What's that coming over the hill?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 16 March 2017 10:28

This post is mostly about the value of casual recording. On Monday and Tuesday this week I need to walk around our three chalk-grassland sites Southerham, Malling Down and Ditchling Beacon on a compartment by compartment basis to check on our winter grazing. Now I've also been a fan of casual recording on top of the more structure monitoring and surveillance but since I put the spreadsheet together, it's really made me realise how little we know about our sites. So where ever yo are, if you always record the most interesting species of the day, you'll likely be recording something significant.

On Monday I walked up Southerham and the first beetle I encountered was new to the reserve, the common dung beetle Aphodius fimetarius flying around a cow pat. Not much happened then until I got to Bible Bottom where I saw my first Wheatear of the year on top of an isolated Hawthorn. I lifted my binoculars to this larger and paler than usual Wheatear to see it was a Great Grey Shrike! The first for the reserve and my first self found one. Amazingly we now have records of Great Grey Shrike at 10 out of the 32 sites. That's the same as Curlew, Med. Gull, Teal and Woodlark and more than Golden Plover. We only have records of Lesser Black-backed Gull at 11 sites!

Then on Tuesday I was walking up the Coombe at Malling Down when I saw a huge ungainly spider walking awkwardly towards me over a ridge. I was amazed to see it was a male Purse-web Spider Atypus affinis on a spring vacation from its subterranean lair! What a treat, I've only seen this spider twice before but in quite different circumstances so this was really exciting! We haven't had a record of this before at Malling and it's the first record on a reserve since 1968 at Iping and Stedham!

Here is another shot from the side. The Coolpix isn't doing too well these days since I dropped it in a rock pool. I'm planning on getting a new camera next month though and it's NOT going to be another Coolpix!!! Anyway, love this shot as you really can see how odd this spider. Even the male's abdomen has like a weird armoured cap on top. Huge pits in the cephalothorax too. Whatever will turn up next?

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