Spot the Wild Gladiolus

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 31 May 2011 20:46

So I have finally ticked Wild Gladiolus. I managed to find four plants but it wasn't in flower and looked very like Creeping Soft-grass from a distance that was growing everywhere. I feel slightly cheated at not having seen the flowers but then the leaves are glaucous so who needs a big pink show off? Other than that today was pretty quiet. I did get a few shots but nothing else new. The Rose Chafer that landed in front of us gave me some excitement when I thought I had found a Noble Chafer. It flew off before I could get a good look at it but I am sure it was just a Rose Chafer. Here is Triplax russica that I found near some fungus on fallen Beech.
I should have known this in the field but I realised today that I didn't know the song of Mottled Grasshopper. Anyway, here it is with its distinct clubbed antennae.
I was really pleased to find another Stictoleptura scutellata today but this time an ovipositing female! This is still the only longhorn beetle I have seen in the New Forest. Off to the Isle of Wight for the first time tomorrow!

My New Forest approach

Posted by Graeme Lyons 12:01

OK, here are some insights into my obsessive world. The only way I was able to squeeze in a holiday to the New Forest was if I did one of my farm surveys whilst I was on holiday. I knew this was the case and accepted it with my usual pragmatism but I didn't like it much at 4.30 am this morning. Fortunately the weather was better today but I was amazed to scrape ice off my car at 5.00 am this morning! I then drove east along the A31 into the most blinding sunrise I have ever seen. I got to the farm (considerably closer to here than to Brighton) and misjudged big time. Yesterday's rain got me thoroughly soaked, my walking boots (only boots I brought with me) are possibly even ruined (I'll be wearing wellies for the rest of the holiday then - nice). I spotted these Mullein moth caterpillars which are always good for a photo but that was about it beyond the usual birds. Anyway, back to the holiday.

I brought with me two cases full of books and my laptop (obviously) as we decided against camping and went for a cottage on a farm (was worried about my back for a week in a tent). As it's not a good idea to take specimens without the relevant permits, my plan is to identify as much as possible by eye and photography in the field (so far I have added 17 new species to my list). I'm leaving the nets and beating stick behind. I will see fewer things this way but as well not wanting to get into trouble, I want a fairly relaxed holiday as I do tend to over do it. Right, I'm off to look for more saproxylic invertebrates!

Jo catches the bug

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 30 May 2011 18:36

Don't really know where to start today. I'll start at the end then in a Star Wars like way and offer up the best first. After a long day looking for plants, dipping on a few things and ending up getting thoroughly drenched from above and below, Jo and I rested under some large trees. I liked the look of a fallen Beech with a number of fruiting bodies sticking out of it. I lifted a bracket fungi to find a new species for me, the local Mycetophagus multipunctatus. Jo was off looking for beetles too and after I found the larvae of the saproxylic Nb moth Waved Black, Jo presented me with a beetle and said 'what's this one?'. It's Stictolpetura scutellata (photo - sorry, I didn't realise how dirty it was!), a Na longhorn that I have been hoping to see one day as there are no records for it in Sussex. She then presented me with a tiny wasp with little 'plates' on its front legs. I have, since I bought 'The Wasps of Surrey', wanted to see one of these strange digging wasps. Of the three species, it turns out Jo found the scarce (Na) one, Crabro scutellatus. It had beautiful yellow and purple stripes on its plates and although Jo found it on a dead tree, it seems it's a specialist of damp heaths. We were surrounded by such habitat. So Jo adds two Na species to my list for me while I only manage a local. I think I will be making more use of her eagle-eyes!

I also added Brown Beaked-sedge to my list and saw more Marsh Club-moss in a square metre than I have ever seen before.
Right at the start of the day we went looking for a rare labiate, Bastard Balm. It was growing on the rides of a conifer plantation and I was quite surprised at just how big the flowers are (I photographed one that had fallen off for scale). Another great day, I've ended the day on 3395. Oh yeah, and apparently my blog is this month's edition of Bird Watching magazine!

Little Shop of Horrors

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 29 May 2011 20:12

We've spent the whole day getting to know the New Forest today and with such rubbish weather, we concentrated on plants. I added 7 species to my list and some of them were very nice. The carnivorous plants stole the show though and I was particularly pleased to find some Lesser Bladderwort. Another tick for me was this Great Sundew covered in its dinner, flies caught on its leaves! We also saw some Pale Butterwort, only the second time I have seen it but the photos didn't come out so well.
We then went on to look at a number of ponds and I saw some less bloody-thirsty species. This includes the rare Hampshire Purslane in a couple of places as well as Floating Water-plantain and Lesser Marshwort (photos in that order), again all new for me. Sadly, several sites were completely choked with New Zealand Pygmyweed.
I've also seen a lot of plants I have seen only occasionally like Marsh St Johnswort (which is everywhere) and Pillwort, it's really great! I'm impressed by how common Redstarts are here too. I also heard Firecrest and Wood Warbler singing at the same time, might be the only place this is likely to occur in the UK? We didn't see a lot of insects today but I did see a few Silver-studded Blues and this dead Stag Beetle.
And here is me unable to contain my excitement as we stumble across some Slender Sedge! It was funny watching Jo walk through the bog.

