The boy who cried Pondweed Leafhopper

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 30 July 2014 16:37

This is the the very rare Pondweed Leafhopper Macrosteles cyane and this is the story of why you should never cry wolf. First off, read this. With particular reference to the last line of the second paragraph.

Yesterday, on the pool behind where Seth made his little joke last month (when I say behind, I'm talking 5 metres behind) I spotted HUNDREDS of the this very rare leafhopper sitting on the leaves of Broad-leaved Pondweed. What a fantastic result! This is a really rare species found at only a handful of ponds in the UK. Read here for more info. There were so many there that I must have overlooked them last time. Which means Seth, they were right behind you all along!

Should I mention the three Thirteen-spot Ladybirds?

Bible stories

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 23 July 2014 16:45

I'm embarrassed to admit it's took a me a few years to figure out that the super abundant snail at Bible Bottom, part of our Southerham reserve, is the monastically named Carthusian Snail Monacha cartusiana. This is a red listed species but there are hundreds up there. I would say it was the commonest snail yesterday. I was quite taken with them and their understated beauty. Bible Bottom was also full of thousands of Chalkhill Blues yesterday, quite an experience to walk through, go and have a look if you get a chance! 

Adrian and I were carrying out a grazing assessment as well as mapping some of the scarcer plant species such as Basil-thyme and Bastard-toadflax. The Bastard-toadflax has mostly gone over but we did see eight nymphs and one adult of the scarce Down Shieldbug Canthophorus impressus that I recorded new to East Sussex there last April. The nymphs are so bright! Great to see it and the plant doing well there and amazed at how the range of the Bastard-toadflax almost completely overlaps with the Chalk Milkwort (which flowers earlier in the year, there is not a trace of it left by mid summer). I would guess that they require the best chalk-grassland; with the lowest nutrients and/or the thinnest soils, accompanied with adequate grazing. 

I walked five miles for a stick?!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 20 July 2014 09:23

This is Babington's Leek, a form of the nationally scarce Wild Leek that grows on the sea front at Brighton by the Volks Railway. Amazingly, having lived here on and off for 18 years, half my life, I only saw it yesterday. This is for a number of reasons:

1) It flowers in the July and August when I always feel burned out and lose interest in wildlife.
2) There are way too many tourists in this part of the city so it's not usually a place I feel I want to visit.
3) Most perilously, there are literally hundreds of pubs to walk past and they are very inviting in this heat.

We almost failed on out mission when a small storm forced us to drink beer.

But we managed to soldier on. Other wildlife was thin on the ground but we did see some Common Broomrape and the nationally scarce bug Megalonotus sabulicola. I couldn't contain my excitement when I saw my first specimen of Babington's Leek missing a flower head. I believe "I walked five miles for a stick!" was said.

Fortunately there were more in flower a little further towards the Marina.

The mother of all dead leaf mimics

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 17 July 2014 20:52

I never thought this day would come. Twenty two years after I started mothing, and I have finally seen a Lappet! What a stunning moth it is too! A big thanks to Penny for putting the moth trap out at Woods Mill last night. This moth isn't even listed as nationally scarce (although it probably would be if it were assessed now) despite being close to extinction in West Sussex.

There is nothing worse than waiting years for something only to be underwhelmed, in this case the opposite was true and the moth was totally unlike anything I had ever seen before. The colours were really intense, the orange hind wings and purple palps and legs really stood out. This moth totally eclipsed another macro moth tick we recorded at Flatropers Wood today, the nationally scarce (Nb) White-line Snout, a rather dull little noctuid but a good record all the same. Two new macro moths in one day, now that hasn't happened for a long time! Maybe this year I'll finally see an Otter?

Fallén from a Stork's-bill

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 11 July 2014 18:07

Yesterday I carried out a reccy for an NVC survey I have planned at Castle Water this year, just north of Rye Harbour. Chris Bentley gave us the guided tour and we made good progress understanding what NVC communities are present and how they fit together. U1 acid grassland is present on top of many of the old shingle ridges as well as areas where sand was left behind after being washed from gravel. In one such area there is an abundance of Common Stork's-bill and Bearded Fescue and Chris told us to look under the leaves of the former to find a rare weevil called Limobius mixtus.

I found one within 10 seconds of searching and it wasn't long before Chris and Adrian spotted one too. This is one rare beetle and Chris tells me that this is the only known location for this in the UK!

However, what happened next was really surprising and resulted in two new species for the reserve, one of which might even be a county first! It just goes to show what happens if you stop and look with keen eyes. Adrian spotted an unusual bug which I was able to identify as Fallén's Leatherbug Arenocoris falleni. There is only one record in the SxBRC data base for this species and as I am now the county recorder for bugs, I believe this record is actually a mistake. This could therefore be a county first, it's certainly a new on for Castle Water. It doesn't have a conservation status but it certainly doesn't seem to be common. Guess what it feeds on? Stork's-bill.

Whilst I was bending down taking a photo of the above leather bug, I spotted this ground bug running around on the sand which I didn't recognise. This turned out to be the Nb Megalonotus praetextatus, a ground bug that feed on...stork's-bill! Only 10 records for this in Sussex.

Then Chris made a characteristic 'Ooo!' and became very animated. Soon we were looking at this Lesser-streaked Shieldbug Odonotoscelis lineola. Another new species for the reserve and with only two records for Sussex! I have only ever seen the nymphs in the car park at Lakenheath in the Brecks. And you've guessed it, it feeds on stork's-bill! And it's nationally scarce (Nb).

This illustrates a number of points: Firstly, one species of plant when growing in profusion in just the right conditions can harbor many other species. Secondly, that if you stop and get down on your hand and knees you often see a lot more than when you are walking (no surprise there). And finally, there are still species to be found in this highly recorded part of Sussex which is great as far as my NVC is concerned!

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