A tach of back pain

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 28 September 2018 16:22

I wasn't expecting a lifer today as I hobbled to the osteopath. That's what happened though. I spotted this smart looking tachinid on the wall of what used to be the Dyke Road Pub. I had no pots (unusual for me but walking around town in late September doesn't yield great results). I had to make do with my iPhone but this was enough for Chris Raper to come back with Mintho rufiventris before my spine had been cracked. It's quite a nice record being only the 12th for the county and a nationally notable species at that! Thanks to Bob Foreman and Chris Raper with their help on this one.

I've become rather fond of tachinids, they have gruesome life histories mainly developing in the larvae of other insects. Many of them are host specific and there is a really good key and a great national recording scheme website and facebook page. Take a look at the species account for Mintho here. It appears the main host is the pyralid moth Hypsopygia glaucinalis which in turn feeds on decaying vegetable matter. This level of specialisation is good for using the species you survey to tell you about your habitats.

With around 270 species on the British list, they are a manageable group. I rarely take pictures of flies as they are usually swept up before I see them so this might even be the first tachnid that has featured on this blog. I now have 116 records of  26 species so I have only scratched the surface with about 10% of them so far. Think I will concentrate on this group a bit more next summer.


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 27 September 2018 08:50

Well it would have been rude not to go and see the Beluga as I was working on the edge of London finishing off the last of the year's freelance entomology. What an incredible sight it was, the TV and news companies, helicopters, drones and even ITV misbehaving in a boat was quite something. It's just come on the news even as I write this. You know you've been around a bit when you turn up at a twitch and the first person you recognise is a news presenter who has interviewed you about migrant moths seven years ago.

It was coming up to breathe roughly every ten minutes where it would roll typically two to four times before going under. Strange that in the hour I was there it was always coming up in more or less the same spot just to the left of this barge. So I do hope that means it was feeding on something plentiful. Sea Wormwood growing all along on the shore and I saw some Golden Samphire nearby too.

I think I just caught the blow hole in this one.

But this was my favourite. I'm glad it's not my only shot, being the first, for a brief time it was.

I've been sitting on 49 species of mammal for about three years since I added Bechstein's Bat. Uncomfortable yes but I always thought species 50 might be Otter. Never mind, I'll make do with a Beluga. This is only my 2nd UK whale after Minke Whale so very pleased to see it. Whatever next?!

UPDATE: Oh I forgot to say thanks to Mark Telfer and Matt Eade for the gen. As I was walking back to the car I saw a patch of Black Horehound and thought I would check it for Rambur's Pied Shieldbug and one glance and there it was! Only a matter of time before we get this in Sussex.

Seven Whistles for Seven Sisters

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 16 September 2018 17:28

Here are the shots of the two Whimbrel from Seaford Head today. They were showing within 10 m of the track down to the cottages and were really confiding, the closest I have ever been to them. They're not scarce as a passage migrant here but I have never seen them in a field like this and it was a real treat. Now I don't take photos of birds, these were taken through my binoculars using the Olympus TG4 but you get the idea.


Posted by Graeme Lyons 13:44

I went up to Seaford Head to do a bit of birding with my new binoculars this morning after a lovely evening there yesterday where we saw Whimbrel and a Whinchat (but that's another blog post - I did get some great views of the Whimbrel). This morning the birds were a little quiet, it was very windy. I was poking around by the satellite Moon Carrot population where I saw a large patch of Restharrow about  month ago. There are a few bugs on Restharrow that are usually pretty easy and would probably be new to the site. I have noticed some really large patches of Restharrow on a few sites this year, it seems to have done well out of the drought. With no sweep net, no beating tray, I didn't think I would stand much chance but then I remembered I had two hands and a head...

I used my left hand as make shift beating tray and the right as a stick. In the first tap I had the awesome little stilt bug Gampsocoris punctipes, there were dozens of them. A cracking little bug. You can see the shape of the pronotum in this image.

On the next tap, there was more of the same but several of the mirid Dicyphus annulatus. Another Restharrow specialist and another species new to the reserve.

I was looking for Macrotylus paykulli, the last of the three easy bugs on Restharrow but no joy. Then I beat a couple of stiltbugs in the genus Berytinus, I wasn't expecting these. I normally only pick them up in the suction sampler. It wasn't until I got home and keyed them out that I got excited. First up is Berytinus signoreti, not all that uncommon and one I recorded there on the big survey in 2016. The little black marks on the wings are diagnostic.

This one looked a little darker and it turns out it's Berytinus clavipes. Now this is a lifer for me (I've now seen the whole genus in), the first record in Sussex since 1990 (and only the 5th ever). It's also new to ALL Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves. That's three species new to Seaford Head that are all Restharrow specialists. Happy with that for a few square metres of plant and nothing but my own hands and my head. Wait, wasn't I meant to be going birdwatching?!

Secrets of the Heath

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 10 September 2018 19:13

I helped the Trust man a stall at the Secrets of the Heath event at Petersfield Heath in east Hampshire all weekend. The highlight for me were showing kids invertebrates throughout both days. They were such a knowledgeable bunch, some of them even had their own bug kits. The big white tray (or 'bug world' as it became known by one group of kids) was a real hit.

I got a lifer too. Rhopalus maculatus. This bug has only five records in Sussex. One very old record in the East and four in the far West, the last being in 2014. It's yet to be recorded on a Trust reserve, I suspect it could turn up at Iping Common. It was the commonest Rhopalus at Petersfield Heath. You can see the mainly orange abdomen and the rows of dots along the connexivum and the underside of the abdomen, instantly recognisable.

Although I have seen Agonopterix nervosa before, I can't find any records of it. Considering the larvae eats gorse, it can't be that common in Sussex.

