Stranger things happen at sea

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 29 September 2013 17:02

Last Tuesday I went out with Sussex IFCA to carry out a small fish survey in Rye Bay on their boat, the Watchful. I was rather excited the night before and despite a sleepless night and a 4.00 am start, I was wide awake and very alert as we left Shoreham Harbour at 6.00 am.

It was misty as we headed out to Rye Bay but it soon cleared by the time we starting trawling for the first of the samples. The best bird of the trip was a dark Arctic Skua.

We pulled up a couple of Sea Mice Aphrodita aculeata. I guess people who spend a lot of time at sea don't see many mice. It's actually a worm would you believe it!?

I saw four new fish including quite a few of these Hook-nose, Pogge or Armed Bullhead. Having neither arms or hidden weaponry, I would have thought Armoured Bullhead would have been more appropriate.

I also added Solenette (we saw hundreds of them - photo below) and a few Lesser Sandeels.

But best fish of the trip has to be the Tub Gurnard with the most amazing bright-blue fins.

And of course, the highlight of the trip was seeing my first ever cephalopod in the form of this 2 cm long Little Cuttlefish Sepiola atlantica. I think this is a candidate for one of my favourite ever species!

Another striking creature was this Compass Jellyfish Chrysaora hysoscella with veins of caramel like stuff running through it. It looks like an alien's pudding.

It was a great day and seeing the whole of the East Sussex coast in calm sees and glorious sunshine on the way back was a real treat. Here is a very different view of Beachy Head. A big thank you to Kathryn Nelson and the rest of the team, I have definitely got the bug when it comes to sea life and I'll be doing more of this when I can. We processed nearly 3000 fish which was surprisingly hard work so I glad to be able to give something back. For the time being though my feet are on dry land.

Check out the abdomen on her!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 28 September 2013 17:47

We hosted a spider field meeting organised by the British Arachnological Society at Iping and Stedham today. It was incredible how many invertebrates we recorded in exactly the same places as the survey we carried out there last year. The highlight for me was sweeping this female Araniella displicata as I didn't manage to get a photo of it last year. It's quite a scarce beast (Na) and looks quite unlike the other Araniellas. I swept Ero tuberculata (Nb) in the same net but could not get the bloody thing to keep still for a photo. Lots of Philodromus histrio today (I swept seven in one net) which was more than we saw all year last year!

I found my 4500th species in...

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 26 September 2013 18:49

...a public toilet. It wasn't until I got home that I found I had reached my 4500th species today without  even realising. Now, I have seen loads of more interesting and exciting things than this species but I haven't had chance to blog about those yet. So in the mean time, my 4500th species was the rather dull little micro moth Eudonia angustea.

It's really difficult to try and 'fix' a significant marker in pan-species listing as an exciting species (I was hoping to see something during the small fish survey at Rye Harbour tomorrow) and you're not even safe in a public toilet it would seem! I was at Rye Harbour today and tried to get in via the south-west end of the reserve at Winchelsea Beach. The gate was locked but I spotted the toilets on the way back out and dashed in to use the loo. There were moths everywhere including four Eudonia angustea, three Mallows and best of all a Gem.
I took some pretty bad photos on my iPhone as I wasn't exactly prepared for macro photography when I went in there! 

Only 500 to go until 5000 which I expect will happen some time in 2014. It's nearly three years since my 3000th species which was also a micro moth on a wall. It's strange to think I have seen half as many species again in the last three years than I saw in the previous 22 years (my first biological record being made in 1988).

Gone fishing

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 19 September 2013 16:20

It's a been a while. I've recently lost enthusiasm for social networks, so my online presence has been low this summer. Ironically, I have probably had the busiest year of natural history of my life and have seen loads of exciting things, I just haven't the time or the inclination to write about it. So, apologies for that and for being a bit hard to get hold of this year.

Anyways, it's only a month late but here are the photos from one of the most exciting few hours natural history I have had all year when I helped out with a small fish survey off the coast of Rye Harbour on the 20th August. I only managed 14 new species of fish! Fourteen vertebrates in a single day, which actually even beats the last time I went out with these guys where I added six new species of fish and hooked up with the Reticulated Dragonet. So what beats a Reticulated Dragonet I hear you say?!

Well, a Thornback Ray I reckon! It might have been just a wee one but it's the closest thing to a shark I have on my list (the scale is in centimetres, not metres). We saw at least three.

Also new to me were a couple of mullets. I've seen plenty of mullets (I'm from the Midlands), but I've never been able to put a name to one until now. This one is the Thin-lipped Mullet.

And the slightly more impressive Golden Mullet with a big yellow blob on its cheek.

A bewildering array of young flatfish made up the bulk of my ticks but I must admit that I quite liked learning to identify this difficult group and before I knew it I was getting quite proficient at helping identify them. First up we have the slimy Plaice with orange spots. I also saw Flounder (not a tick), Witch and Dab which were new to me but I didn't manage a photo of those in all the excitement.

As with snails, you get 'left-handed' and 'right-handed' fish, and as with snails, more species tend to go one way than the other. Two species which buck the trend are Brill and Turbot. We saw both but here is a photo of a young Turbot.

But that's only eight new fish. Perhaps the commonest flatfish there was Sole, these are bloomin' ugly indeed. In fact, I was struck by how much their faces look like sock-puppets.

Number ten was the venomous Lesser Weever. Quite a colourful little fish but one that has to be handled with tweezers and makes reaching in to a bucket full of fish even more exciting than it already is!

Number 11 was the Lesser Pipefish. We only saw one of these.

So that leaves Bib, Whiting and Sand Goby which I didn't manage to photo. I was pretty pleased with that haul! My list is ticking along (4479) and I've been making a real effort to get records into Recorder6 this year and with upwards of 6500 records so far, I'm enjoying the process. I may even write a post about it one day.

Oh I totally forgot, this little critter that went unidentified. A young gurnard we thought but there are lots of different species. It was sent off to the museum for identification.

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