When fish have antlers

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 9 April 2016 07:48

At last! I've finally made contact with Tompot Blenny, my 80th species of fish in the UK. I always wondered if I would be able to recognise them easily and the answer is yes, even when you turn the rocks over, they stand out a mile from the much commoner Shanny. Obviously, the big difference is that they are found much further from the shore (last night was the spring tide of the year). Also, they are slightly reddish (lacking the greenish colour of the Shanny), on average larger, more tiger-striped and variegated, they have a higher dorsal fin and more obviously, two great big weird antennae/antler things sticking out of their heads! We saw six in all, all recognisable without having to catch them. Here are a few more shots.

We also on this Shore Search event: Common Goby, Rock Goby, Butterfish and Shanny. Nice to see some Green Sea Urchins too. However, I spotted a tiny mollusc that might be of note. I'm pretty sure this is the Tortoiseshell Limpet Testudinalia testudinalis which as far as I can tell is meant to be a northern species. I compared it to an immature limpet and it is definitely not that. Anyone have any experience with this species? UPDATE: I think this has to in fact be the White Tortoiseshell Limpet Tectura virginea based on colouration and distribution.

There can be only one

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 7 April 2016 07:57

There can be only one specimen that is a county first. I wasn't expecting this at Levin Down yesterday! Platyrhinus resinosus (Nb) new to West Sussex! Would you believe it but there is only one record for this species in Sussex being in East Sussex. It is associated with King Alfred's Cakes but is very rare in the county compared to Platystomos albinus (which I saw at Levin two weeks ago). North, east and west of Sussex and it seems fairly frequent. Anyway, found two yesterday on some felled Ash at Levin Down. I've only seen this once before in Berkshire and the individual shot into a hole faster than I could get my camera out. So I was very glad to see a big, bright and cooperative one in Sussex during a survey on one of our reserves. 

A LONG time ago, Scotty Dodd described this beetle to me as looking like the Kurgan from Highlander. That image stuck. I've waited a long time to write this blog...

If you're not convinced, maybe the soundtrack will get you more in the mood...it goes a bit weird after two minutes, think that was edited from the movie.

Anyway, here are some more shots of this awesome creature.

Underneath, it's a much more convincing bird-dropping mimic! It has a habit of tucking its legs and rolling away. Very cool indeed. So despite rather changeable weather yesterday, We recorded nearly 90 species in the field with many more specimens that require microscopic identification, that's going to be today's job. Ollie Sayers came out with me and had a great day learning where to find invertebrates and soon found something quite uncommon in the form of Oedemera femoralis (Nb). A good day for saproxylics on a chalk-grassland site. It gets better though. Under some very dull looking brackets (Turkey-tail and Hairy Curtain Crust) on stumps of recently removed scrub I found four of these.
This is Tritoma bipustulata (Na) and possibly the first records in Sussex for 30 years. I think it's only been recorded at Stedham Common and Arundel Park and considering how much saproxylic work we have done in this part of the world, I doubt very much we have overlooked it. The field season has already started with a bang for me but you know what they say:

"It's better to burn out, than to fade away!".

The BMIG Weekend 2016

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 4 April 2016 21:04

What a weekend! What a line up. It's been a long time since I invested in some training, this weekend being the British Myriapod and Isopod Group's recording event in the south east. I couldn't miss it and a big thanks to Paul Lee for organising. Now, I've already blogged about the beetle highlight for me being the second record for Sussex of Mesosa nebulosa. So here I am gonna talk about myriapods and isopods.

Myriapods predominantly include the millipedes and centipedes. Here is a huge, greenish, rapidly-tapering centipede we found in a compost heap at Wisley RHS. This is Henia vesuviana. Even though I saw more millipedes, it was the centipedes I was more into, as many of them were identifiable in the field.

Such as this one that is often found under pine bark being Geophilus carpophagus.

There are around 60 species and there is a good key by FSC. Now, I saw lot of millipedes but didn't manage a photo beyond a blurred shot of the species we came to know as 'Millipede X' (no one was sure what this was exactly - you see we have quite a few alien species). There are about 60 species of these too but new alien synathropic species are being discovered so I can't be sure on this. You can find out more about identifying myriapods and isopods here. I learnt  a great way to tell Tachypoidulus niger in the field and how easy it is to see and adult male 
in the field.

Now thanks to Steve Gregory I saw two new woodlice (Trichoniscoides albidus & Ligidium hypnorum) but photographed neither. There are around 40 species with only relatively few very common ones. This is Porcellionides cingendus. I see it now and again (including today in the suction sampler) in rush litter at Woods Mill.

I also had a few other interesting species, such as this Green Celar Slug Limacus maculatus. Although due to its camo-pattern, I refer Combat or Battle Slug. 

And good old Staphylinus dimidiaticornis put in a show too.

A massive thank you to all the people who helped but particularly Paul Lee, Steve Gregory and Keith Lugg. I've already put into practice what I learned and I'm looking forward to finding some more myriapods and isopods sometime soon! I have three fairly common woodlice on my wish list to look out for now too...

I've waited decades to see one of these!!!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 2 April 2016 19:00

Here is the AMAZING Mesosa nebulosa that I saw today on the British Myriapod and Isopod Group recording weekend. A big, stunning and quite beautiful longhorn beetle, my 36th longhorn to be precise (new ones don't come along often these days). An RDB3 species I have been on the look out for for years to no avail. I thought I might find it at Ebernoe or in the West Weald but it was actually in Sheffield Park in East Sussex. However, I didn't find it. This fella did...
This is Nathan Clements (with his dad Kevin in the background). I tagged along with these guys from the Midlands along with Keith Lugg and Steve Gregory. I was learning an immense amount about myriapods and isopods from them all and have seen loads of species but today I'm just gonna blog about the beetles and spiders we found. Anyway, we were by the edge of a lake and hadn't seen much other than the bizarre find of a tiny (yet distinctive) immature Atypus affinis which I beat from an isolated tussock-sedge, quite not what I was expecting but I was chuffed to get Keith this species knowing he had gone a long way to look for it recently but didn't connect. Then, Nathan shouted "Urgh, what's this!"

He came over and handed me a small log with a face and a couple of legs peering out of a hole. I recognised it instantly from a photo in a book that I was captivated by as a child. Here is the photo from the Shire Natural History series on longhorns by Norman Hickin from 1987.

And here is my attempt to replicate the photo. It's kind of weird that it's in such a similar position as I hadn't looked at this book for years. Also, I took loads from the front from many different angles and this was the only one that came out. Anyway. I photographed this beetle a LOT. So here is the best...

It was such an obliging beetle too. So, even though we were really out identifying and recording millipedes, centipedes and woodlice, this was the highlight for me and goes to show how great the PSL approach to natural history is, it was a totally unexpected find. To connect with something you've wanted to see for years is great and for it be found by a twelve year old is just brilliant too. Thanks very much Nathan for a fantastic find and for making my weekend, keep up the good work! Another post on the myriapods and isopods will follow...

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