Velvet on the ground

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 30 September 2014 22:54

I very nearly didn't stop to look at this stunning fungus today at Graffham Common but I'm glad I did. This is the Velvet Rollrim Tapinella atromentosa and there are very few records for this in Sussex.  From above though, I almost put it down as a little brown job! It grows on pine and looks like no other fungi I have seen.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. This is the obscene Parasitic Bolete Pseudoboletus parasiticus growing from its host Common Earthball Scleroderma citrinum. It seems to be doing well this year, this is the third site I have seen it on in just over a week. Are you sniggering yet?

Jurassic Carp

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 27 September 2014 15:03

I find it hard to believe that I have managed to miss out on a 95 mile stretch of mind-blowing coastline on the south coast for 36 years until now but I have. Tony, Seth and I took the day off and headed to Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset. The first thing I said as I got out of the car is 'What's that?' pointing at Portland showing my ignorance of this landscape. I have literally missed out on this entire stretch of coast all my life. And what the heck is going on with 'double low tides'?! The tide went out and stayed out for at least three hours. Who knew? I didn't manage to magic up ten new species of fish for my list but we did get ten species of fish in total including two lifers for me.

Above is the Cornish Sucker or Shore Clingfish. I was VERY pleased to see this freaky little fellow. We only saw one and I found it by turning a rock over. I watched it roll off the underside of the rock thinking, "that must have been a clingfish" but it plopped into the water and disappeared. I thought it couldn't have swam far, so I swept the Serrated  Wrack with my net in the surrounding area and there it was! It didn't have any markings though, no big blue spots on the top of the head. The fin arrangement and head tentacles are diagnostic though. Here is the full list, species in bold were new for me.

Cornish Sucker                  1
Rock Goby                          3
Five-bearded Rockling        1
Small-headed Clingfish       4
Long-spined Sea Scorpion  1
Sea Bass                              2
Sand Smelt                          1 
Mullet sp.                            Many
Corkwing Wrasse               Many
Shanny                                Many

Rock Goby was a cracking fish being by far the biggest goby (and my fifth goby) that I have ever seen. The pale top to the first dorsal is distinctive. They go pale in the tray before you get the camera out being naturally much darker animals. Had to work quite hard to get this list though and pulled a muscle in my forearm in the process! Quite a work out.

This was a 'two clingfish day' though and this gorgeous little Small-headed Clingfish couldn't have looked more different in colour and pattern than the ones I saw off Brighton two years ago. These ones were perfectly camouflaged against the yellow-orange of the Serrated Wrack.

Now some stuff that isn't fish. I was pleased to see my first Gem Anemone. Cracking little things!

The rather stunning (but not QUITE rainbow) Rainbow Wrack. I think you need to be there for this one.

The Sea Hares (my first since Rhosneigr in 2002) seemed to like the Rainbow Wrack.

Thanks to Seth I got my first two barnacles! They were the awesome Volcano Barnacle Balanus perforatus and these striking Chthamalus stellatus.

I've definitely got the Jurassic Coast bug, I can't wait to go back and have another go! A big thanks to Jessica in the Marine Centre and the Dorset Wildlife Trust for their advice on where to go and what to see. I never did get that Tompot Blenny though, so I will have to go back!

The Fisher King

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 22 September 2014 20:25

You may not know this (really, where have you been?) but there is a ongoing, bitter struggle between the forces of good (me) and the forces of evil (the Dark Lord of the Fish, Richard Comont) to be the top fish lister on the PSL website. Last week I clawed my way up to joint top place for 24 hours before Richard got two new species himself. Yesterday, I closed that gap again. Here's how...

...I decided to go and see my old friend Oli Froom who is always up for an outdoor adventure. Living in Eastbourne, I thought it would be good to try and see if there was anything happening in the rock pools off Beachy Head. It was actually really quiet although a really nice afternoon. Typically, Shanny was the most abundant fish and after many attempts, the small fry I was seeing were proved to be young Bass

I then walked straight up to a fish stranded on an area of bare sand between rock pools. It was still breathing (just about) so I stuffed it in my net and put it in a rock pool and got out the handbook. Now I knew this was a gadoid but it didn't look familiar. I have seen Pollack, Whiting, Bib and Cod but this looked different. It keyed out to Poor Cod! A lifer and my 74th fish! I'm still one behind Richard but I will get there soon enough.

Finally some Trivia. We also saw this Spotted Cowrie Trivia monacha, haven't seen these since I was a kid!

