Earthstar Wars

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 8 March 2015 07:51

Until today I had only ever seen two earthstars, Collared and Sessile. Now I've seen four. Yet I'm not sure which four. So how did all this start? Well, with a sneeze of course. Tuesday morning I sneezed and put my back out so I've had a rough week with it. No training. Two walks to the GP's the only exercise in four days and then come Friday it got worse. Walking to the GP's, I got an email from Jim and Dawn Langiwicz asking about the Cedar Cups in Midhurst. He couldn't find them but had found what he thought was Arched Earthstar Geastrum fornicatum in a churchyard nearby. He was starting to think he had two species though and I agreed from his photos. So Tony, Heather and I went across this afternoon to have a look and it didn't take long to find the species on the right which we knew wasn't Arched Earthstar. We were pretty convinced it was Beaked Earthstar Geastrum pectinatum. We looked for the second (the left-hand one) which we were (and still are) convinced is Arched Earthstar Geastrum fornicatum. Here's a close up of that one.

Apart from the obvious colour differences, they seemed more upright, with a stouter collar, more 'blocky' spore capsule (Tony pointed out the two species had different spores too), they lacked a distinct beak and also lacked the raised rim around the beak of the other species.

Here is the other species showing a rounder spore capsule. Badgers have been so busy in the cemetery that they had dug a few of the Arched Earthstars up, so I took one over (the above photo) for direct comparison.

So I'm having an exciting night in identifying things when Tony chirps up saying he thinks we've got Rayed Earthstar Geastrum quadrifidum. I think he's right. The beak looks too short for beaked, which also lacks the raised pale area around the beak. The neck seams a little stouter too. We'll have to wait and see what the mycologists say. Either way, I've always wanted to see one of these cracking little things and was pretty stoked to see two within 20 metres of each other.

In the morning we had a walk around Ambersham. Nice to things like Brismtones and Green Tiger Beetles out but the highlight for me was seeing my first Sussex Uloborus walckenaerius. Ambersham is one of only two sites in West Sussex for this RDB3 spider and I beat three from heather along the side of a south-facing path.

I also saw the first new beetle I've seen in a while, I beat two Sphaeriestes castaneus off a pine tree. Lovely to get back out in the field and to feel like I'm on the mend again! A big thanks to Jim and Dawn too for the earthstars, the first real cool day out in the field in 2015!

Juniper Descending

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 3 March 2015 15:24

As the weather was fine on Sunday, I wanted to go and beat some evergreen shrubs to see what I could get out of them, as you do (seriously great for entomology in the winter). I've been eyeing up the Juniper on New Timber Hill but haven't got permission to record there yet so I headed over to Levin Down (with Niall).

A pair of showy Red Kites greeted us at the reserve, Niall was impressed. We started beating Juniper into a white tray and it was a bit disappointing to be honest. Too windy for the detritus in the tray and because of this, it was hard to detect motion. We recorded about 40 species in total so not the end of the world but no lifers. Highlight was probably Corizus hyoscyami (above). I've seen this bug quite a few times now (this is the 16th time I've recorded it in five years) but it's so active in the summer, I can't get them to sit still for a second, this is the first photo of one I've ever managed.

Here is a couple of shield bugs beaten from the same branch as each other, left is the Gorse Shieldbug and right Juniper Shieldbug.

And what I believe must be Juniper Aphid Cinara juniperi. Go and beat an evergreen bush near you and see what comes out!

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