Seven Whistles for Seven Sisters

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 16 September 2018 17:28

Here are the shots of the two Whimbrel from Seaford Head today. They were showing within 10 m of the track down to the cottages and were really confiding, the closest I have ever been to them. They're not scarce as a passage migrant here but I have never seen them in a field like this and it was a real treat. Now I don't take photos of birds, these were taken through my binoculars using the Olympus TG4 but you get the idea.


Posted by Graeme Lyons 13:44

I went up to Seaford Head to do a bit of birding with my new binoculars this morning after a lovely evening there yesterday where we saw Whimbrel and a Whinchat (but that's another blog post - I did get some great views of the Whimbrel). This morning the birds were a little quiet, it was very windy. I was poking around by the satellite Moon Carrot population where I saw a large patch of Restharrow about  month ago. There are a few bugs on Restharrow that are usually pretty easy and would probably be new to the site. I have noticed some really large patches of Restharrow on a few sites this year, it seems to have done well out of the drought. With no sweep net, no beating tray, I didn't think I would stand much chance but then I remembered I had two hands and a head...

I used my left hand as make shift beating tray and the right as a stick. In the first tap I had the awesome little stilt bug Gampsocoris punctipes, there were dozens of them. A cracking little bug. You can see the shape of the pronotum in this image.

On the next tap, there was more of the same but several of the mirid Dicyphus annulatus. Another Restharrow specialist and another species new to the reserve.

I was looking for Macrotylus paykulli, the last of the three easy bugs on Restharrow but no joy. Then I beat a couple of stiltbugs in the genus Berytinus, I wasn't expecting these. I normally only pick them up in the suction sampler. It wasn't until I got home and keyed them out that I got excited. First up is Berytinus signoreti, not all that uncommon and one I recorded there on the big survey in 2016. The little black marks on the wings are diagnostic.

This one looked a little darker and it turns out it's Berytinus clavipes. Now this is a lifer for me (I've now seen the whole genus in), the first record in Sussex since 1990 (and only the 5th ever). It's also new to ALL Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves. That's three species new to Seaford Head that are all Restharrow specialists. Happy with that for a few square metres of plant and nothing but my own hands and my head. Wait, wasn't I meant to be going birdwatching?!

Secrets of the Heath

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 10 September 2018 19:13

I helped the Trust man a stall at the Secrets of the Heath event at Petersfield Heath in east Hampshire all weekend. The highlight for me were showing kids invertebrates throughout both days. They were such a knowledgeable bunch, some of them even had their own bug kits. The big white tray (or 'bug world' as it became known by one group of kids) was a real hit.

I got a lifer too. Rhopalus maculatus. This bug has only five records in Sussex. One very old record in the East and four in the far West, the last being in 2014. It's yet to be recorded on a Trust reserve, I suspect it could turn up at Iping Common. It was the commonest Rhopalus at Petersfield Heath. You can see the mainly orange abdomen and the rows of dots along the connexivum and the underside of the abdomen, instantly recognisable.

Although I have seen Agonopterix nervosa before, I can't find any records of it. Considering the larvae eats gorse, it can't be that common in Sussex.

And several people picked up Araneus marmoreus, another species uncommon in Sussex. I have only seen it in the Ashdown Forest, although there are occasional records from Woods Mill. Just goes to show, leave Sussex just by a few miles and the invertebrates start to change quite significantly.

Woods Mill Bioblitz: Molluscs

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 6 September 2018 16:36

Now for the slugs & snails. A total of 27 species were recorded and six of these were new for the site. One of them. the River or 'Giant' Pea Mussel Pisidium amnicum was new for me too. Pulled out of the river in the same sample as the riffle beetles in the lats post. Three lifers in one net. The distinctive thing about this pea mussel is it's huge. At 10 mm wide, it towers over the others in the genus. It's also far more asymmetrical than the other species and is found in rivers. The last record on any Trust reserve was from Amberley in 2008. I was surprised Leopard Slug was new. The Vertigo was found using the suction sampler in the valley field and the aquatic molluscs in the lake are doing well after the carp removal with a few new species there. To summarise, between the beetles and molluscs, 70 species of which 26 (37%!) are new for the site (and three new for me). Here are some other shots from my library. Limacus maculatus, Planorbis planorbis and Cochlodina laminata Next up, the bugs!

