The 10,000th species on a Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve was...

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 20 February 2018 09:52

Last year you may remember that we pan-listed all the Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves. You can read about this in more detail here. With the first draft we were tantalisingly close to reaching 10,000 species. More recently though I have been quiet about it, that's because I wanted to wait until Adastra (the Sussex Biological Recorders' Seminar) to reveal who the finder of that 10,000th species.

But firstly, Adastra! Wow, how lucky are we in Sussex to have this? Well, actually it's not luck; you make your own luck. It's the coming together of a huge collective passion and hard graft coupled with some of the most biodiverse counties in the UK. There were some fantastic talks on Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Knepp, flies and much much more. It was also the launch of this fantastic publication. So much awesomeness in one day was difficult to take in!

I gave a talk on the species list on the reserves and announced the finder of the 10,000th species BAFTA style. The winner was James McCulloch and the species was the leaf-mining fly Phytomyza ranunculivora recorded at Graffham Common last year. This species is identifiable from its mines and can be seen above in James' photo of a buttercup leaf. The distribution of the larva's droppings in the mine are enough to clinch the ID. A huge well done to James for finding the 10,000th species. Here he is receiving the prize.

James is also a pan-species lister and I had a look at his profile to write this blog. James is currently ranked as 51st place and has seen 2787 species. What's remarkable about this is he is 14! I put my total together before pan-species listing had a name at age 32 back in 2010. My list then was 2748! So James has beat my by 18 years. This is an incredible achievement. The prize was some NHBS book tokens and I am informed James will be acquiring some books on rove beetles. Well done James!

The species list on the reserves has already shot well beyond 10,000 after the review. In fact we are on 10,094 with the addition of the spider Steatoda grossa that Chris recorded at Rye Harbour in the last few days (thanks for the photo Chris). So what's next? Well, we'll keep adding to the list. I'm about to review all the species recorded at Seaford Head that have conservation status for the management plan. I'd love it if someone who was in a position to, were to approach me to help pan-list another wildlife trust out there, if we could do them all it would be a hugely powerful tool.

Meta data

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 6 February 2018 20:12

This post is like so meta. Cubed. I went to an undisclosed site in East Sussex a few weeks ago and was shown a small natural cave in a sandrock outcrop. I was in there like a shot! There was the ubiquitous Metellina merianae (or as I call it the Cave-entrance Spider) which I see in any tunnel or cave. There were also dozens of Meta menardi, the true cave spider. This is only the second time I have seen this large and impressive spider in Sussex. Well, that's probably because you don't spend enough time in caves I here you say. Wrong I say. I suddenly thought about it and I have looked at loads of caves and tunnels in Sussex with bat specialists such as Tony Hutson and moth-ers like Steve Teale. In fact, I've looked at plenty of (what I assume are) suitable sites and I just don't see this spider.

So why is it so restricted? I have no idea, so I will pull out the records and have a look at the metadata. First off this record is in a natural cave. It was very wet with flowing water, there were perhaps 40 in there that I could see. Lots of mosquitoes and a Herald moth. Mammal droppings too, so plenty to eat. Secondly is the previous record in Sussex which was found in the workshop at Woods Mill by Michael Blencowe, I confirmed it as Meta menardi. It was the first record for West Sussex. The far end of the workshop is a bit musty but mostly quite dry. It's pitch black until you open the door or turn the lights on. No real opening and very little food. We only ever saw one there and I've not noticed it since.

Prior to that there are three  East Sussex records (all bar one are of single female records). Two from the soft-rock sandy cliffs  to the east of Hastings in 2006 (this record is of three females) and 2003 have no metadata so I can't comment on these, so lets assume they are natural caves. The only other record was made, would you believe it, from Beachy Head! This record states that it was "found in a fissure on cliff top". 

So most of the records are from relatively small natural caves with permanent openings. This also tallies with where I have seen them up north. The Woods Mill record is the anomaly. So, maybe it's worth looking at smaller more natural caves than the bat tunnels I have spent more time in (where you are more likely to see a Bloxworth Snout moth than a cave spider!). There is also the scarce Meta bourneti to look out for, that hasn't been recorded in Sussex yet.

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