Nice style!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 30 June 2010 17:35

I saw a few Field Roses in flower in a ride in Hoe Wood at Woods Mill today. You can tell them from most other roses by the long style, at least as long as the shortest stamens. They have a wide, white, flat flower-head too that makes them stand out. The small gap in the canopy had lots of inverts feeding on the roses and brambles below, including this Volucella pellucens, dozens of Meadow Browns, Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral. I finished the breeding bird survey today and also carried out a dragonfly transect with the help of Penny Green. White-legged Damselflies ovipositing in cop. was the highlight.

Invertebrates don't get back ache

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 29 June 2010 16:18

But unfortunately I do, and that's why my blog has been quiet for a few days. I'm still having trouble but I hate to miss time in the field at this time of year. I spent a few hours at The Mens today changing the interception traps and I noticed this Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle Rutpela maculata (bottom photo) sitting on a bramble leaf. I saw my first Marbled White of the year at Woods Mill today too.

Last Friday I ran a new course on the plants, invertebrates and birds of heathlands at Iping and Stedham. It was a very hot day and I saw more Silver-studded Blues than I have ever seen before. I also saw at least 10 Mottled Bee-flies Thyridanthrax fenestratus (top photo). This is a nationally scarce BAP species that is a parisitoid of wasps and/or the wasp's caterpillar prey. They like bare sand, particularly along paths. We also saw Downy Emeralds, Red-eyed Damselflies, Grass waves, Leptura quadrifasciata, fledgling Woodlarks, Round-leaved and Oblong-leaved Sundew, Beautiful Yellow Underwing larvae and loads of Clouded Buff. It was a pretty full-on day but I was glad that the attendees got to see so much stuff!

Size IS everything!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 24 June 2010 19:05

Courtesy of Bryan Michie I finally connected with a live Stag Beetle! He gets them in his garden in Henfield and he gave me a shout so I called in on the way past. This huge male was over 6cm long and absolutely dwarfed another male that was around 4cm long. This smaller individual had actually been caught and dispatched in a spider web. They really are impressive, much more active than I expected, it looked like a clockwork toy. I couldn't resist a shot next to the tattoo. I am a bit puzzled by the hairy, yellow, triangular appendage between the mandibles, I wonder what this is for? Anyway, thanks Bryan for showing me Britain's largest beetle. Awesome.

Size isn't everything

Posted by Graeme Lyons 15:51

I've had some time off after the excitement of being on live TV and I have been having a look at some very small plants this week at a site in Surrey, Frensham Great Pond. Spring annuals on rabbit grazed, sandy soils dry up and die off pretty quickly and many of the plants I was looking for had already gone over or were well on the way. People pressure here is perhaps the most influencial ecological driving force though, without it some of the communities would disappear but without managing it, bare sand would be all that was left! Unfortunately, it was already too late for Bulbous Meadow-grass but I did see (from top to bottom) Suffocated Clover, Smooth Cat's-ear and Bearded Fescue. Shepherd's-cress was also present but reduced to a dry husk and the single specimen of Bird's-foot Clover I found was not worth photographing. I haven't seen a lot of these plants since I worked on the arable reversion at Minsmere. There are some interesting Sand Sedge NVC communities there too. This is back-breaking botany as everything is so small, you can't even see a lot of them until you are on your hands and knees. Oh yeah, Smooth Cat's-ear was open in the morning but by lunch time it had closed up, I wonder if this is a moisture saving mechanism?

Perhaps even more exciting, I saw my first ever Sand Lizards, three females in fact. Moths were pretty good too by the lights on the centre walls in the early morning. I saw Large Tabby, Blotched Emerald and Great Oak Beauty. Mottled Bee-flies are easy as they are finding there habitat on the paths, disturbance is the key!