Species Last record
Acroloxus lacustris 1996
Anisus vortex 1996
Arion hortensis 2017
Arion subfuscus 2017
Bithynia leachii New
Bithynia tentaculata 1996
Cepaea hortensis 2010
Cepaea nemoralis 2013
Clausilia bidentata 2014
Cochlicopa lubrica 1996
Cochlodina laminata 2011
Cornu aspersum 2010
Lehmannia marginata 2017
Lehmannia valentiana 2017
Limacus maculatus 2016
Limax maximus New
Monacha cantiana 1996
Oxychilus navarricus 2010
Pisidium amnicum New
Planorbarius corneus 2014
Planorbis carinatus New
Planorbis planorbis 1996
Potamopyrgus antipodarum New
Radix balthica 1996
Sphaerium corneum 2014
Succinea putris New
Vertigo pygmaea New

Woods Mill Bioblitz: Beetles

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 5 September 2018 08:08

Wow! That was full on. The Woods Mill bioblitz was very exciting. The numbers are not all in but I got to about 525 species and didn't quite make it for 24 hours, it was about 21 hours (I had been awake for 32 hours by the end). I slept for 16 hours after, never done anything like that before. I am very happy with the results. It's gonna take a while to pull it together so I am going to do it in bite -size chunks. Obviously starting with the most important taxa, the beetles. Thanks to Lois, James and Alex for their help. By the end of it my back had gone, so pond-netting and turning logs over was much appreciated!

I recorded 43 species and amazingly, 20 of them were new site records. Although Woods Mill is our fourth most well-recorded reserve, it suffers from having no designations and being a lower priority from all the SSSIs we manage. I have never done a full invert survey there despite doing a great deal of casual recording. Out of these, two new species were recorded with conservation status being Astenus immaculatus and Tachyporus formosus (both found by suction sampler). 

The highlight though was the two riffle beetles I pulled out of the river. I have never seen a riffle beetle before, probably because I don't do a lot of pond-netting in flowing water. I have seen 1249 beetles in the UK and it took me this long to see a single riffle beetle. Then I pulled five out (of two species) in one net in a place I have worked for over a decade! I was rather excited. Above is Elmis aenea and below is Oulimnius tuberculatus on the left and Elmis aenea on the right. The long legs and large claws help the beetles to cling on in flowing streams, quite a different approach to most aquatic beetles, these guys crawl rather than swim. I must admit, I had thought they would be a bit bigger, the are both around 2 mm. Much of the excitement from the bioblitz came from the valley field close to or in the stream.

Other oddities in this lot include the first record of 7-spot Ladybird since 2007 but it's nice to see that of the 23 species already recorded, all have been recorded this century with the oldest record being Anthocomus rufus in 2005. This brings the Woods Mill beetle list to 312 species meaning I recorded 13.7% of the site's species during the bioblitz. I have very few stock photos of the remaining species but here is a Hypera zoilus (love this tank of a weevil) and Anthocomus rufus. Next up, molluscs! Oh, I almost forgot, I am trying a new name for my blog, what do you think? It's the same approach (a snarky pun with double meaning) but with a focus on sharing knowledge. So not a change in direction but perhaps something that reflects more what I am doing here.

Species Last record
16-spot Ladybird 2016
22-spot Ladybird 2017
24-spot Ladybird 2014
7-spot Ladybird 2007
Abax parallelepipedus 2011
Anthocomus rufus 2005
Apion frumentarium 2016
Astenus immaculatus (Notable) New
Astenus lyonessius New
Bembidion guttula 2018
Bembidion properans 2014
Catapion seniculus New
Cream-spot Ladybird 2017
Crepidodera aurata 2014
Crepidodera plutus 2006
Curculio venosus New
Curtonotus aulicus New
Elmis aenea New (and for me!)
Haliplus lineatocollis New
Harlequin Ladybird 2015
Hazel Leaf-roller New
Hypera zoilus 2016
Hyphydrus ovatus 2014
Nephus redtenbacheri New
Noterus clavicornis 2012
Oulimnius tuberculatus New (and for me!)
Paederus littoralis 2013
Paradromius linearis 2015
Pine Ladybird New
Protapion fulvipes 2016
Psylliodes chrysocephala New
Pterostichus madidus 2018
Rhyzobius litura 2016
Rhyzobius lophanthae New
Silpha atrata New
Sitona hispidulus New
Sitona lepidus New
Sitona lineatus 2016
Sitona sulcifrons New
Tachyporus formosus (Notable A) New
Trechus obtusus New
Viburnum Leaf Beetle 2016
Xantholinus longiventris New

I'm gonna do 24 hours at the Woods Mill biolblitz!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 23 August 2018 13:29

On the 31st August, Sussex Wildlife Trust will be conducting a 'bioblitz' at Woods Mill as part of the 50 year anniversary there. A bioblitz that starts in summer and ends in autumn (if you measure the seasons meteorologically like any reasonable person).When I heard that the event will be starting on the Friday evening and going on for pretty much 24 hours, I thought, maybe it will be worth giving this a go. And by that I mean actually doing a full 24 hours like Dave and I did last June.

