Snags and ladders

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 30 April 2014 16:42

I spent a long but enjoyable day yesterday at the BTO's headquarters at the Nunnery thrashings out ideas of what to record in a national living landscape monitoring strategy. Despite seven hours driving and a five hour meeting, I squeezed in some natural history thanks to Andy Musgrove and Brian Eversham. The highlight for me was this notable a weevil, Cossonus linearis, that I found on a hybrid Black Poplar snag. It's  real specialist of this part of the world according to the NBN, so it was a really nice thing to chance upon. Another beetle Brian showed us that was not something I have ever come across before, Gonodera luperus. I see that has a stronghold in the Brecks too. I saw three new beetles in all but dipped on Otter and Platyrhinus again!

Strangest though was ticking the nationally scarce Wall Bedstraw from a step ladder on the walls of the old Nunnery! Thanks to Andy, Brian and Rob for such an enjoyable day.

Head Like A Hole

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 25 April 2014 16:26

It's not often you get three new spiders before breakfast! This spider was a real surprise when I put it under the microscope. Superficially looking like a small Hypomma but immediately realised I had something unusual when I could see light through the spider's head! It didn't take long to get it to species, it's Trematocephalus cristatus and it's Na. What a strange adaptation?! In actual fact, rather being a hole, it's a an extension of the cephalothorax that has dropped back to where the rest of the eyes are (you can see what I mean with this other specimen I recorded where the gap is open). There are eyes on the top of each of these extensions!?

There is only one way to celebrate finding this spider and that's Nine Inch Nails!!!

We've recorded 217 species from two visits to Burton Pond and that doesn't even include the vast majority of Mike's records. The group with the most species is currently spiders at 57! Also new for me today is the Nb Tetragnatha striata. Here is a close up of a male's palp.

The X-Files

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 24 April 2014 21:00

Two days. Two different invertebrate surveys. Two Xysticus crab spiders that I've not seen until now. Now by far the commonest Xysticus is Xysticus cristatus and you have to look through a lot of these to find the less common and scarce ones, so it really is quite surprising to see two new ones in as many days!

First up we have the striking Xysticus audax (how many other species begin and end with x?). It looks like a tiny skeleton (or maybe a stormtrooper) but the clincher is in the structure of the genitalia (this one is a male). Jane found this sieving bracken litter at Burton Pond.

Now today, we picked up a scarce one being the HUGE Xysticus bifasciatus. Alice swept this from a heathy ride at Flatropers today. This one is a female.

Other highlights today included Ancylis uncella, Platystomos albinus, a couple of very cool flies being Conops versicularis and this Hazel Leaf Roller Apoderus coryli that I haven't seen for about five years! Now, tomorrow, a long over due day at the microscope and in the office! A huge thanks to Jane, Alice, Chris and Mike for a couple of great days in the field!

True (Nature) Detective

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 21 April 2014 16:28

Before you read this post, you HAVE to listen to this. An amazing song for an amazing TV show, that has absolutely nothing to do with wildlife other than that Rachael bought me two albums by the Handsome Family for my birthday and it has become the soundtrack to my journeys around Sussex. Hell, it's become the soundtrack to my life!

Back to the random photo of a pine cone on my mantel piece (that's not a euphemism).  Last Friday, Tony Davis and I called in to Canford Heath in Dorset to look for a rare micro moth. We failed to find it. I did see a fallen pine tree with plenty of green needles low enough to beat so I thought I would give it a quick go. It was well worth it producing three ticks for both Tony and I! The first being the tree itself. It was of course a Maritime Pine which I have never knowingly seen before.

The first thing I spotted on the tray was the Pine Cone Bug Gastrodes grossipes, I think new for Tony. A cool looking thing.

The second thing I saw was this cracking Cream-streaked Ladybird. I have not seen this before so was well chuffed by this impressive ladybird.

Then I noticed a cracking Ampedus sanguinolentus, a Na click beetle that I see annually on the heaths of Sussex. It ran away before Tony got a photo. It's a striking beetle.

Finally Tony spotted this weevil, which I had no idea what it was at first. It's a saproxylic species called Pissodes castaneus. This really illustrates a point: an isolated pine tree on a heathland is always worth a closer look. It pretty much always comes up with something good! Especially when you can reach the branches.

5001: A Wildlife Odyssey

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 20 April 2014 20:26

I made it to 5000! So intense was my identification fury this afternoon that I actually overshot and I'm now on 5001 species. Actually my 5000th species was quite a boring and common hoverfly, Platycheirus cypleatus I recorded yesterday near the Pevensey Levels. So here is the 5001st species instead, a cool little (it's under 3mm long) staph called Stenus fornicatus. I'm already looking forward to the next 1000 species!