And I got to wear my stinky old leather jacket on live TV

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 21 June 2010 16:54

WOW! What an amazing experience and a great opportunity it was to take part in the live show Wild Night In. I am still buzzing from the whole thing. I really hadn't thought all that much about how big this event was going to be, I think it was a safety mechanism to stop me getting too freaked out about it. Anyway, Rich and I got to London Zoo about 4.00pm and spent nearly four hours waiting for a 60 second debrief. All the time we were getting tenser and tenser and we were finally ushered into the aptly named 'Green Room'. Fortunately I kept my lunch down and combated the intense fear I was feeling by sitting on my own and gripping the chair really tightly. Just like that we were on air and as soon as I had the camera shoved in front of my face I did chill out a bit, I was amazed how calm I seemed when I watched it back. It was not like that in my head at all. It was so good for Sussex Wildlife Trust to be involved with this and also for me personally as I wouldn't mind getting into natural history presenting. It really was a bit of a dream come true, to be talking live to thousands of people about practical conservation and ecology and to see British butterflies up there with some of the most impressive and exotic wildlife on the planet. Awesome, I am made up. I didn't get to sleep until gone 3.00am from all the excitement and coffee. It was funny watching one slightly bewildered contributor say to Edith Bowman after her slot, "that was great, you're a natural". I don't think he new who she was. Right, back to the real world of actual conservation now...

Wild Night In tonight from 8.00 to 10.00 pm on BBC2

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 20 June 2010 10:06

Tonight I am hopefully gonna get the chance to talk about Adonis Blues and the work we have done at Malling Down to benefit them, and other chalk-grassland plants and animals, with the help of the BBC wildlife fund. The programme is called Wild Night In and will air live from London Zoo from 8.00pm to 10.00pm on BBC2. It's a fund raising event with an aim to secure funds for conservation projects around the world.

Grassed up

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 19 June 2010 16:43

I'm half way through the grasses, sedges and rushes course I run at Woods Mill. Did the grasses today and things are looking very differently to last year. I picked a selection of grasses and we spent the morning keying them out before going out on the reserve and identifying many more species. Many plants are not even in flower but I did find a species in the meadow I had not noticed before, one of the nicest grasses, Yellow Meadow-grass. It's also a good indicator, I only see it on chalk downland and old meadows, sites with low nutrients. Unfortunately, I am not going to be running the sedges and rushes day tomorrow as I have to go to London Zoo and take part in Springwatch's 'Wild Night In', a fund raising event where I might get chance to talk about the work we have done for Adonis Blues again at Malling Down.

Silver studs

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 18 June 2010 17:43

I attended a workshop organised by Butterfly Conservation on Silver-studded Blue management that we hosted at Iping & Stedham today. It was interesting to discuss the relative merits of cutting, scraping and seasonal burning. Early successional habitat not only benefits the blues but also other rare and scarce warmth loving invertebrates. There were many small colonies around the site and several very active ones with many butterflies. Hopefully, other sites where the blue is not doing so well benefit from this management.

Records were few and far between but we did see Green Tiger Beetle, Grass Wave and yet another Red Kite.

The noctuid that thinks it's a geometrid

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 17 June 2010 19:36

Today we carried out the third visit of the Friston Forest entomology survey. I'm concentrating on Lepidoptera, leaving the beetles alone for a while. The highlight for me was Olive Crescent (top picture). A new species for me. This RDB noctuid is known from the site and is particularly fond of stressed or dying leaves of Beech. The site is a Beech plantation and of the five areas that we survey, two are Beech plantation and three are rides. Interestingly I saw one individual Olive Crescent on each of the three ride surveys but none on the two plantation surveys, this is in line with what Waring and Townsend states; 'the edges of rides and clearings'. They disturb from rest very easily and this was how we were recording them. They do look very much like a geometrid (although they are actually noctuids - related to the fan-foots) with a large wing area to body size ratio. For a comparison, the bottom picture is the local Beech feeding Clay Triple-lines. They are very similar in flight. There are also LOTS of Clay Triple-lines at this site so I had to try and catch them all to check for Olive Crescent. Other highlights for the day included a Red-necked Footman in flight, several Dark-green Fritillaries and a Magpie (moth) larvae. I now have a whole bunch of micro moths to ID...


