Hooped embolus

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 30 March 2012 08:50

Check out this strange palp! The long curved structure is noted as a 'hooped embolus' in Roberts. It belongs to a small spider known as Microlinyphia pusilla (species 3830). I swept it from the leat at Woods Mill yesterday. It was an interesting day as I discovered Dotted Bee-fly Bombylius discolor, new to the site. Within half an hour, after showing a colleague, another one had been located. Amazing that this had not been recorded there before then two in one day! With any luck, tomorrow morning I'll be watching Goshawks in the Brecks!

Rock night

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 28 March 2012 20:36

Here are some late sightings from the last week. Last Friday we trapped at Eridge Rocks with Keith Tailby and friends. I got one new moth, Semioscopis avellanella. The above spider was new to me and took me a while to identify. It's a mature female Coelotes terrestris. I also borrowed the key to millipedes from Andy Phillips earlier in the day and then the same night found the huge Cylindroiulus londinensis, it was 36mm long and 4mm wide, quite a beast! I'm currently on 3828 species.

I'm going out of county this weekend all the way to Bedfordshire then the Brecks to see some friends from the RSPB I have not seen for years. Can't wait!

Knobbly knees vs. hairy knees

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 26 March 2012 20:59

The Reserves Team went a brief walk up Malling Down after a meeting today. We only had just over an hour but we certainly mopped up. I foolishly promised Pancalia schwarzella, Opatrum sabulosum and Alopecosa barbipes. Amazingly, we saw them all. A Red Kite was drifting around being mobbed by crows to boot. We then spotted a species new to me. Alopecosa cuneata (first photo). Both these Alopecosa species have modified front legs. In cuneata, they are black and swollen. In barbipes (below), they are black and hairy. I think these wolf spiders are really smart and it's nice to be able to identify a few spiders in the field. There is only one species in the genus I am yet to see but that is the big rare one and it seems it is only at a few sites.
We only saw one of the rare Pancalia schwarzella moths after searching through masses of Ancylis comptana. Opatrum sabulosum was the most abundant beetle. I end the day on 3824 species.

The first rule of bryophyte club

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 24 March 2012 16:41

At long last Episode Five is out now and available at the Natural History of Sussex blog page and on iTunes. This time we go in search of mosses and liverworts with Bruce Middleton at Heyshott Down and attempt to impress Michael with a big showy moss! Enjoy.


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 23 March 2012 17:07

I've been having a look around Seaford Head today with Andy Phillips. It has been an amazing day and the weather was great. Most obvious were dozens of Hairy-footed Flower-bees Anthophora plumipes. You can see the huge proboscis and hairy-feet in the above photos. They are annoyingly fast and move between flowers slightly faster than the time the Cooplix 4500 takes to focus. I got quite fed up of stalking up on them, focusing the camera just as the bee flew off! I am surprised that I got these shots so I took this video of a male foraging as back up. Incidentally, we saw perhaps 25 to 30 of these today and they were all males. Hairy Violets (above) and Ground Ivy are clearly important nectar sources for these early-flying bees at Seaford.
I also found loads of these snails (and even a live one) which was a tick for me. The very nice Helicella itala.
11-spot Ladybirds are always nice to see.
A mating pair of Trochosa (terricola?). I originally put this down as ruricola in error.
The view along the cliffs back to the Seven Sisters is stunning. You can see the wind blown sand deposits (lowess) on top of the chalk in this photo. An important habitat on the site. It does make things look a bit 'Planet of the Apes' (thanks for that one Andy!). Isn't Sussex amazing?!
Of all the places we could chose to peer over the cliff edge, we chose a spot right next to two Peregrines!
However, the photo I was most pleased with was taken from inside an old building we found looking out. Like the Room from Stalker or something from the book House of Leaves. I was quite taken with this shot and I'm really pleased how it came out. Now, if anyone out there reading this also watches Andrei Tarkovsky films from the 1970s, you'll know the significance of the Room from the film Stalker. And that can lead to only one question: What did I wish for?..

Mud pie

Posted by Graeme Lyons 08:32

The stream restoration at Woods Mill is looking good and the bare muddy edges there seem to be a little longer lasting than I was at first anticipating. As I walk along these edges I see lots of ground beetles and wolf spiders and thought it was time I gave them some more attention. I am only really doing this as a trial outside of work time but if it is succesful I may do it properly with a large sample size. In the mean time, I have three 'dry' traps out that I am looking at every day or two. This way I get to see the animals alive and 'em to the list!