Beech stumped

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 28 May 2011 19:40

I only spotted one beetle today and it really stumped me. It was on a Beech snag next to some Ganodermas and a few elytron of Mycetophagus quadripsutulatus. I had pretty much convinced myself that it was an unusually colour formed specimen of this species but the shape of the body and the antennae didn't look right. I asked Mark Telfer and got an ID back within the hour, it's Mycetochara humeralis and it's a Na tenebrionid so I was miles off! I'm not complaining though, this is a new one for me. I'm going to try and take it easy down in the New Forest this week but I expect I will find that very hard indeed!

18th species of longhorn recorded at Ebernoe

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 27 May 2011 18:43

I ran a course at Ebernoe today, more of a very involved guided walk really. I always enjoy these days but the weather wasn't great and although we saw a lot, we didn't see much I hadn't seen before. We did spot the Na Stenurella nigra resting on a buttercup but then Nigel Flynn spotted this longhorn beetle on a log in Dennis's Croft. It is the Nb Poecilium alni and is a new one for me and for Ebernoe Common. It looks a bit like a tiny Anaglyptus mysticus. Although it's 'only' Nb, it's a 16 pointer on the SQI list and will add quite a bit to the SQI for the site. A great find and I am glad to add this species to mine and the site's lists, it's the 18th species of longhorn I have seen at Ebernoe. We saw lots of other things but a Bird's-nest Orchid and a Hobby were some of the highlights.

Filming Wild Britain with Ray Mears

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 26 May 2011 15:41

I've been filming with Ray Mears for Wild Britain today for ITV. The show is going to go out in the autumn and will look at chalk-grassland and the South Downs. I am not looking smug in the photo, I am squinting into a very biting wind. We looked at Southerham and Malling Down. A very windy and occasionally wet day sadly but we still saw plenty of Adonis Blues. It was a really exciting day and I learned a lot. I can't wait to see what it looks like but I am going to have to wait a long time before it's aired. I'll do a reminder post nearer to the time.

Prior to that I popped into Woods Mill, Penny and Alice put the trap out and I was glad to see a Nascia cilialis. This is perhaps the scarcest moth (Na) that occurs at Woods Mill and it has taken me three years to finally catch up with one. I end the day on 3376 species.

The only one in the genus

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 25 May 2011 19:28

Just a quick one today as I am knackered and I have another big day ahead tomorrow. This rather distinctive looking wasp is called Sapyga quinquepunctata and we found it under some old timbers at Rye on Monday whilst looking for Helops. I like this wasp as it is easy to ID and there is only one in the genus!

I'm in 5th place!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 24 May 2011 18:53

OK, I'm not really competitive, honest. But, I have just reached 3373 species, which puts me three ahead of Martin Harvey and into 5th place on the pan-species list rankings. Now, I know that Martin will have seen loads of things since he updated his list (I emailed Martin to say this day was coming and he said as such). So, I get a very brief moment in 5th place before Martin's list is updated. I have added a few more species today including this Galeruca tanaceti, a chrysomelid, that was at Malling today. I also spotted the small Nb chafer Omaloplia ruricola at Southerham but it was too active to get a photo. So, I still have 627 species to go before I reach 4000 but how am I doing? Assuming an even spread of ticks throughout the year at a rate of 2.7 a day I should be on 3395 by now, I'm only 22 behind that. However, the start of the year is the worst part with very little to add so the months are not at all comparable (I added 95 species in April alone and I have added 87 so far this May). I reckon I am about bang on target to get to 4000 by the end of December!

It's all gone a Rye

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 23 May 2011 19:32

I've had a great day out in the field with Andy Phillips and Chris Bentley at Rye Harbour and Castle Water. With all three of us having a common interest in jumping spiders (but me knowing next to nothing!) they dominated the day but we saw lots of other things too. First of all, I have finally saw a living Helops caeruleus. They were very easy under the railway sleepers, a little faster than I was expecting for a tenebrionid. This really is an impressive beetle.

OK, back to the spiders. It was very hard to photograph today with such strong winds but I did manage a few. This wasn't the shot I was going for but actually I'm quite pleased with it as it shows the markings on the abdomen quite clearly. This is Sitticus inexpectus and is a new one for me. Roberts states it's a shingle specialist.
We also saw the very rare Neon pictus, as well as the common Euophrys frontalis, all of these jumping spiders are new to me and we are still waiting on the ID of another probable rare species. I did manage a shot of the ubiquitous Salticus scenicus immediately after it caught its prey. The male's chelicerae are huge!
We also found the larvae of the Pale Grass Eggar which is quite a handsome creature, although this one looked a little sand-blasted (as did we).
Finally, Andy found a number of Bristly Millipedes Polyxenus lagurus on the walls of the castle. They are tiny but very smart looking under a hand lens. Here is the best shot I got. I have to say I have never even heard of them before and would not have thought they were millipedes at all if I had stumbled across them. I can't help but think of the mind controlling parasites used in The Wrath of Khan! I am sure I will have more to add from today's trip, I may even do a second blog tomorrow but at the end of today I am on 3364 species. A massive thank you to Andy and Chris!