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 16 June 2010 14:35

I finished a breeding bird survey at Butcherlands this morning (only three early starts left this year now on other bird surveys!). We have used a methodology that plots the locations of birds fairly accurately using a GPS, compass, laser-rangefinder, some trigonometry and GIS! It's quite strange mapping birds without a map but it does work well, I have used this method with the RSPB in Scotland. It's good on large open spaces where it is difficult to estimate your location on a map. Anyway, I saw/heard quite a few surprises considering this was the final visit. I heard the first singing Reed Bunting and nearby, the first singing Reed Warbler. The strange thing is there is very little water in this area, no reeds, no emergent vegetation, just a thick hedgerow. The first raptor of the day turned out to be this Red Kite. Please excuse the awful photo, my camera is short sighted from all the macro work I do. No, basically I am totally out of my depth with the Nikon Coolpix 4500 and bird photography. You can just about see what it is though.

I also saw all the good stuff from the previous surveys being Cuckoo, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Skylark, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Turtle Dove and House Sparrow. I can't wait to see what the maps look like although I expect it will be winter now before that happens!


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 15 June 2010 18:44

Yesterday, Mark Telfer was down at The Mens carrying out a visit of an ongoing survey on deadwood invertebrates, focusing on beetles. We serviced the traps, searched around dead and decaying wood, looked at nectar sources in Badlands and investigated fungi on fallen trees. We certainly saw a lot of things and the vast majority of invertebrates are still to be identified...not by me I should add!

We did see a number of nationally scarce deadwood invertebrates including another individual of the scarce Ischnomera sanguinicollis (top photo). Other species included the tortoise shaped Thymalus limbatus, the black-and-red Tillus elongatus and the saproxylic hoverfly Volucella inflata. However, the total of nationally scarce species surely reached double figures and we must have enough species to calculate a preliminary SQI. Exciting stuff, I'm keen to see how it compares to Ebernoe Common and other sites in the West Weald. I have also included a photo of the Speckled Longhorn Beetle Pachytodes cerambyciformis (bottom photo) that we saw in some numbers nectaring on bramble and rose in Badlands.

Hemlock in the Furnace

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 13 June 2010 20:04

Well Hemlock Water-dropwort to be precise, but it sounded better without the water-dropwort. We went to Ebernoe Common today, Furnace Meadow in fact and it was again full of Hemlock Water-dropwort (bottom picture) and I have noticed it is a really good nectar source that fills the gap nicely between hawthorn and bramble. I was looking for the Small Black Longhorn Beetle Stenurella nigra and it did not take too long to find one. We saw six in total after about 30 minutes worth of searching as well as Speckled, Variable and Tobacco-coloured Longhorns and a few Common Grammoptera. Small Black Longhorn is actually Na and Ebernoe is still the only place I have seen it and there I have only seen it at Hemlock Water-dropwort! It looks quite like a wasp in flight, the glowing red abdomen is quite visible and coupled with the hovering flight as it approaches an umbel, it's quite easy to pick out on jizz. The abdomen looks like a tiny brake light!

I went and had a look at the fallen Beech in Leconfield Glade again and the only thing I saw was four Bitoma crenata crawling over the surface of a fallen limb, near to where the bark was starting to peel away.

First for Sussex!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 12 June 2010 20:09

Jo and I went to Eridge Rocks this afternoon. Literally in the car park there is a nice old oak tree with red rot running right through. A lot of crumbling red rot has fallen at the base of the tree and formed a thick layer. I went straight to the tree, which I photographed, and found this beetle almost straight away. It is Pseudocistela ceramboides, a saproxylic darkling beetle. According to 'The Invertebrates of Living & Decaying Timber' it is a species associated with wood mould in hollowed, decaying trees, exactly where I found it. It is nationally scarce (Nb) and a grade 2 Indicator of Ecological Continuity but get this, Peter Hodge just told me it is a first for Sussex! I had a good feeling that there would be some good saproxylics at Eridge Rocks and I am sure there is more there to find. I may have seen Melandrya caraboides too but it buggered off before I could get a good look at it.

