So it begins!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 30 January 2017 07:17

This fly is special. It's unusual for me to feature it on my blog as it's not a species I have seen. It is however, the first species added to the reserve network by someone else after they received a copy of the spreadsheet. I give you reserve species 9793. Or our 1331st fly. Or should I say Blepharipa schineri. It's a tachinid that Tony Davis picked up at West Dean Woods back in 2013. Added to the British list in 2001, it is thought to parasitise Gypsy Moths on the continent, so it's likely to be on something like Black Arches here (thanks Tony).

But to show you how much he's got the bug when it comes to filling in the gaps in the spreadsheet, this was in the email I got from him last night...

"I'm lovin' this!". 

I've only sent it out to about a dozen people, so if this is happening in January, you wait until the summer! Bring it on.

We're going to try and see a 1000 species in a day, will you join us?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 27 January 2017 08:21

Put Saturday the 10th June in your diaries. What time Saturday? I hear you say. ALL day Saturday I say. Midnight to midnight. Make no mistakes, this going to hurt. As Douglas Adams said about the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster: It's effects are similar to having "your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick". Change the lemon to a sweep net and the gold brick to your binoculars and you're starting to get the idea. We are going to try and see and identify a 1000 species in a single day!

I've been toying with the idea for a few years but when summer comes it's too late to plan it, so we've put a date in the diary and we're sticking to that date and that time. So, we've been fleshing out the rules and if you want to do it in your region too, you are more than welcome, the more the merrier. The rules are:
  1. It has to be Saturday 10th June.
  2. It has to be from midnight to midnight. We did talk about this but I think the beauty of summarising all this at the end will be exactly what the PSL community was able to do in a single 24 hour period. It will be great knowing we're all starting and (probably) ending together too.
  3. It has to be teams of two. No more. And you must see everything together (although you both don't have to ID it). This is to stop people splitting up into groups and to encourage some aspect of learning and camaraderie.
  4. We'd much rather you find a partner to work with but if you don't have any friends, then it's going to be a major handicap to do this solo, so we'll allow it if you have no choice. Scribing alone is going to be extremely intense. I really want to encourage people to find a partner though as we have set this up as a two person challenge and we could always do a solo one another time.
  5. If one person ducks out due to tiredness, they can no longer record as soon as they leave you or until they return. Again to stop people splitting up.
  6. One vehicle. With as much equipment as you like. You can deploy traps but they can't be activated until midnight. So you could dig a few pitfalls in but they have to have lids on until midnight, set some moth traps up but you can't start them until midnight etc. Bare in mind though that you can only have one vehicle full of equipment with only two people in it. Other people can attend but not help in anyway, including with kit.
  7. Moral support in terms of food and drink bought in by other people is OK though I guess.
  8. You can start and finish where you like.
  9. Supporters can't go and pin things down for you in advance. By all means use your knowledge of your sites, this will be vital but no one else can help.
  10. ALL records must be submitted to your local record centre afterwards.
  11. A running total must be kept. This is vital to stop you over/under counting but also to let you know where you are.
  12. Carefully designed recording forms will be key to this but you're on your own for how they'll look.
  13. Leave a few hours at the end for microscope work if need be. All identifications though must be completed by midnight. After that it's game over. This is going to be very difficult to gauge.
  14. I'd also encourage everyone doing it to raise money for conservation charities in your area. I'm doing it for the Sussex Wildlife Trust and most of our route will be on our sites. So I'll start fund raising closer to the time so any support there will be much appreciated. I think a penny a species might be a good way to approach it.
Now I hope people don't think that's too strict. Just want to get the rules down so that people can then decide if and how they'll play it. It will be great to get a list of who is going to take part.

Is a 1000 possible? I reckon we can do it. And by we, I mean my team mate is gonna be Dave Green. We have our route planned roughly. I've done a test run on a cold frosty day at Woods Mill in January I got 130 species on my own in an hour. Including Leptodon smithii, Purple Hairstreak (an egg) and Raven. Clearly the first two were down to knowing the site but I didn't plan it, as much as just started in the car park. I can't begin to tell you how much fun it was. So imagine what it would be like in June armed with a net and a beating tray too!

I'm hoping to get the press, Springwatch and maybe even the Guinness Book of Records involved. I really doubt anyone has ever done anything like this before anywhere in the world, the closest being a bird race/bioblitz. Birds are going to be almost incidental in this. Provisionally we've said 75 species but it will be a waste of time to go looking for them, just wait for them to flush or fly over. The big gains will be in the inverts and plants.

I'll also pull together ALL the records collected nationally so we can show off what we can do as a group in a 24 hour period! Time to show off what the last seven years of PSLing can really do!