Heavy Drinker

Posted by Graeme Lyons 08:39

I've just finished a new weekend course that I ran at Woods Mill. It was called 'Bird Survey Techniques' and it was mostly concerned with teaching people how to carry out standardised survey methodologies such as Common Birds Census, Breeding Bird Survey and point counts. It went really well, I was particularly pleased to get to grips with the interactive whiteboard, being able to flip between that, bird song on the RSPB website and my Power Point slides is a great teaching resource.

Anyway, one of the attendees spotted this big fat caterpillar, it is destined to be a Drinker, just like its parent before it. I did have one tick too. On the edge of the car park by the class room, I spotted this reed beetle feeding from an Ox-eye Daisy. I'm still to tackle the reed beetles but I thought I would give it a go. Using only the key in Joy and the notes in Cox's atlas, I am fairly confident this is Donacia semicuprea. It was but 20 m from a dense stand of Sweet Canary-grass.

Quail fail

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 22 May 2011 19:36

I shot up to Frog Firle by High and Over with Michael Blencowe and Bob Eade this evening to look for the Quails that were recorded there yesterday. It was VERY windy though and they were very hard to hear. We heard two or three but there was no chance of being able to see them though. How many more years will go by before I finally see this bird? Grrrrrr!

On the way back to the car I spotted this plant which was a nice surprise. I have only ever seen it once before at Therfield Heath in Hertfordshire and never before in Sussex. It's the unusually named Bastard-toadflax and it's not all that common. There were at least four plants growing in the middle of the path and I am sure there would have been more if I had looked harder. Not a bad booby prize! I have a well earned day off tomorrow after working all weekend and I am off to Rye Harbour for a day of natural history.

Scarce Foresters

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 21 May 2011 18:42

I like the prefix scarce. After James presented me with a dead specimen of a forester he found at Southerham, I was sure the foresters up Bible Bottom there were going to be Scarce Foresters so I was keen to go an check them out at the first opportunity. I found eight and caught them all, all were males and all were Scarce Foresters! This Na species is a tick for me and according to Colin Pratt it is actually the most frequently encountered forester in Sussex. I have seen Cistus Forester (Nb) at Malling Down and I think there are records for the Forester (local) on the Lewes Downs too, so this is perhaps one of the few places where all three can occur together. So the only forester I have not seen now is the commonest one nationally and scarcest one regionally, the Forester!

The ID of the male Scarce Forester is easier than other two species (it's in a separate genus too). The antennae are pectinate right to the tip where they form a sort of club in the last few segments in the other two species. You can see this is clearly not the case in the above photo. This was easy to see with a hand lens. The moths were quite approachable and lethargic. I didn't have a lot of time but I did see hundreds of Adonis Blues and heard my first Stripe-winged Grasshopper of the year. That leaves me on 3355.

Tillus all about it

Posted by Graeme Lyons 06:54

Saw quite a few of these nationally scarce saproxylics during a quick visit to Cowdray on my way past yesterday. It's a female Tillus elongatus. I only saw females and I am pretty sure this one was ovipositing. It was in a recently fallen Beech that was full of fungus. I also found an elytron that is an incredible metallic blue/purple, I think it is likely to be an Ischnomera so I doubt I can get it to species. No hint of green in there though like I have seen before in this genus, perhaps that pigment fades with age as it often does in moths? This micro moth was new to me, pretty sure it's Cydia fagiglandana, which feeds in Beech nuts. Very well camouflaged against the bark.
The farm survey yesterday had such typical farmland birds as Mediterranean Gull (the commonest gull), Reed Warbler (singing from a rape field) and Crossbill (four flying over). I am about to start a weekend course called 'Bird Survey Techniques', first time I have run this one so I hope it all goes to plan. Might try and get up to Southerham this afternoon and look for forester moths.


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 19 May 2011 18:08

I'm not punching the air at the joy of not having back ache, this is the call of my favourite bird, Mediterranean Gull and today I saw more of them in a single group than I have ever seen before. Driving south from West Dean Woods we disturbed a flock of gulls from a field very close to the road, there were at least 40, probably many more Meds. A few Black-headed Gulls in with them but flock was very much dominated with Meds. I took a few shots but they don't do it justice. What were they doing at this time of year in such numbers in the middle of a field?

Here is the rare four-winged sub species and a Black-headed Gull for comparison. I can't get enough of these birds, everything about them is just perfect and I still get this amazing rush every time I see one, even though I must have seen thousands by now. I don't know why. Ye-eah!
At West Dean I heard my first Turtle Dove of the year as well as a singing Firecrest. Five species of longhorn beetle, with four firsts for the year. A single Drab Looper and this stunning blue beetle, which as far as I can tell is the Birch Leaf-roller Byctiscus betulae which was a tick for me. If you wanna hear what Med Gulls sound like, click here YE-EAH!

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