Other additions to the site list were Lesser Stage Beetle and Common Grammoptera and I saw another Tillus elongatus.


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 11 June 2010 14:09

Not the globular cluster in Sagittarius, the calcareous fen NVC community of course! Ecologists love acronyms and alpha-numerics and none are more ambiguous and meaningless than those used in the National Vegetation Classification. M25, U2, M16 are all examples. Love it or hate it, the NVC is a pretty useful tool and the large area of M22 at Filsham Reedbed was doing well when I was there yesterday. It's Blunt-flowered Rush/Marsh Thistle calcareous fen. In the photo you can see that Ragged Robin and Meadowsweet are community constants. You can see the Blunt-flowered Rush in the background as a dark patch. This area is summer cut to promote this kind of vegetation and reduce the vigor of Reed which can be seen throughout. This NVC community is scarce.

I completed the 7th visit of the Filsham bird survey yesterday there was a Cuckoo on the reserve and I saw my first fledgling Reed Warblers of the year but other than that there was little to note.

The only saproxylic noctuid moth

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 10 June 2010 14:59

We have recently started to appreciate Eridge Rocks has more than just an exceptional sandstone epiphytic flora, it's actually got quite a good saproxylic fauna associated with some big old trees. One fallen Beech in particular is just at the right stage of decay to be crawling with inverts and when I am in the area I have been having a look as I think we would benefit from knowing more about these fascinating insects. I added six saproxylic beetles to the list including Ampedus balteatus (bottom photo), a fairly common black and red click in an old birch stump. I also saw Black-headed Cardinal Beetle and Alice found Tillus elongatus there a few days ago. I also spotted this Rhagium mordax, again common, but a fine looking longhorn beetle. As I was looking at this I noticed some strange 'hammocks' hanging from the underside of the fallen tree (second photo). The hammocks were tied by a thread of silk at both ends. They were covered in what looked like frass from some other saproxylic species, the frass being quite large and sawdust like. One was damaged and a caterpillar was exposed. I pulled open the case and inside was this larvae (top photo), I recognised it as the nationally scarce (Nb) Waved Black! It's covered in yellow warts and long, wispy hairs. The larvae feed only on bracket fungi and are therefore considered saproxylic. We have now found five nationally scarce saproxylic moths and beetles on the same fallen tree! I think next year I would like to put up some traps as there are some really nice red rotten oaks there too. It goes to show that working one tree at the right stage can really pay off. This work will feed back into the management of the site

On the way back to the car I found a single White-legged Damselfly, which was nice.

This is why longhorn beetles are ace

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 8 June 2010 18:18

Look at this! Agapanthia villosoviridescens or the Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle. One of the few longhorns that does not develop in deadwood, it actually starts off in the stems of Hogweed. Although I did not see this one in Sussex, I am sure they must be about. It's not a rare thing. Look for them in large areas of Hogweed, running up and down the stems. Massive 'Tim Burton' style antennae and a long, parallel-sided body, covered in dense hair are characteristic features. Has anyone seen this in Sussex yet?

I have just noticed that beetles have become the most frequent label I have used on this blog, beating birds now by one!

Eight-legged freaks!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 7 June 2010 18:16

Surrey again I'm afraid. I have been on a Heath Tiger Beetle training day at Pirbright Ranges, a site that is difficult to get on to as it's a military site. A large part of the site has recently burned down too and the recovering vegetation is fascinating. Anyway, Scotty Dodd from Surrey Wildlife Trust organised the day and a whole host of invertebrate specialists attended. The Na Heath Tigers were quite easy to spot being very active but much bigger than Green Tiger Beetle which we also saw. We even saw one take down a grasshopper. I was also surprised that they were present in areas with taller heather, so long as there was plenty of bare ground underneath it.