Tic Tac Tick Tactics

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 21 September 2014 11:46

Last weekend my worst nightmare came true. I'm on my way back from crossfit with nothing but my gym kit, no pots, no camera. Nothing. I suddenly spot a weevil on a door frame in deepest darkest Hove that I don't recognise but I have about a four mile walk to get home and loads to do on the way, it could be hours before I got home, I can't carry a weevil betwixt thumb and forefinger all day. Or can I? 

So, one handed I did my shopping in the nearest supermarket, bought a box of Tic Tacs, necked two, poured the rest in the bin and secured the beetle at a cost of 59p.

Well worth it as this is Hypera zoilus (my 867th beetle and I think our biggest Hypera) and with only 18 records in Sussex, it's not a species I could of afforded to have left where I spotted it. It's not quite Darwin carrying beetles in his mouth when he ran out of pots but it does illustrate the lengths I'll go to, to not miss out on a new species!

New Forest Gump

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 15 September 2014 22:23

I spent the day in the New Forest and surrounding area with Seth Gibson yesterday and what fun we had! I had 28 ticks in total, including 15 plants and one fish. I really was in the mood for letting someone else do all the work whilst I just drank it all up but it turned out I earned my keep in the end. Where to start? Well, the highlight was a trio of ticks all within a few centimetres of each other (two of which were new to Seth too). The first being Coral Necklace, a rather fine species I've wanted to see for years. I knelt down to have a closer look and spotted some Allseed, not a tick but we were talking earlier that it often grows with Chaffweed and right next to it, there it was! Tick number two!
But that was when I noticed the third new species, the TINY Yellow Centaury! I really struggled to get a decent photo but here it is anyway.

Not the most amazing photo in the world but you get the idea with this one.

Nearby, my first UK Large Marsh Grasshoppers, the females are huge!!!

And the rather gross eggs of the Horse Bot Fly Gasterophilus intestinalis.

I think the most ridiculous species I added to my list must be Duck-potato. I had never even heard of this until the other week, Anyway, quite close to the native Arrow-head, here is Duck-potato growing on Hatchett Pond.

It really is great getting out and about seeing other things on other people's patches. I love days like this, they really encapsulate what PSL is all about to me and I'm looking forward to many others! Nice one Seth! Oh bugger, I totally forgot the Grayling in the river...

The apple that grew teeth

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 11 September 2014 07:33

A few days ago I went upstairs to the record's centre to volunteer my rock-pooling skills at an upcoming staff meeting (it's a hard life!) and I saw Bob unwrapping what I thought was a slice of cake. I was surprised to see it was a section of tooth fungus, sent in by John Cooban from his Crawley garden. Before I knew it I was looking at an email chain from the county fungi recorder, Martin Allison, stating that this was a county first! I couldn't resist the opportunity and asked John if I could go up and have a look...

...this is the Orchard Tooth Sarcodontia crocea and it's a BAP species. The book states it smells strongly of pineapple and aniseed. I did get a hint of this but it wasn't always strong. The fungus was growing from an old apple tree, literally bursting out of any possible place it could. It was much more impressive than I was expecting with most manifestations about the size of your forearm.  

The flesh was a lovely subtle yellow, looking like stalactites in an underground cave. It's great that this appeared in the garden of someone who recognised it as something different and can appreciate the subtle beauty of something as unusual as this. Nice work John!

The Kraken Wakes

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 6 September 2014 12:00

End of summer is always a difficult time after a busy field season and the last few weeks have been very trying, so I almost didn't take the opportunity to go out on the Watchful again last week with Sussex IFCA, but I'm glad I did. It ended up being an epic 16 hours at sea and it certainly came up with the goods again. Another cephalopod in the form of an immature Common Cuttlefish was one of the highlights for me! Not to be mistaken for the adult Little Cuttlefish that we also saw.

In fact we recorded quite a few nice molluscs, including my first live Rayed Trough Shells (top) and Netted Dog Whelks (bottom).

And this Leach's Spider Crab Inachus phalangium was also one I hadn't seen before, although this one is covered in an orange sponge.

But this was a small fish survey and that's where all the effort went. And there were so many fish this time...

The two fish I had never seen before were Sprat and this awesome little Worm Pipefish.

However, we pulled up something very strange and as yet I have not been able to put this to a taxonomic group, our best bet is a type of sponge. When the Skipper came out (referring to his fishing days) he simply said 'we used to call those Dutchman's Farts'. So, can you tell me what on Earth this is?! Most unusual about this 'thing' was that after a few minutes it would take on the shape of the bottom of the container it was in, like it was struggling to hold its weight above water. I might not know what it is but I love it!
A big thank you to Sussex IFCA for allowing me to tag along, at least I was able to put something back by measuring and identifying thousands of fish! Thanks also to Oli Froom for the lift back so late at night!

Nature Blog Network