Succession in reverse

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 30 April 2013 17:52

The river restoration project at Woods Mill continues to produce interesting invertebrates. Last year I started to see Bembidion illigeri, Bembidion articulatum and Elaphrus riparius running around the exposed mud. I thought that this assemblage of species would be short lived as the vegetation encroached but after the floods of the winter, even more sand and silt has been deposited. If anything there is even more habitat and this was reflected in the additional species Penny, Bob and I recorded today during a lunch time walk. I recorded three carabids new to my list including this striking Chlaenius nigricronis which is a nationally scarce species (Nb).  Bembidion tetracolum and Bembidion dentellum were both new to me. Additionally we recorded Pterostichus nigrita/rhaeticus, Paranchus albipes, Notiophilus substriatus and Agonum marginatum. So maybe this assemblage will get better and better each year as new deposits are put down each winter and new species accumulate over time?

In addition to the three beetles, I added a spider I found in the sink in the gents toilets! A male Neriene clathrata. With four new species on my list and some great records for the project, I end the day and probably the month on 4228 species.

A long overdue list update

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 27 April 2013 17:26

I can't believe it's been nearly a year since I did this last. A recent resurgence in activity has spurred me on to pull this all together, as have a few comments from friends that I'm no longer listing. How wrong they are. So between 1st June 2012 and the 27th April 2013 I have added 223 species putting me on 4222 species. It would seem I have been ousted out of the top ten into 11th place. Anyway, lots going with surveys at Filsham and Old Lodge this year. Highlights this week were an Oodes helopioides I sieved out of reed litter in the fen at Filsham, a Dromius angustus that Chris Bentley found at Old Lodge and this huge female Amaurobius ferox which I found at the end of my street in Brighton. April has been a good month with three new vertebrates and dozens of invertebrates, I wonder what species 4223 will be?...

Vascular plants 1186 (+30)
Moths 873 (+15)
Beetles 544 (+61)
Birds 347 (+2)
Fungi 209 (+3)
Mosses 171 (+34)
Arachnids 160 (+21)
True bugs 108 (+17)
True flies 106 (+8)
Molluscs 79 (+4)
Aculeates 70 (+3)
Butterflies 53
Mammals 45 (+4)
Liverworts 43 (+7)
Fish 40 (+1)
Crustaceans 32 (+2)
Dragonflies 32
Lichens 31 (+1)
Crickets & grasshoppers 19
Seaweeds & algae 7
Reptiles 7
Amphibians 6
Anemones & jellyfish 6
Mites 6 (+1)
Lacewings & allies 6 (+2)
Caddisflies 6 (+3)
Leeches                         5 (+2)
Millipedes 5
Cockroaches 3
Slime Mould 3
Springtails 2
Parasitica 2
Centipedes 2
Mayfly 2
Lice                                1
Silverfish 1
Earwigs 1
Aphid 1
Flatworm 1
Sponge 1

Natural history overdrive

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 25 April 2013 20:34

It's that time of year again when sightings are happening faster than I can get them on here! Just a quick one as I have had two very full-on days invertebrate surveying at Filsham Reedbed and Old Lodge. On Tuesday I popped out to Church Norton at lunch time to see the Western Bonelli's Warbler which was behaving quite well. Thanks to Paul Snellgrove for sending me through this shot he took when I was there. This is my 2nd new bird so far this year and my 4218th species.

Tout va bien

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 23 April 2013 17:40

When I left Newhaven on Sunday morning to go to France for a couple of hours, I wasn't expecting to get a new species of cetacean on my British list. The first dolphins we saw turned out to be White-beaked Dolphins. This is hugely significant in the English Channel as this species is associated with more northern waters, particularly the North Sea. They were quite large dolphins with obvious pale markings but their most striking feature was the frequency with which they were breaching, sending splashes of water high into the air, almost looking like the blow of a whale. This was my 11th species of cetacean but only my 5th in British and Irish waters. We also saw Bottlenosed Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises.
The trip was arranged by MARINElife as part of a two day course and was well attended. I was impressed by the knowledge of the instructors and I will definitely be signing up to do some volunteer surveys.
Gannets were as ever the most frequent and abundant species. We did see a few nice things too, which included a Bonxie, a couple of Little Gulls, Black-throated Diver and Arctic Tern. It was amazing that we didn't see a single Swallow. Even during the two hours we spent in Dieppe, we didn't see a single one.

A big thank you to Adrian Shephard and Carol Farmer-Wright for organising this course. Thanks also to Adrian for allowing me to use his photo of the White-beaked Dolphins dorsal fin above.

Corncrake at Beachy Head!!!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 18 April 2013 07:54

Picture the scene. You've just spent your birthday ill in bed with a rotten cold and have taken the following day off sick too. Having finally dragged yourself out of a steaming hot bath at about 3.30 pm, you notice a missed call from Paul Marten. He tells me these is a Corncrake showing well at Beachy Head NOW! My head is spinning, I feel like death warmed up  BUT Corncrake is THE only regular British bird that I haven't seen. There is no way I am letting a cold get the better of me. Then 30 minutes later I was looking at this, a ludicrously tame bird. I never thought I would see this, many of the birders present who were older than me were also saying the same thing. It seemed like a once in a life time opportunity.