Spiders were also impressive and we saw plenty of the RDB Surrey heath speciality, Oxyopes heterophthalmus (middle photo). They are very nicely marked, very cryptic against heathy foliage. They jump but in a strange fluttery way, quite unlike jumping spiders. Both the males and females legs are covered in thick long hairs and the males have huge palps. I'd love it if we could find this at Iping Common. However, my favourite find of the day was this amazing crab spider (top photo). It's a heathland specialist, fond of hiding out in the flowers of Cross-leaved Heath where it pounces on its unsuspecting prey. You would think a pink triangular spider should have a name as odd as it looks and you would be right. Thomisus onustus. Nice!

Other highlights included a couple of Woodlark and a new longhorn for me, the amazing Agapanthia villosoviridescens and a very convincing social wasp mimic hoverfly that I still need to key out. A Chrysotoxum species.

Amazingly, the grass (mostly Purple Moor-grass) that has grown up in the few days since the fire is 10 cm or more in some places and greener than the areas that were not burned! It was a real privilege to see and it's fascinating to see how this habitat recovers from fire. Just to reiterate, this is a military site and access is restricted.

On the fiddle

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 6 June 2010 16:18

A weekend at Springwatch at Stanmer has pretty much finished me off! It has been great though showing people wildlife. Yesterday, as part of Bio Blitz, we tried to find as many species as possible and I did actually get a few ticks including a macro moth, Barred Hook-tip. I also saw the tiny Umbellifer Longhorn Beetle and the nationally scarce snail killer, Drilus flavescens. Moth trapping went on till very late and what I thought was a Lunar Yellow Underwing turned out to be a tiny Large Yellow Underwing. Other nice things included lots of Pretty Chalk Carpets and a Haworth's Pug. I also found lots of Fiddle Dock along the road, only the second time I have seen this. I don't know if it is scarce or I just overlook. It's pretty cool for a dock, with its fiddle shaped leaves and horizontal flower spikes. Anyways, I can't wait to find out how many species we identified over the weekend.

Anaglyptus mysticus

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 5 June 2010 13:04

Here is the photo of Anaglyptis mysticus, an amazing looking nationally scarce longhorn I found at The Mens. I'm off to the Springwatch Bioblitz event at Stanmer Park now.

On the way into town last night I saw five Yellow-barred Brindles and a Least Black Arches on one column of service station. Not bad for a quick trip to a cash point, two local moth species!

When spiders look like green cats

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 4 June 2010 18:00

I went to Iping Common today with the spider expert, Andy Phillips. We were putting together some ideas on a methodology we plan to implement next year. I learned a lot in a short space of time and we saw some pretty strange spiders and some pretty scarce ones too. The photograph above is of the abdomen of Gibbaranea gibbosa. We saw a nationally scarce ant mimic spider (Micaria sp.) on a pine tree. There was also a couple of awesome looking jumping spiders, the smart looking Evarcha falacata and the nationally scarce Evarcha arcuata.

I also saw two beetles I had not seen before, the tasty Na click beetle Ampedus sanguinolentus of which there were quite a few and two longhorns known as Pine-stump Borers. Big black/brown things. Also of note was a male Tanyptera and my first ever Mottled Bee-fly. Common Heaths dominated the moth world.

It's bloody hot out there, and dry, but we still found some good things. Crossbills, Tree Pipits, Dartford Warblers, Buzzards, Field Crickets and Yellowhammers provided the sound track. It's an amazing place, go see it!

Charging Rhino

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 3 June 2010 19:55

I split my afternoon off evenly between The Mens and Ebernoe. The first thing I saw at The Mens was the RDB2 saproxylic hymenoptera mimic cranefly Ctenophora flaveolata. It was hanging around in some Holly next to a fallen Beech. The literature says it does not warrant RDB status and it's not all that far from where one was found a month ago. They are amazing looking beasts the Ctenophoras but I am afraid it flew off before I could get a photo. I didn't see much more at The Mens but in Badlands I beat another Anaglyptus mysticus off of Aspen. I only saw my first one yesterday!

