulnerable spider new to the site and the 10 km square. A particularly rich area of Witley sits in the square SU93 (that straddles the Surrey/Sussex boundary). It's a small slither, and as such it has not been well covered but many of the rare species on the site are in this area, meaning that lots of new 10 km square records have happened here. It just shows that you should always remember to check when submitting records exactly where they fall. So, that's 305 spiders for the year with 13 new ones from a single day out. A great way to celebrate 20 years working in conservation.

When I was working at the RSPB, I picked up mini Roberts from Old Moor in Yorkshire on an electro-fishing trip in 2004, I was a little intimidated by all the drawings of palps and epigynes until around 2010, when I became obsessed with spiders. It's amazing how much things can change in a decade. Anyways, here is the full species list from Wednesday (not all the new names are here as it's an output from my database). Species new to the year in bold.

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