So it's on! Lois, James and the team will be running the event but being sensible people, will be going to bed at some point. I am gonna start at 3.00 pm with a derived list from the reserves species master list on waterproof paper. I'm gonna plough on until 3.00 pm the next day. Then sleep. There are some differences though when it comes to doing this in June . One rather big one is that I'm not gonna have Dave Green (unfortunately he's not around that weekend) catching & identifying stuff and will also have to scribe and count myself. Eeeek! The other is 10 hours of darkness. And most of this will happen in September. However, here is what IS in my favour.
  • No travelling. It's all on one site.
  • A classroom with Internet, power and somewhere to put my books and microscope/s.
  • A site I have recorded intimately for years so I know where a lot of stuff is. All those lunch time walks will come in handy.
  • Lots of people on hand to help.
The master list for all reserves currently stands at 10,129 species for all 32 sites. Woods Mill is our fourth most well-recorded reserve at 2361 species (surpassed only by Rye Harbour, Ebernoe Common and Iping & Stedham Common). The mean year of the last record for Woods Mill is 2008 (compared to an average of 2006 for all reserves). The mode of the last record for Woods Mill is 2016. So we are highly likely to change these statistics. I predict a good few new records for the site and maybe the odd one new to the reserve network.

So what is realistically achievable? I have no idea. I really don't. I would expect to get a 100 species in the first 30 minutes and 200 within an hour, soon after this I think it's gonna plateau, I just don't know! Here are the challenges that I am gonna set for us:

  1. To collectively record a 1000 species at Woods Mill in the whole bioblitz, including identifications made after the 24 hour period. That would be over 40% of everything ever recorded in the last 50 years.
  2. To personally get to at least 600 species on the site within the 24 hour period. That would be over 25% of everything ever recorded there in the last 50 years.
Here is the link to the event on the Trust website. I am gonna have to rethink whether this is worth doing to this intensity if the weather is really wet though. So, if you would like to come and lend some support or add your sweep net to the mix, then come on down! You're gonna have to find me though, as I am gonna be very mobile. I'd really appreciate help with the odd social media update and relaying results back to the HQ. I'm probably gonna collect a lot of specimens in the first afternoon to go through in the 10 hours of darkness. Dew isn't likely to burn off until 10.00 am on this site, so there is gonna be 10 hours of trudging around in the damp on 1st September if I don't plan this wisely! At least I can use this time to do birds by ear though.

I'm not going to be fund-raising this time, it's purely for the joy of celebrating the wildlife at Woods Mill that I've enjoyed so much over the last 10 years and to produce a whole load of records for the site.

Anyway, it's only a week tomorrow so I better get packing, ordering and charging!

PS I HATE the word 'bioblitz'. Wish we had something better but this seems to have stuck.

Fussy Eaters: Part 2

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 19 August 2018 21:50

If you missed what all this is about, it started with this post a few days ago. I will recap where we are at in the story...

Many moons ago all the shieldbugs and squash bugs were eating any old thing and squabbling over who ate what. The oldest and wisest of all the bugs, Doc Squash, called a meeting and all the bugs mustered around the big table in the juice bar.

"This incessant fighting over what to eat must stop!" exclaimed Doc. "I propose we divide up the plants evenly between the bugs so that everyone can have their fair share. Now, I have decided to specialise in Rrrrrrumex. A delightfully abundant plant which means my offspring will never grow hungry. I might even have the odd bit of Rrrrrrhubarb for afters. Now some of you might want to generalise or pick a habitat to focus on. Or you might wish to specialise, like me, on a particularly common family or plant. So, with all that in mind, starting with you Dom the Downs Shieldbug, what do you think is a sensible thing for you to eat? Choose wisely mind"...

"I is like gonna eat this Bastard-toadflax juice ain't I?" announced Dom.
"Pardon me?" 
"I said BASTARD-toadflax bruv."
"Why on Earth would you chose that? You know it's really scarce don't you?" asked Doc Squash.
"Yeah but it's got a SICK name innit? It's got a curse word in it!".
"You know it only grows on chalk-grassland, you don't even like chalk-grassland do you Dom?" stated Squash.
"I don't even know what that is. Can you smoke it?".
"Oh dear, and you know it's really, really small? Why not pick one of the commoner plants, or families? Or something with some actual foliage?
"I like this stuff dude, I don't like anything else. Now I'm trying to do a selfie of me eating some Bastard-toadflax, do you mind?"
"Well, don't come running to me when you're sick of that stuff next week. Now, who's next? Spike, you've always been a pretty straight down the line guy, what are you going to specialise in?..."