I left for Ebernoe and found a smart looking Onthophagus sp. in the glades but little else. Leconfield Glade though was much more interesting. Where the huge Beech started to fall down a few years ago, I found four nationally scarce species on one limb! Hylecoetus dermestoides was new to the site, I saw both male and female. There were four or five Melasis buprestoides crawling over the cracking bark and as I was watching them I saw Ctenophora pectinicornis and Black-headed Cardinal Beetle. There was a Xylota hoverfly hanging around too and the only thing I saw all day that was calm enough to get a photo was this Rhinoceros Beetle running down a Beech stump. I saw a female on the wing and then two males, both legging it straight down a rotten Beech stump, perhaps they had just emerged. Funnily, I keep seeing all these rare deadwood beetles but this is the first time I have seen Rhinoceros Beetle. I noticed that there was a lot more beetle activity in the late afternoon than there had been throughout the whole day.

On the way back to the car I found a flowering shrub covered in inverts, including Wasp Beetle, Speckled Longhorn, green Ischnomera sp. and a load of stuff I have not keyed out yet. I think there are three new saproxylic beetles for Ebernoe I found today. Better get to the microscope...

Body parts

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 2 June 2010 20:04

Today I took the day off work and was privileged enough to accompany Peter Hodge to visit a site (I'd rather not name it I'm afraid) and look for beetles and other invertebrates. We had a fairly slow day to start with, highlights that included the cranefly Tanyptera atrata, the click beetle Ampedus elongantulus and Ischnomera sanguinicollis. A couple of Spotted Flycatchers and a few Mandarins provided the avian saproxylic interest. It was not until the end of the day when we found some extensive areas of red rot and soon saw a number of bright blue-purple elytra which I was told were Helops caeruleus (middle photo). Then I found a large, flat, black elytron with pale spots and it was clear this belonged to the massively rare Variable Chafer Gnorimus variabilis (top photo). There was a record from this site in the form of a head capsule roughly five years ago so it is great to confirm the sighting. Within ten minutes I had found another left-hand elytron and then Peter found a head capsule/pronotum! This species is as rare as it gets really, RDB1, part of a BAP grouped statement and now known from Windsor Forest and this site in Sussex and that is it! the final body part was an elytron of a Stag Beetle (bottom photo). To finish off the day, I finally saw the nationally scarce longhorn beetle Anaglyptus mysticus, photos to follow tomorrow hopefully. This goes to show how much beetling can be done with left over body parts. Awesome.

Hanging around The Mens

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 1 June 2010 19:01

Not the public convenience, the nature reserve. We are looking at deadwood invertebrates there this year, with a focus on beetles. We have six interception traps (see top photo) set up that are collected and re-set every two weeks. The beetles fly into the perspex veins then fall down the funnel into the collecting jar. I collected the samples today and I have just finishing counting 349 beetles! These will be sent off for identification by a true beetle specialist. There were a few nice things in the traps that I recognised, including six of the newcomer Hylecoetus dermestoides. I also saw Thanasimus formicarius in there too. One of the traps has been placed near the huge oak known as the Idehurst Oak (top picture) which is surely the largest tree on Sussex Wildlife Trust land. I didn't see much wildlife today but despite the rain, I did get this shot of a Beautiful Demoiselle. I saw an Awlf-fly there too.

I am pretty sure the clearwing exuviae Alice found at Eridge is Yellow-legged Clearwing, we shall have to go back there and see if we can get them to come to pheromones.

Adonis Blues rock!

Posted by Graeme Lyons 07:43

If you missed The One Show last night you can see it here on BBC iplayer. The five minute slot starts at 22 minutes and 30 seconds into the show. I'm really pleased with it, I think we really got the message across and the Adonis Blues look awesome!

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