The top ten natural history highlights of 2014

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 30 December 2014 17:59

2014 was a great year of natural history for me. My database now stands at nearly 26,000 records, over 5000 added in 2014 so far. So here is my annual top ten highlights of the year in reverse order.

10) Spending some time in sand dunes

There isn't much good sand dune habitat in Sussex, so I had to go further afield.
Here is a selection being from top to bottom: Dalman's Leatherbug, Dune WaxcapMarpissa nivoyi,  Fallen's Leatherbug and Marram Grass Chelifer.

9) Flatropers Wood invertebrate survey
Flatropers isn't even an SNCI and it has shed loads of rare invertebrates. Here we have Xysticus bifasciatus and the two myrmecophiles: the Scarce Seven-spot Ladybird and Clytra quadripunctatus.

8) New Forest antics
I love finding lots of new species in a very small area. Micro-botanising overload.

7) If Darth Maul were a beetle...
Pilemostoma fastuosa. A very cool tortoise beetle from Knepp.

6) Gower power
Rock pooling on the Worm's Head produced this Green Sea Urchin among many other things.

5) Lappet
Always wanted to see one and one finally turned up in the moth trap.

4) Jurassic Carp
A trip with Seth and Tony to Kimmeridge Bay produced my first Cornish Sucker!

3) Burton Pond invertebrate survey
Here we have Xysticus audax, Alder Leaf Beetle (new to Sussex and found by Adrian Holloway) and the beetle Agapanthia villosoviridescens.

2)  Creating the PSL website and article in British Wildlife
It has been a great year for pan-species listing and I'm pleased to have been able to contribute so much to the movement.

1) My first freelance invertebrate surveys struck gold!

Finding only the 7th known site for the rare Pondweed Leafhopper and also plenty of 13-spot Ladybirds was my highlight of the year. This cracking little private nature reserve just is a great example of what can be done to benefit wildlife.

So hopefully I will get back in the saddle in the new year but for the time being I'm still rather estranged from it. It's reminded me how much I love wildlife though writing this post so who knows.

Edibility: Unknown

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 17 December 2014 09:53

It's been a while, I've been taking a break off natural history of late, partly due to the season and partly due to circumstances. CrossFit has taken up the slack though, I got my first muscle-ups last week! Anyways, this is still a wildlife blog...

During our department Christmas walk I spotted what looked like little earthballs partially buried in the soil. They didn't look quite right for them though, they appeared 'lightly dusted in cocoa powder', like handmade chocolate truffles. I refrained from putting one in my mouth but was struck by how they lacked any suggestion of a stype (stem). In the hand it felt and looked like a really light pebble. I cracked one open and it was full of gooey black stuff.

We are carrying out a great deal of felling, scraping and disturbance at Graffham and it struck me we may have brought these things up from the top soil. Were they a kind of truffle?! Well almost, I believe these are False Truffles Elaphomyces granulatus. Seldom recorded as they grow beneath the surface in pine woods, they are usually spotted by the presence of the Cordyceps fungus that parisitises them. Of course, these ones were brought up by the earth works and probably washed clean by recent showers, giving them the appearance of growing on the surface. The texts say simply edibility unknown...

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