They're here!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 23 September 2017 07:01

So I have been looking for this shield bug for the last few years but I thought it might turn up in the north of the county first. This is the nymph of the alien species Southern Green Shieldbug Nezara viridula. The nymph is strikingly different to the nymphs of the much commoner native Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina but the adults are oddly similar.

Anyway, it wasn't me who found it. I logged into iRecord to verify a few records to find a glitch in iRecord was showing huge number of already verified records as unverified. However, on the first page of these 1000 records, I could clearly see that someone had had this species new to Sussex in Rustington. Strange thing is I hadn't verified it! After a bit of digging around I realised someone was verifiying lots of shield bug records nationally from Sussex which was hindering me from being able to fulfill some of my role as county recorder. So that's stopped now and I can be a bit more linked in with people recording bugs in Sussex. The first thing I did was get the email of Dr Paul Sopp from Bob at work and headed over to see his garden of alien bug nymphs. Dr Sopp and the Garden of the Alien Bug Nymphs, sounds like a sci-fi!

So I think it's really interesting that this was first recorded by someone who doesn't usually record a lot of shield bugs. It's made a right mess of Dr Sopp's beans and it was this that first brought them to his attention when his wife commented on them. So it's only going to be a matter of time before this alien species spreads. Originally from Africa its been well established in London for over a decade now. Here are cluster of different instars. So they are clearly distinctive and eye-catching!

I was struck by how many there were, 50+ nymphs with a number of adults were reported but it's likely there were many many more than that and they have to be established elsewhere in the county, this surely can't be the only colony. If you have beans in your garden or allotment can you go out and have a look?

Here is the adult. It's a shade yellow-green than Palomena but the key feature is the front of the pronotum. It has a row of three white dots with a pair of black dots either side of these. 

And the cream leading edge to the pronotum and head are also different.

Here is a nymph feeding at the base of a bean flower, this will ultimately end up with the flower not growing and the bean failing which is what has happened to most of the crop. A big thank you to Paul for letting me see his bugs and remember to go and check your beans this week! Please submit any records via iRecord.

My Ero

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 19 September 2017 08:26

This is Ero tuberculata, a nationally scarce species that is mostly a heathland specialist. The individuals at Graffham are quite bright orange compared to ones I have seen before, they are very well camouflaged against the old flowers of Bell Heather and this is indeed what I swept it from. Yesterday we hosted a BAS field meeting but the weather wasn't great. I added eight spiders to the site list but these were mostly common ones. I've just had Andy's determinations in too and it just takes the site to 139 species, which makes Graffham our third best site for spiders! This is remarkable given that it was mostly under conifers five years ago. Here are some more shots of my Ero.

Andy added three species new to the entire reserve network, this included the ichneumon wasp that parisitises the larvae of Pine weevil being Dolichomitus tuberculatus. Amazingly Tegenaria silvestris had never been recorded on an trust reserve (which is crazy as we cover the spiders in intimate detail and have recorded 382 species so far). The best one though (that I didn't see) was Rugathodes instabilis. And that pretty much wraps up my invertebrate survey at Graffham for the year.

The pond life in the acidic pools of Chailey Common

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 16 September 2017 06:45

Last Saturday I ran a course for the Freshwater Habitats Trust's PondNet project up at Chailey Common. I've just got around to identifying everything. We only really had time to sample four ponds in detail but we also managed a quick diversion to a number of other sites around the common. We started with a couple of small man-made ponds full of Bog Pondweed, Floating Club-rush and Marsh St. John's-wort. These ponds are very acidic, with dark peaty water so we expected to find the more specialist aquatic invertebrates. I told everyone we would see the distinctive Notonecta obliqua, the most distinctive of our four backswimmers and it was indeed the commonest bug in the pools. We actually recorded all four of our backswimmers in these four pools. In the above image one of our (around 40) species of water boatman (this one of two species of Hesperocorixia recorded in this one pond) can be seen in the background. Most backswimmers are much bigger than water-boatmen, it helps to be bigger than things that you eat!

Nice to see some Marsh St. John's-wort and Floating Club-rush.