The bird was feeding actively on very large earthworms the whole time I was there. It was so close that if filled the entire view finder on the scope. You can make it out on the track in these pictures. Thanks to all the birders whose scopes I borrowed to take these shots with the Coolpix 4500 but a huge thanks to Paul Marten for ringing me! What an awesome belated birthday present!

First record of rare shield bug for East Sussex!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 17 April 2013 13:17

Here is a map of all the records of Canthophorus impressus that have been recorded in the UK since 1990. Many thanks to Tristan Bantock for letting me use these maps, If you haven't seen Tristan's website, British Bugs, then take a look. So suddenly my record at Southerham on Sunday is more significant. Being the first in Sussex since at least 1905 and the the first ever in East Sussex. It's also the furthest east since 1990 and is considerably east of what appears to be a species that is contracting in range, especially the east of its range. Take a look at the pre-1990 records!
Although I couldn't see any Bastard-toadflax there on Sunday, it is known from the site (thanks to Frances Abraham for the info). I will go back during the flowering period and have a look for it. It's scattered throughout Sussex so it will be worth looking for the bug elsewhere (Mount Caburn and Beachy Head for example). This might not be the most easterly record. Tristan also told me that he has assessed this species as 'Near Threatened' under the new IUCN criteria. So here is the beast again.
Bugs are my 15th most frequently posted label. So I figured it was about time I pulled together my shield bug list. Of the 33 shield bugs listed in Evans and Edmonson I have seen 19 (plus nymphs of one of the Odontoscelis species at Lakenheath last March). Of the ten squash bugs, I have seen four. Here are a few that have featured on my blog over the last three years in reverse order of appearance.
Box Bug. One of the squash bugs with their 'brick-like' texture. Now widespread, this was outside reception at Woods Mill.

Turtle Shieldbug. So far the only one I have ever seen was under a log last spring at Southerham.

Woundwort Shieldbug. Common enough in the right places.

New Forest Shieldbug. I only saw this because I saw a load of people with nets by the side of the road and stopped! It pays to be cheeky!

Juniper Shieldbug. I have seen this only at Levin Down.

Gorse Shieldbug.

Slender-horned Leatherbug. Only ever seen this once under a log on the edge of the Thames at Rainham.

Spiked Shieldbug. I see this occasionally on heathland.

Parent Bug

Red-legged (or Forest) Shieldbug

Dock Bug

Oh, I forgot. Of course I have FIVE squash bugs. The one that is NOT in Evans and Edmonson. The Western Conifer Seed Bug!

So where's the Bastard-toadflax?!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 14 April 2013 19:28

I went a quick walk up Southerham this afternoon and spotted this little shieldbug. I first thought it was going to be the Blue Shieldbug Zicrona caerulea but I thought the white border meant  it was a different species. A quick check of the Internet and I was pretty convinced I had the Down Shieldbug Canthophorus impressus. Now this is interesting for two reasons. One, the bug's only food plant is Bastard-toadflax, a scarce plant I have never found at Southerham and have only ever seen at Frog Firle in Sussex. Two, I currently can't find any records for it in Sussex! Fingers crossed this is a county first. It's surprising this thing is only Nb considering it has such specific requirements. I lost the specimen after taking two photographs, only to find it 30 minutes later followed by another one within centimetres of the first. This is my 4211th UK species.

Walking back to the car I had a Yellow Wagtail flying overhead. I cannot remember a time when my second summer migrant of the year was a Yellow Wag! I am yet to see a hirundine, a Wheatear or a Blackcap!

Teeth and brains

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 13 April 2013 17:26

It could be something to do with that I have been watching the Walking Dead all day that I could come up with such a blog title for what was essentially a survey of Wild Daffodils, but as usual, it's the the less obvious things I encounter when I'm out, the underdogs, that interest me. Yes, Wild Daffodils have their own intrinsic beauty but this Toothwort that Nick Sturt got me on to, does it more for me. Looking like  dentures that have fallen out of a gawping botanist's mouth or a half-buried dead creature, Toothwort has to be one of the strangest plants out there. I find all the plants that can't be bothered to get their energy from the Sun hugely fascinating. Considering the host is Hazel, why is it so scarce at West Dean Woods?

It was 'bring your girlfriend to work day' last Thursday and Rachael was great at spotting daffs, even when they weren't flowering. She also spotted this Yellow Brain Fungus.

The mapping exercise was a success, I hope to show the results on here next week. For those that like Wild Daffodils, here are bunch of the showy little tarts. Apparently, they look amazing this year! Whatever floats your boat, give me Toothwort any day!
Finally, to dispel any myths that I'm not out there doing natural history or listing anymore, my current list is on 4209 and I've added 30 species (mostly invertebrates) since the start of March! All of this is from the two surveys I am doing at work this year, one at Filsham Reedbed with Alice Parfitt and the other at Old Lodge with Chris Bentley. I anticipate these surveys being the main source of additions to my list this year based upon the success of the March visits but that is another story...

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