Have I missed anything? I'm trying to be as inclusive as I can without making the rules too easy to flaunt. So any comments are welcome. Please let me know what you think and lets start putting some names down as to who exactly is involved. Team names might be fun too. We might even get t-shirts made up...
  • Graeme Lyons & Dave Green - In Sussex raising money for Sussex Wildlife Trust.

What a load of tripe

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 20 January 2017 07:54

I had a great day yesterday with QGIS training set up by the SXBRC. Can't wait to get involved with the recording plug-ins that are in there. However, this story is about the fact that I sat next to Martin Allison, county recorder for fungi and old friend during the training. I was chatting about a jelly like bracket I found as I was being rushed out of the Deneway on Saturday and it didn't take long to get it to species. It's Tripe Fungus (in the same genus as Jelly-ear). And this is the best photo I managed which is indeed a load of tripe in more ways than one! So that actually made 78 species in the Deneway and a whopping three lifers!

However, when the conversation drifted on to the rare Mycena juniperina that Martin Ainsworth had recently found the 2nd record for Britain for, I drew a picture of some fungi I had seen on one of the old Junipers at Levin only ten days ago. It was very similar to it when we Googled it. Obviously we can't record this because there are closely related species but it's looking likely, so I'm going to find a way to get a specimen to Martin in the next week. Watch this space...

From Zero to Hero

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 15 January 2017 11:26

So it soon became clear after my first draft of the spreadsheet that our little reserve in Brighton, the Deneway, had zero records. I couldn't release too much about the spreadsheet until this had been rectified, so a chance encounter with Huw Morgan on Friday was very welcome. I had two hours in this fenced off reserve to record as much as I could yesterday whilst a volunteer party bashed away scrub. I wasn't expecting to add anything to the master list OR my list but I did both!

It took me 11 minutes to take the Deneway from 32nd place (bottom) to 31st, beating our part of Withdean Woods. About an hour later and the Deneway was ahead of Marehill Quarry in 30th place. The highlight for me was a surprise encounter with two patches of Cobalt Crust. This striking encrusting fungus is an easy one to identify and I didn't expect it at all yesterday being a new species to me. I also added the naturalised Bay Laurel which is scattered throughout the site. This was also new to the master list, along with...Chives?! Two unwanted species added to the list and nothing to celebrate really but it's diversity of a kind.

You see the Deneway is a half mile strip of woodland and scrub along the railway line. It's only about 10 or 20 metres wide and is hemmed in by houses on one side and the railway track on the other. So garden waste and escapes are rife. It's a low priority for monitoring for me compared to all those SSSIs and SACs but I'm glad I got in there and got a few records made. I added 77 species.

This came to 18 birds (best being Bullfinch), 5 crustaceans (including Landhopper), one fern, one conifer, 28 plants, 7 fungi, a moth, a bug (so only 2 insects), a liverwort, 2 millipedes, 7 mollsucs, 4 mosses and a mammal. That was me. The first record I made there was Human which makes this our most widespread species and the only one to be recorded in all 32 reserves. It just goes to show that you can find something new pretty much anywhere! Casual recording is a really valuable tool for understanding sites, it's not as good providing insight into management as structured surveillance and monitoring but it certainly has its place. The reserve network list is already on 9790 species.

Holding out a nudibranch

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 9 January 2017 09:32

I went to catch up with my good friend Oli Froom after way too long. I think last time we went coastal we stumbled across this poor Poor Cod. Anyway, I had heard about this lagoon at Eastbourne, specifically Holywell and had some gen from Evan Jones. Shortly before heading out I said to Oli that if I saw a nudibranch, I'd be happy. Not in anyway thinking I would see one.

So, when I found one under maybe the third rock I turned over (along with Shanny, Five-bearded Rockling & Edible Crab) I was rather stoked. This olive sized critter had the look of animated cloudy-lemonade jelly with a star shaped structure at it's back end and some yellowish structures at the front. These are known as rhinophores and were completely retracted in this individual. I had a stab at identifying it in the field and got to a species that I then realised had the wrong density of tubercles. Anyway I started thinking it might be Acanthodoris pilosa and soon after this a number of people on a marine-life forum, suggested this was likely too. It was about 20 mm long and as predicted, we didn't see another one all day. But we did see a lot more. Such as the other denizens of the above rock.

From star ascidians to sea-squirts. From a huge Dahlia Anemone to the brightest Snakelocks Anemones I have ever seen. We found one Rock Goby too.

And the we found one of the mythical Velvet Drawing Crabs. You literally have to present these crustaceans with a pencil and a subject and they will draw anything for you. This one drew us a Shanny before going on his merry way.

