The mysterious case of the psychedelic caterpillar

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 15 August 2014 12:53

Pink and yellow, not exactly my favourite colour combo (unless of course we are talking Batternberg - marzipan is my only weakness! Well and I can't swim...and I'm scared of E.T. Anyway, where was I?) but quite an unusual one in the world of caterpillars. I swept this from sedge at Burton Pond last month during a survey there and struggled to identify it. Realising it was probably a micro and most likely a pyralid, I posted it on line and didn't get a single response. Well it pupated and has just emerged and I was quite surprised at how much smaller the moth was than the larva. I've only ever seen it three or four times moth trapping at Woods Mill. It's the Nb Nascia cilialis! This photo is from one I caught back in 2011 by the way.

TV times

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 13 August 2014 08:26

We found this gorgeous little micro moth  at Hope Gap at Seaford Head yesterday. Out of the trio of 'mint moths', this one is the scarcest being Pyrausta ostrinalis (Nb). I have only ever seen it in the Burren  on the west coast or Ireland before, so it's great to find a new site for it in Sussex, although it's not quite a new 10km square record. There are only around half a dozen records for this in the SxBRC and we recorded about four of them yesterday. A narrow, slightly concave wing with creamy (not yellow/orange), dark-edged connected dots separates this from the commoner species of Pyrausta. We only saw this species in tightly grazed (you can see you are never far from a rabbit dropping in the above photo) CG2 chalk grassland yesterday.

We also spotted my third record of the scarce dor beetle Trypocopris vernalis (Na), which I have ONLY ever seen in late summer and autumn in this same 10 km square (TV59) but this is a new record for Seaford Head.

Dahlia Anemone

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 11 August 2014 21:24

This is the incredible Dahlia Anemone Urticina felina and was the star of the show at this evening's Shoresearch event at Saltdean. We saw quite a few crustaceans and anemones but this was one that I really wanted to see, it was much bigger than I was expecting. It was quite a good Spring tide and right out near the water's edge I actually saw a few White Piddocks Barnea candida burrowing into the chalk! I love that this is going on just a few miles from my house in Brighton.

Twitcher in the Swamp

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 8 August 2014 09:12

Peter Marren literally wrote the book on Britain's rare flowers, so it was a great honour to show him three rare plants that he had never seen before, all on Amberley Wildbrooks and all (in hind sight) within a square metre of a single ditch. Peter is on a quest to see all of the native plants in the UK and is only about 50 or 60 species away from achieving this goal. 

Above is Peter with handfuls of the very rare Sharp-leaved Pondweed Potamogeton acutifolius. The first of our three rare plants and the most widespread on site, growing in most ditches which have some open water in them.

The highlight was of course Cut-grass Leersia oryzoides. An assuming grass with a subtle beauty that is widespread around the site and is flowering well, this year. I've never seen it flowering before, my search image is focused on looking for the upper leaf terminating the plant, often pointing straight up like a spear. ALL my photos, yet again, came out badly for this grass which is as hard to photograph as it is to spot. The third and final plant was the hardest to find but the commonest species nationally being Hairlike Pondweed Potamogeton trichoides.

It was great to spend time with such a like minded naturalist, I even managed a tick of my own, a male Crabro cribrarius wasp. I leave you with my photo of Pasque Flower, inspired by the cover of Peter's book, that I took at Therfield Heath many years ago...

Guardians of the Taxonomy

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 4 August 2014 18:59

This weekend was the third 'official' PSL field meeting, and a great weekend it was. This time Jonathon Newman was the organiser and the site was Woodwalton Fen in Cambridgeshire. I've managed to process ALL of my identifications and get ALL of my records onto Recorder already so I am feeling rather pleased with myself, if a little exhausted.

The weather was pretty poor on the Saturday but we did still manage a couple of stonking beetles. The site manager had told us of the recent discovery of Tansy Beetle Chrysolina graminis (a very scarce priority species). Have a look here for Buglife's write up on the species. At Woodwalton it's not feeding on Tansy, rather on Water Mint.

I saw my second ever Musk Beetle Aromia moschata, which was even more impressive than I remember. The last one I saw flew over our heads in Lakenheath car park back in 2004. This is a huge beetle!

All in all I have added 27 new species including this larvae, which I am pretty sure is the larvae of the scarce sawfly Cimbex connatus, the first thing I found on the day!

I wonder where the next event will be and who will host it? These are great opportunities to meet like-minded naturalists and learn from those around you but attendance was surprisingly low, with only 12 people maximum. I hope next year there will be even more people! A massive thank you to Jonathon for organising the event, having arranged the first one back in 2012, I know that these things take up a lot more of your time than you would think. It was really well organised and I was pleased to relax and not feel like I was at work (even though I relentlessly surveyed all weekend and got a lot of people a lot of new species). That's what this is all about though, helping those further down the rankings, even if it means everyone is closing in on me. All I want from PSL is to be a better naturalist, help make lots of other competent naturalists and have a bloody good laugh along the way! So far so good I say!!!

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