I've been up twice to have a look and they have so far proved quite good:

Visit 1. 
Trap 1. Two Velia caprai (a female present that I was able to get to species so that was a new one!)
Trap 2.Three Bembidion illigeri (the most abundant beetle out there)
Trap 3. One B. illigeri and one Pterostichus sp.

Visit 2
Trap 1. Popped up due to water pressure beneath. Re-sited nearby.
Trap 2. Three B. illigeri. One adult male Pardosa (proxima?). Will get this checked today. Also one Heterocerus marginatus.
Trap 3. Nine B. illigeri.
Other species I have seen on the mud over the last two years there (but not yet in the traps) include Agonum muelleri, Agonum marginatum (above photo), Bembidion articulatum and Elaphrus riparius. I ended the 22nd March on 3817 species.

The moth trap at Woods Mill was pretty good yesterday with two Caloptilia stigmatella (the little micro that flew off last week).
And my annual attempts to string a Northern Drab out of a Lead-coloured Drab were again thwarted. These two moths are both LCDs but the one on the right gave me a brief moment of excitement. Will I ever see a Northern Drab?! 

The Black Rabbit of Inle

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 21 March 2012 21:23

This little fella's time was up but I never let a rotting corpse get in the way of some entomology. I was walking around Southerham today when I spotted the remains of this rabbit in Bible Bottom. I flipped it over to see twenty or so silphids scramble out of the way. They were incredibly camera shy and I was quite disgusted how quickly they buried into the fur and flesh. One dropped to the ground where it immediately started to bury itself in the soil. I found them equally disgusting and fascinating. The beetle is Thanatophilus rugosus and I have seen this once before a couple of years ago in the same valley. I love the texture of the elytra. Actually, scratch that, it's a tick! I just went through my records and in fact I recorded Thanatophilus sinuatus up there. Peter Hodge tells me that rugosus is the scarcer in Sussex so this is quite a good record.
I did get another tick today under an old fence post in the same valley. A shield bug called Podops inuncta. It has a massive scutellum, so big that it pretty much takes up its whole body. I also saw my first Wheatear and Blackcaps of the year and I am now covered in freckles. My list stands at 3811 (and that's not freckles).
As a child I was haunted by this song in Watership Down. I just listened to it for the first time in years and now realise why. It was my first real encounter with death. I remember fondly how my whole family laughed at me being so upset about Hazel. As an adult, I am considerably less bothered by such things but I do gain comfort from knowing all that energy and carbon is being assimilated by a multitude of other organisms in a never ending cycle of replication.


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 19 March 2012 20:19

What on Earth is 'Charlesing' you say? Well, it's a word for a phenomenon that happens to every entomologist now and again. When you accidentally crush an invert between the lid and the pot. An unfortunate event at any time but the reason it is called Charlesing is due to a famous lepidopterist's failing eyesight. I think the fact that anyone in the world ever went by the name Baron Charles de Worms is fantastic enough. The fact that this fumbling act was named after the poor chap is, in my opinion, one of the most bonkers natural history stories out there. Unsurprisingly there appear to be some rather crass alternative definitions in the online urban dictionary. I wonder what I will have named after me? How about:

'Lyonsing': the act of blowing ones own trumpet about a natural history find across many social networks in a short space of time.

Anyway. Back to Rye where no Charlesing occurred all day (but there was plenty of Lyonsing). I got to Chris's in the evening and saw some large orb weavers in his window. I didn't recognise them but Chris being a spider-man new them all too well and they were new ones to my list. A rather nice looking thing called Larinioides sclopetarius.
Also in Chris's garden we saw the egg sack of a pirate spider! No pirate spiders were to be seen though but this was not surprising as Chris has never seen one either. Funny looking things and the spiders look pretty cool too if you Google them. Try Googling Ero cambridgei.
We had a quick look on the salt marsh where we saw lots of these little ground beetles which were also new to me. Pogonus chalceus. I end the day on 3806 species.

Widely-set eyes are a sign of beauty

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 18 March 2012 15:58

After a very full on weekend I am now on 3804 species and in serious need of a few beers. However, the latest addition to my list is this gorgeous tachinid, Gonia picea. I was shown this early spring species by Chris Bentley at Castle Water, Rye Harbour today and Chris showed me how to identify it in the field. We did lots of recording and I saw a number of other new species too but that will have to wait until tomorrow...