The first pool had two species of Dytiscus in and it was nice to be able to key these out in the field. Thanks to Fran Southgate for this photo of the commoner Dytiscus marginalis on the left and Dytiscus semisulcatus on the right. However the nationally scarce Hydrochus angustatus was perhaps the most interesting being a species I have not recorded before.

One pool had an adult 13-spot Ladybird in it and I'm pretty sure that this is also the larva but it looks a little bedraggled.

This is the most Floating Crystalwort Riccia fluitans (one of  our few aquatic liverworts) I have ever seen. You usually see a few little plants floating on the surface, not a huge mass like this!

We called in and had a look at the Marsh Gentians on Romany Ridge that have responded to the grazing there. A great success.

But the highlight for me has to be a diversion to Lane End to look for the Mud Snails that were relocated there last year after not being recorded for many years. The dried up woodland pool they were found in looked quite unsuitable for anything else. In fact next to nothing else was found in there but we did see two Mud Snails! This is typical for this scarce species. It was very dark and dingy in the woods by this time so apologies for the photo. Note to self: next time look for this first. Look at the state of the kit!

A big thank you to everyone who attended. a full species list will be send to the Freshwater Habitats Trust and the records synced with the SxBRC as always (I've nearly entered 10,000 records already this year!)

So, here is the full list which includes 14 aquatic bugs, 15 aquatic beetles but only two molluscs (acid sites are not so good for shell building). Here are my records for the day including a few random things like Devil's Fingers that are nothing to do with aquatic life.

Taxon group Species
annelid Erpobdella testacea
annelid Helobdella stagnalis
annelid Theromyzon tessulatum
crustacean Asellus aquaticus
crustacean Crangonyx pseudogracilis
flowering plant Water-plantain
flowering plant Downy Birch
flowering plant Callitriche sp.
flowering plant Star Sedge
flowering plant Floating Club-rush
flowering plant Marsh Gentian
flowering plant Floating Sweet-grass
flowering plant Marsh St John's-wort
flowering plant Yellow Iris
flowering plant Sharp-flowered Rush
flowering plant Bulbous Rush
flowering plant Compact Rush
flowering plant Soft-rush
flowering plant Water-purslane
flowering plant Purple Moor-grass
flowering plant Creeping Forget-me-not
flowering plant Small Pondweed
flowering plant Bog Pondweed
flowering plant Lesser Spearwort
flowering plant Ivy-leaved Crowfoot
flowering plant Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot
flowering plant Grey Willow
flowering plant Branched Bur-reed
fungus Devil's Fingers
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Acilius sulcatus
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Agabus bipustulatus
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Anacaena limbata
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Anacaena lutescens
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Water Ladybird
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Dytiscus marginalis
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Dytiscus semisulcatus
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Haliplus ruficollis
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Haliplus flavicollis
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Helochares punctatus
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) 13-spot Ladybird
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Hydrobius fuscipes
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Hydrochus angustatus
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Hydroporus pubescens
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Ilybius fuliginosus
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Laccophilus minutus
insect - beetle (Coleoptera) Noterus clavicornis
insect - dragonfly (Odonata) Southern Hawker
insect - dragonfly (Odonata) Migrant Hawker
insect - dragonfly (Odonata) Emperor Dragonfly
insect - dragonfly (Odonata) Downy Emerald
insect - dragonfly (Odonata) Large Red Damselfly
insect - dragonfly (Odonata) Ruddy Darter
insect - dragonfly (Odonata) Common Darter
insect - moth Brown China-mark
insect - moth Broom Moth
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Corixa punctata
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Eurygaster testudinaria
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Gerris gibbifer
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Gerris odontogaster
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Gerris thoracicus
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Hesperocorixa castanea
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Hesperocorixa linnaei
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Hesperocorixa sahlbergi
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Nepa cinerea
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Notonecta glauca
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Notonecta maculata
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Notonecta obliqua
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Notonecta viridis
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Plea minutissima
insect - true bug (Hemiptera) Sigara limitata
liverwort Floating Crystalwort
mollusc Musculium lacustre
mollusc Omphiscola glabra
spider (Araneae) Pachygnatha clercki
spider (Araneae) Trochosa ruricola
spider (Araneae) Pirata latitans