Stay on target

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 19 April 2014 10:31

There is lots going on this weekend in my world. My birthday, the soft launch of the pan-species lister's new website (coming soon), my first silver WOD at Crossfit, the start of a freelance invertebrate survey on the Pevensey Levels today and of course, my imminent approach to 5000 species. So what better time to spend an entire day legging it around Hampshire and Dorset looking for wildlife with Tony Davis? That's exactly what I did yesterday and it was great fun.

Now it's great looking for target species but I quite often fail to find them and find something rarer or more unexpected in the process. Yesterday was a great example of this. I got some gen from Andy Phillips that Studland Dunes was a good place to see spiders so we headed there. I wanted to see Philodromus fallax and the Rhombic Leatherbug Syromastus rhombeus. We saw neither. But we did see LOTS of cool things including the much rarer Dalman's Leatherbug Spathocera dalmanii (above). This is a Na species, much rarer than the target leatherbug!

Other highlights from these dunes included these jumping spiders which I was convinced was a new species for me until I realised they were the females of Aelurillus v-insignitis. Still, I've never seen the females before and never seen this species outside of Iping Common.

This click beetle I believe to be the Nb Cardiophorus asellus. Zoom in on the photo. Seriously, it has a heart shaped scutellum! I think this should be called the Romeo Click Beetle.

And nearby this tenebrionid, being Phylan gibbus. I could literally spend all day staring at bare ground searching for movement. To me this is the entomological equivalent of sea-watching. 

This is really only a fraction of the species I saw yesterday which also included great things to stumble across like a stonking Heath Tiger Beetle and male Sand Lizard! Anyway, I reckon I can easily get to 5000 this weekend (I'm on 4990!!!) if I push it but I was starting to feel a little jaded by it all last night, so I am going to relax and just let it happen! I think going off piste and finding unexpected things is far more rewarding than always hitting the targets. You only have to look to Star Wars to remember how bad things can go if you don't learn to be a little flexible now and again! Loosen up!

Shepherd & Dog & Beetle

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 12 April 2014 20:42

As I was walking back from the bar at the Shepherd & Dog in Fulking I had a look at a decaying cherry tree that drew my eye. I walked right up to a specimen of the nationally scarce b saproxylic beetle Oedemera femoralis, wrapped in spider's web and barely alive. Not only was this stonking species a lifer for me, it was my 750th species of beetle. We were there because Mum is down visiting for the weekend. Here she is next to the cherry tree. I suddenly thought after I had taken the photo that it might not have been the decaying tree that had attracted the beetle but rather the light on the tree. I have heard of this species turning up in moth traps, has anyone else recorded it this way?


Posted by Graeme Lyons 08:20

Liophloeus tessulatus might not be the rarest weevil but it is certainly very smart and measuring in at over a cm, it even falls into the 'large' category. I swept this beast yesterday from the valley field at Woods Mill. It was certainly a better marked specimen than the two other individuals I had seen before. I checked my data base and was surprised to see four records for this. It just goes to show that I just can't keep track of all this stuff in my head anymore and the database is serving one of it's main functions, acting like extra memory for me! Anyway, I was really pleased with this particular photo.

My pan-species list has slowed in the last week due to the construction of the PSL website which is undergoing a beta trial period with a small group of people to trouble shoot and develop, it won't be long before it's live but I'm not sure how long. Maybe the end of the month? So I'm a tantalising 30 away from 5000 at 4970 but I have limited chance of getting out this weekend as my Mum is coming down for the first time in five years! Maybe I'll taker her twitching...

Truffles shuffle

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 8 April 2014 13:05

As I write and for the last two days, I have been helping John van Breda, Charles Roper and Bob Foreman construct the pan-species listing website with funding from the BRC. It's been an exciting few days watching the site take shape and it's great to be able to have such an input into something I really see the value in. Thanks guys!
I am, as ever, continuously distracted by wildlife. Two Great Tits killing each other in the drain outside the mill, a mouse running around my feet as I type, Jet Black Ants Lasius fuliginosus showing off their heart shaped heads by the door but what I really wanted was a tick to mark the occasion. 
Being that I only had a twenty metre walk to the Truffles sandwich van in the car park planned, this was not looking likely. Or so I thought...
...Charles and I spotted these crazy looking aphids, I've never seen anything like them before despite spending two or three days a week waiting for the sandwich van in the same spot. A little searching online and it looks likely these are the Black Willow Bark Aphid Pterocomma salicis. They were being attended by Lasius fuliginosus and another species of Lasius as yet unidentified.

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