The top ten highlights of 2013

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 27 December 2013 09:56

Although it wasn't my most prolific blogging year, 2013 was an amazing year for natural history. Here are the top ten in reverse order.

10). Pearl-bordered Fritillary dead on a sundew at Graffham Common. When Rachael said 'I've never seen anyone get so excited over a dead butterfly' was the moment she realised her new boyfriend was an obsessed maniac.

9). Six new birds in 2013 which were: Western Bonnelli's Warbler, American Golden Plover, Hermit Thrush, Radde's Warbler, Semipalmated Sandpiper and (see below). The twitching trip to Cornwall in search of the Hermit Thrush with Mark, Neil and Seth was a blast. Despite seeing the Hermit Thrush, I thought the smartest thing that day was this Blue-rayed Limpet. It just goes to show that twitching with a bunch of pan-species listers can go in all sorts of directions.

8).  An autumn at Rye Harbour NVCing the whole nature reserve. I found a Pectoral Sandpiper but this female Red-veined Darter was a highlight for me.

7). Teesdale. Lots of scarce new plants including this Alpine Bartsia.

6). It was a fantastic autumn for fungi, this Starfish or Anemone Fungus is still giving me nightmares. And boy do I LOVE nightmares!

5). A summer of fish surveys with Sussex IFCA. I saw so many new species, I couldn't decide between Little Cuttlefish or Thornback Ray as my favourite.

4). Micrommata virescens and Carabus arvensis, just two of the 584 species Chris Bentley and I recorded at the Old Lodge invertebrate survey.

3). 67 Heath Tiger Beetles at Iping Common using purpose made scrapes put in with a turf stripper. Great to see this reintroduced species not only present on site but thriving. The 1st August was a great day and so glad I was able to share it with Shaun Pryor.

2). Lumpsucker and Montagu's Sea-snail at St Mary's Island. Sublime.

1). The 'elusive' Corncrake at Beachy Head. Say no more.

So is that it for 2013? I was hoping for an Ivory Gull on the way back south tomorrow but they all seem to have gone now. I think I might have a day at the microscope on the 31st...

Cod piece

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 22 December 2013 14:27

If you can think of a better fish pun, let minnow. At last, some 30 years after I first ate one, I finally caught up with a wild Cod! I was rock-pooling today at St Mary's Lighthouse but it was slow going with only one each of Long-spined Sea Scorpion, Corkwing Wrasse (last time I recorded Ballan), Two-spot Goby and Shanny. I had my eyes on a fella (not in that way!) sea-fishing off the edge of the rocks and I looked up at a time he was reeling in a catch. I grabbed my binoculars and tentatively identified it as a Cod as he landed the fish. Little did he know he was being watched from behind a rock! I legged it around to get a better look. 'Excuse me, did you just catch a Cod?' I yelled as I came running over the rocks. I think he thought I was either very hungry or very strange (I was actually both but he didn't know that nor was it relevant) and after a while he let me take a photo and we were soon exchanging fish-based anecdotes. Not exactly the rarest creature in the world but not something I was expecting to see today. The fish in question went back in as it was too small to take. My 69th fish species and maybe my last new species (4718) of 2013. I hope I'll see a wild Chip soon and complete the set! A couple of Purple Sandpipers were working the shoreline too but they flew off when I asked them what they had caught.

Yesterday I added the Common Starfish Asterias rubens from the rocks at Tynemouth but little else. Ivory Gull Tourette Syndrome has set in this week. I am jumping at every gull, carrier bag, football, ship, even the odd white van that moves. Now that would be a fitting end to a year! I was thinking of going to twitch the bird in Yorkshire but I am some 160 miles and over three hours NORTH of it here. I'd rather have a surprise Cod any day.

Antidepressants for caterpillars

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 1 December 2013 18:12

October and November have been great months for me this year. At the end of a long field season, I have had a little more time to get out and do natural history outside of work. I ended September on 4505 species and started December on 4699, an increase of 194. Many of these have been fungi and leaf-miners but all sorts of things turned up in the last few moths including seven new vertebrates! 

I found the above leaf-miner at Woods Mill by searching for the food plant. I found this on the first specimen of Perforate St Johnswort that I came across, it's Ectoedomia septembrella. It's a common species. It spends its entire larval stages inside the leaf of a species that humans eat to combat depression. I guess that must make it the happiest little caterpillar in the world. Well, maybe not as it fills its home with its own feces as it eats its way through the leaf. However, as the host species (Perforate St Johnswort) comes with its own ventilation, this is one lucky little caterpillar! I digress. My point was that leaf-miners are easy to find and relatively easy to identify, even if they are filthy little buggers.

Anyway, here is the break down of the last two month's additions:

Vascular plants 1209 (+3)
Moths 929 (+34)
Beetles 640 (+20)
Birds 351 (+2)
Fungi 282 (+73)
Spiders 205 (+6)
Mosses 173 (+1)
True bugs 131 (+2)
True flies 127 (+4)
Aculeates 91 (+5)
Molluscs 91 (+7)
Fish 68 (+4)
Butterflies 54 (+1)
Mammals 46 (+1)
Liverworts 43
Crustaceans 43
Dragonflies 33
Lichens 32 (+1)
Crickets & grasshoppers 25
Harvestmen 12
Millipedes 12 (+7)
Lacewings & allies 9 (+2)
Seaweeds & algae 9 (+2)
Caddisflies 9 (+3)
Mites 8 (+2)
Reptiles 7
Amphibians 6
Centipedes 6 (+4)
Anemones 5
Leeches                         5
Jellyfish 4
Cockroaches 3
Mayfly 3
Slime Mould 3
Parasitica 3 (+1)
Annelid 2
Scorpionfly 2
Springtails 2
Flatworm 2 (+1)
Pseudoscorpion 2 (+1)
Starfish 2 (+1)
Aphid 1
Cephalopod 1
Earwigs 1
Lice                                1
Polychete 1
Sea Urchin 1
Silverfish 1
Snakefly 1
Sponge 1
Stoneflies 1 (+1)

I've also had a big push on updating records. I synced with the the SxBRC and thanks to Penny Green, I now have all my records from the SxBRC too. All in all, my data base now stands at 15,300 records. I'd like to have a quiet winter now but it never seems to happen that way, I'll breach the 5000 mark before you know it... 

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