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 9 September 2017 07:15

Well, in less than 24 hours, my last post on the Osprey has already become my third most viewed post. Anyway, before I saw that I was having a look at the vegetated shingle at the mouth of the valley and found some really interesting invertebrates. First up was this tiny little dark pyralid that I first mistook for a tortrix (until I saw its massive conk, which I thought looked like a sound boom). This is Platytes cerusella, a local moth found around the coast in dry places. The males are much darker than the females.

I tried to ask the moth what he thought of having his face compared to a sound boom but he refused to comment and suddenly got all territorial for some reason.

I also found the first record of the scarce jumping spider Sitticus inexpectus there since 1990.

Other highlights included the tiny myrmecophile ladybird Platynapsis luteorubra, the even smaller ladybird Nephus redtenbacheri, the tiny ant Ponera testacea and walking back a carabid tick, Zabrus tenebrioides. With an Osprey on the end of this lot, it wasn't a bad day!

For the record, I HATE the use of BOOM! in birding and natural history, I'm only using it here in an attempt to be funny.

Something crash landed in the meanders at Cuckmere Haven!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 7 September 2017 21:20

Giant sea creature? Meteorite? Crashed UFO? Drowning dog? Poorly-flown drone? Massive fish-eating bird? This is the exact moment a large foreign object landed in the meanders at Cuckmere Haven today. It was of course a massive fish-eating bird or Osprey and after all these years, it's the first time I have seen one fishing, let alone the first time I have seen one catch a fish. Before this sequence I watched it dive twice and catch a huge fish on the 2nd dive. However, it had the fish dangling down by its tail and it was flapping around like mad, so I think it dropped it, as it wasn't holding it minutes later.

Anyway very soon after that it came round again much closer to me so I attempted some rubbish photos (my camera isn't the best for birds) which are heavily cropped. I love these fantastic raptors. Always a huge pleasure to see and it's been years since my last one. I love this first shot for showing just how long winged they are.
Look at the chest on that!

Tail up ready for impact. It's hard to imagine it could look more like a plane at this point.

It's gonna do it! It's gonna do it! It was coming down so fast at this point. Man, I was so excited to see this.

Just like the spitfire landing on the sea in Dunkirk.

Here it is the moment it leaves the water! Looks pretty odd here.

And it was off. What an awesome experience that was. Don't leave it seven years next time hey?

Comma chameleon

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 3 September 2017 12:24

During a survey in East Sussex a few weeks back I was doing some routine beating for invertebrates along the edge of a wood and I noticed a shrivelled up dead leaf in my tray. Something about it didn't quite look right. I picked it up and realised it was the pupa of a Comma butterfly. Now you all know this butterfly well I am sure, it also looks like a dead leaf and the c-shaped mark on it gives the impression of a hole in the leaf.

The pupa goes one step further though. It looks quite similar to the pupa of a Silver-washed Fritillary (top image below - actually they are quite different now I have put them side by side) but it's a bit more variegated, less spiny and has few silvery patches. And a lot less chunkier. yeah they are very different. They both however, have these amazing 'mercury-effect' patches on them in very similar patterns that reflect the light like a mirror.

This really does give the impression of  it having a hole right through it. You can particularly see this when you hold it up to the light.

Even the larvae are quite convincing bird-dropping mimics temporarily! I felt pretty bad that I had dislodged this beautiful thing and greatly reduced its chances of emerging as an adult but that is unfortunately a side effect of surveying - I'd never record anything if I was frightened of beating. I made an attempt to secure it back in place but I said to myself that the best thing I could do was photograph it and write a blog about it so that I could share with people just how fascinating they are.

In other news, I've breached half a million page views on here which I am very pleased with!!! Seven and a half years of blogging and nearly a 1000 posts. Here's to the next seven and a half years and all the amazing and bizarre wildlife that Sussex has to offer!

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