Something's been bugging me about Sussex Wildlife Trust's reserves...

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 6 January 2017 14:52

It's how many bugs do we have of course! And by that I mean Heteroptera, the true bugs that I am county recorder for. It's not so easy to do that for other taxa from the Recorder 6 output as the hoppers, plant-lice and aphids are all mixed in too but I have removed the offending species for this analysis. So, I thought it was also about time I put together a definitive county list (both for East and West Sussex) as well as the reserve list. And my list. So many lists.

So the Sussex list is up 5 species to 429 including the tiny introduced Buchananiella continua I recorded at Ebernoe in the summer. Estimates were right in saying East Sussex is the richer county, almost certainly due to more open habitats like Rye that do well for bugs. East Sussex has 387 species with West over 40 species behind on 346. It's important to remember we have two counties and that a first for West Sussex is just as significant as say a first for Surrey. East is also more recently recorded, the mean year of the last record per species is 2007 compared to 2002. With 2008 overall which is not bad really. Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves have 486 bugs (but that's ALL bugs). Just the Heteroptera comes out at 308 species. My Heteroptera list is 255, almost all of which is in Sussex.

Guess what the best reserve is for Hets? Surprise, surprise it's the greedy Goliath Rye Harbour with a whopping 146 species. It has some bugs found nowhere else in the county like Arenocoris falleni. Followed by Malling at 112, Ebernoe at 90, Woods Mill 86 and the unexpected jewel Flatropers at 74. 

The most frequent species at 16 of the reserves is the tiny but super abundant Plagiognathus arbustorum. Again I'm surprised it's not a shield bug, this is a bug you are unlikely to identify if you haven't made any effort with mirids and I certainly don't have a photo of it. After this it's Hawthorn Shieldbug, Capsus ater and Sloe Shieldbug at 16. The unique species account for 97 of the 308 species.

Across the county, the Dock Bug is the most frequently recorded bug with 639 records. The number of Heteroptera records ha risen to 16977 from 12011. A 41% increase in two years. This is in part to several new and prolific recorders but a big part of this is iRecord. Which leads me to the shieldbug atlas that we have been working on at the SxBRC which I'll be talking about at Adastra in a few weeks. Watch this space for an update on this project really soon! Really interesting to see how poorly recorded our most recorded and easy to identify bugs are. Not for long at this rate though. We are definitely in a new age of bug recording in Sussex!

373 species of spider recorded on Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 2 January 2017 11:03

I was very pleased to see that my post on pan-listing Sussex Wildlife Trust's reserves is already almost my third most viewed post of all time which is pretty good considering I only wrote it on the 29th December and I've been blogging for nearly seven years now. Anyway, I'm going to be running a series of posts on this list. There are so many different ways to look at and cross-reference this list, I was going to start with the reserves but what I really wanted to do was have a look at a specific taxanomic group. Here then the spiders (not arachnids pan-listers, just the spiders) of Sussex Wildlife Trust's reserves.

We have 373 species, a fairly impressive list that is well over half of the British fauna. The top site is Rye Harbour with 201 species closely followed by Iping & Stedham Common with 199 species. It drops off really quickly after that with Old Lodge on 133 then Flatropers on 92. More surprisingly is the fact that 13 sites have less then ten species recorded and three sites don't have a single spider record! These are Gillham Wood, Brickfield Meadow and the Deneway. Jane Willmott wins the prize for the reserve manager with the most spiders overall with 245 species on her sites. Interestingly it was at Graffham where I found the as yet unidentified Philodromus last year, the specimen I kept didn't make it through the winter to reach maturity so I will be going back in the summer to look for that.

The mean last year of all spider records is 2008, showing that they have on average been recorded relatively recently. A total of 112 species have only been recorded on one of the 32 sites. Rye Harbour has the most unique species with 47 found only there out of our reserves, then Iping & Stedham which has 32 uniques. After this it plummets rapidly with Graffham, Old Lodge and Woods Mill all with only five unique species a piece. The most frequently recorded species is the Nursery-web Spider Pisaura mirabilis which has been recorded on 17 sites. Closely followed by Garden Spider Araneus diadematus and Misumena vatia on 15 of the sites.

Here is one of Rye Harbour's unique species, Pellenes tripunctatus. It will almost certainly always remain only there out of our sites being shingle specialist.

And of Iping's uniques. The awesome Aelurillus v-insignitis. It could be discovered on other heathlands in the county but as it stands it is very restricted. It benefits greatly from the management for Heath Tiger Beetles as do many other bare ground loving species.

And the most frequently recorded spider, Pisaura mirabilis. Big and easy to identify. So what do people want to hear about next?

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