You'll have to wait until next time for the next installment of Fussy Eaters...

First Blood

Posted by Graeme Lyons 12:00

I've had a very enjoyable couple of days freelancing in Surrey and Kent and quite a few lifers. But first I finally caught up with my first adult Rambur's Pied Shieldbugs. My first reaction was how much blacker they were, in fact it looked more like a black bug with white bits on than a pied one. These were in Kent. This bug has yet to reach Sussex but look for it on Black Horehound in the north east of East Sussex, it's only a matter of time!

Back in Surrey we saw quite a few Raglius alboacuminatus, also on Black Horehound and also not yet in Sussex. This is a striking ground bug that I found mainly with the suction sampler by sampling in litter beneath or near to the foodplant. 

Here are all the lifers from the last two days:

Raglius alboacuminatus
Cheilosia soror
Leopoldius strigatus
Tapinopa longidens
Creophilus maxillosus (at long last, what a beast!)
Scymnus femoralis
Stethorus punctillum (the UK's smallest ladybird at less than 1.5 mm!)

In fact, it was a great couple of days for ladybirds, the full list is here and includes the two lifers at the top. A total of 17 species not bad for two days. This is mostly down to using the suction sampler and picking up some of the smaller ones.

Scymnus frontalis
Stethorus punctillum
Platynapsis luteorubra
Tytthaspis sedecimpunctata
Propylea quattuordecimpunctata
Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata
Hippodamia variegata
Coccinella septempunctata
Harmonia axyridis
Harmoia quadripunctata
Subcoccinella vigintiquattuorpunctata
Rhyzobius chrysomeloides/litura
Rhyzobius lophanthae
Scymnus suturalis
Scymnus interruptus
Nephus redtenbacheri
Nephus quadrimaculatus

And I bought some new art equipment so the next installment of "Fussy Eaters" is coming soon...

Weeping Conk

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 16 August 2018 17:25

I was out with Martin Allison at Ebernoe Common setting up some fungi monitoring there are a couple of days ago and we were enjoying the Oak Brackets Inonotus dryadeus. I love the amber droplets that extrude from the cap so I was trying to do some quick research to find out what they actually are. I drew a blank but did find out it has the colloquial name of Weeping Conk and I do love a good colloquial name.

On a tree that was full of Porcelain Fungus last year we walked right up to this huge bracket which is quite a goody. Martin microscopically identified this as Clustered Bracket Inonutus cuticularis. Hard to imagine they are in the same genus! There are only around 15 records in the SxBRC database and 10 of those are from either the Mens or Ebernoe Common. It's very hard to get a new fungus for Ebernoe Common!

And Ruby Bolete Hortiboletus rubellus was also a nice one to see.

Just a quick one today but I leave you with the remains of a Bird's-nest Orchid. Still good enough for a record quite late in the season.

Fussy eaters

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 14 August 2018 22:04

Yesterday I was mapping Bastard-toadflax at Southerham. I walked up to the first plant and there was the Bastard-toadflax (or Downs if you prefer) Shieldbug Canthophorus impressus. The next plant had these three TINY little Bastard-toadflax Shieldbug nymphs on. I then didn't see another individual all day. Now this little bug eats ONLY this restricted and nationally scarce plant that only grows in chalk-grassland. At Southerham it only grows in an area a few square metres in extent and within that, the bug has only ever been found on the steeper (and presumably hotter and more sheltered) area either side of the path. I have mapped the plant and the bug over the years but that's gonna take a while to generate. In the mean time, the following came to mind, so I am just gonna leave this here...

Many moons ago all the shieldbugs and squash bugs were eating any old thing and squabbling over who ate what. The oldest and wisest of all the bugs, Doc Squash, called a meeting and all the bugs mustered around the big table in the juice bar.

"This incessant fighting over what to eat must stop!" exclaimed Doc. "I propose we divide up the plants evenly between the bugs so that everyone can have their fair share. Now, I have decided to specialise in Rrrrrrumex. A delightfully abundant plant which means my offspring will never grow hungry. I might even have the odd bit of Rrrrrrhubarb for afters. Now some of you might want to generalise or pick a habitat to focus on. Or you might wish to specialise, like me, on a particularly common family or plant. So, with all that in mind, starting with you Dom the Downs Shieldbug, what do you think is a sensible thing for you to eat? Choose wisely mind"...

But I'm afraid you'll have to wait another day for part 2! It's been years since I've picked up a pencil, really enjoyed doing that!

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