Over 300 moths last night!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 16 March 2012 21:25

March always prodcues high totals of moths at Woods Mill, with over 900 one March night in 2009. Last night we recorded 316 individuals of some 17 species. One micro moth was new for me and was my 3800th species. The tiny Caloptilia stigmatella. Unfortunately the little beast flew off before I could get a photo. I decided to draw it quickly instead. I thought this would help but I actually remembered it wrong, the moth sat with its front end up and the white triangle was the other way round. This meant that I started searching with the wrong search image in mind but I am confident with the id. It's remarkable how much you change a memory each time you access it.

Now, tomorrow morning for a cross country run at Eridge Park followed by a talk at Rye Harbour on extreme mothing!

Crenulate side margins to the pronotum

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 14 March 2012 07:09

Pan-species listing has taken a back seat for the last week or two. Some tight deadlines at work have meant I have hardly gotten out of the office. This does not worry me though as a) the field season will be upon me soon and b) who needs to go out into the field when your colleagues come into the office covered in beetles? I found this staph on Alex's arm. I am starting to get to recognise this staph in the field now, I see it quite regularly at Woods Mill. It's Anotylus rugosus and is a smart looking thing under the microscope. Using Derek Lott's  key to the Staphylinidae (part 5) it keys out very easily indeed. Almost too easily for a staph. Can you tick a species in this way? Is it not the birding equivalent of 'ship-assisted'? Ah, who cares. I've seen it when tussocking plenty of times now!

It has a few really nice features like the crinkly (crenulate) edge to the pronotoum (above) and the strange square patch of 'micro-sculpture' on the front of its head. 
Panic ye not, my deadlines come to an end on Thursday and Saturday this week so at the first opportunity (Sunday) I plan to spend the day at Rye Harbour with the warden and my good friend Chris Bentley. If I don't get at least one new species then, I am going to quit natural history and take up golf. Yeah right...

Ginger nuts

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 11 March 2012 20:27

I've just got back from a weekend in Staffordshire and it was nicely rounded off by a sunny afternoon in Mum's garden. I was pleased to see a few aculeates on the wing today, including a few I could identify. This Tawny Mining Bee Andrena fulva that some how found its way into my shirt. Also buzzing around the garden was this Bombus hypnorum.
Other ginger-haired things in the garden included this unidentified domesticated mammal known as Monty (also called Montgomery Scott, Uncle Monty, Montoid and Gommo).
There is more. The ginger-gene runs strong in my family. As can be seen by my sister and nephew Teri and Rowan.

Wot ya lookin at mate?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 4 March 2012 19:42

Was the most frequent thing any one said to me as I stood by the main road in Worthing staring into a bush. Why you ask? Well, I went to Worthing to see the Yellow-browed Warbler (and to but some new running shoes for British Military Fitness - I am not joking, I have been doing it for two months now). Where was I? Yes, Worthing and one of the strangest twitches. The bird has been very faithful to some ornamental bushes around the edge of a small car park near central Worthing. After about half an hour of messing about, it showed. It was very close but hard to see. I recorded it calling, I have heard them before but I must say I originally mistook it for the call of a Pied Wagtail. 
It has clearly become something of a local celebrity as many people stopped to ask if it had been seen or what we were up to. Even a rough looking bloke that I overheard talking to his mate about getting out of prison asked what we were doing. It's a funny place Worthing, a completely different demograph to Brighton. The presence of two universities in Brighton means that there are so many young people and all the sub-cultures are well represented. In Worthing, I only saw a small flock of Hipsters and an immature Goth. Living in Brighton I forget how crazy the place is.

The Nutcracker Suite

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 2 March 2012 18:03

I had a great day today visiting a gentleman in West Sussex who showed me this amazing specimen of a Nutcracker. This specimen was shot back in 1906 near Chilgrove, back in the days when birdwatchers were a little more trigger happy and 'bagging' a bird meant literally that. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not celebrating this behaviour in anyway but the retention of the specimen after all these years I do support. I'm just grateful that we have digital cameras these days! I was also intrigued with what else was inside the case, I spotted some Big Shaggy-moss and Common Bent in there, looking just like they had been picked last summer, not 106 years ago.

The taxidermist was a W. Swaysland of 47 Queens Road, Brighton. It seems that this person was responsible for much of the taxidermy at the Booth Museum (also in Brighton for those that don't know). Incidentally, I have always felt a connection with Nutcrackers after seeing one in my home county of Staffordshire 21 years ago in 1991, I would have been 12 or 13.

Living birds today included a singing Firecrest, fly over Hawfinch, singing Crossbills and Marsh Tits and dozens of Redpolls.

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