And several people picked up Araneus marmoreus, another species uncommon in Sussex. I have only seen it in the Ashdown Forest, although there are occasional records from Woods Mill. Just goes to show, leave Sussex just by a few miles and the invertebrates start to change quite significantly.

Woods Mill Bioblitz: Molluscs

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 6 September 2018 16:36

Now for the slugs & snails. A total of 27 species were recorded and six of these were new for the site. One of them. the River or 'Giant' Pea Mussel Pisidium amnicum was new for me too. Pulled out of the river in the same sample as the riffle beetles in the lats post. Three lifers in one net. The distinctive thing about this pea mussel is it's huge. At 10 mm wide, it towers over the others in the genus. It's also far more asymmetrical than the other species and is found in rivers. The last record on any Trust reserve was from Amberley in 2008. I was surprised Leopard Slug was new. The Vertigo was found using the suction sampler in the valley field and the aquatic molluscs in the lake are doing well after the carp removal with a few new species there. To summarise, between the beetles and molluscs, 70 species of which 26 (37%!) are new for the site (and three new for me). Here are some other shots from my library. Limacus maculatus, Planorbis planorbis and Cochlodina laminata Next up, the bugs!

Species Last record
Acroloxus lacustris 1996
Anisus vortex 1996
Arion hortensis 2017
Arion subfuscus 2017
Bithynia leachii New
Bithynia tentaculata 1996
Cepaea hortensis 2010
Cepaea nemoralis 2013
Clausilia bidentata 2014
Cochlicopa lubrica 1996
Cochlodina laminata 2011
Cornu aspersum 2010
Lehmannia marginata 2017
Lehmannia valentiana 2017
Limacus maculatus 2016
Limax maximus New
Monacha cantiana 1996
Oxychilus navarricus 2010
Pisidium amnicum New
Planorbarius corneus 2014
Planorbis carinatus New
Planorbis planorbis 1996
Potamopyrgus antipodarum New
Radix balthica 1996
Sphaerium corneum 2014
Succinea putris New
Vertigo pygmaea New

Woods Mill Bioblitz: Beetles

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 5 September 2018 08:08

Wow! That was full on. The Woods Mill bioblitz was very exciting. The numbers are not all in but I got to about 525 species and didn't quite make it for 24 hours, it was about 21 hours (I had been awake for 32 hours by the end). I slept for 16 hours after, never done anything like that before. I am very happy with the results. It's gonna take a while to pull it together so I am going to do it in bite -size chunks. Obviously starting with the most important taxa, the beetles. Thanks to Lois, James and Alex for their help. By the end of it my back had gone, so pond-netting and turning logs over was much appreciated!

I recorded 43 species and amazingly, 20 of them were new site records. Although Woods Mill is our fourth most well-recorded reserve, it suffers from having no designations and being a lower priority from all the SSSIs we manage. I have never done a full invert survey there despite doing a great deal of casual recording. Out of these, two new species were recorded with conservation status being Astenus immaculatus and Tachyporus formosus (both found by suction sampler). 

The highlight though was the two riffle beetles I pulled out of the river. I have never seen a riffle beetle before, probably because I don't do a lot of pond-netting in flowing water. I have seen 1249 beetles in the UK and it took me this long to see a single riffle beetle. Then I pulled five out (of two species) in one net in a place I have worked for over a decade! I was rather excited. Above is Elmis aenea and below is Oulimnius tuberculatus on the left and Elmis aenea on the right. The long legs and large claws help the beetles to cling on in flowing streams, quite a different approach to most aquatic beetles, these guys crawl rather than swim. I must admit, I had thought they would be a bit bigger, the are both around 2 mm. Much of the excitement from the bioblitz came from the valley field close to or in the stream.

Other oddities in this lot include the first record of 7-spot Ladybird since 2007 but it's nice to see that of the 23 species already recorded, all have been recorded this century with the oldest record being Anthocomus rufus in 2005. This brings the Woods Mill beetle list to 312 species meaning I recorded 13.7% of the site's species during the bioblitz. I have very few stock photos of the remaining species but here is a Hypera zoilus (love this tank of a weevil) and Anthocomus rufus. Next up, molluscs! Oh, I almost forgot, I am trying a new name for my blog, what do you think? It's the same approach (a snarky pun with double meaning) but with a focus on sharing knowledge. So not a change in direction but perhaps something that reflects more what I am doing here.

Species Last record
16-spot Ladybird 2016
22-spot Ladybird 2017
24-spot Ladybird 2014
7-spot Ladybird 2007
Abax parallelepipedus 2011
Anthocomus rufus 2005
Apion frumentarium 2016
Astenus immaculatus (Notable) New
Astenus lyonessius New
Bembidion guttula 2018
Bembidion properans 2014
Catapion seniculus New
Cream-spot Ladybird 2017
Crepidodera aurata 2014
Crepidodera plutus 2006
Curculio venosus New
Curtonotus aulicus New
Elmis aenea New (and for me!)
Haliplus lineatocollis New
Harlequin Ladybird 2015
Hazel Leaf-roller New
Hypera zoilus 2016
Hyphydrus ovatus 2014
Nephus redtenbacheri New
Noterus clavicornis 2012
Oulimnius tuberculatus New (and for me!)
Paederus littoralis 2013
Paradromius linearis 2015
Pine Ladybird New
Protapion fulvipes 2016
Psylliodes chrysocephala New
Pterostichus madidus 2018
Rhyzobius litura 2016
Rhyzobius lophanthae New
Silpha atrata New
Sitona hispidulus New
Sitona lepidus New
Sitona lineatus 2016
Sitona sulcifrons New
Tachyporus formosus (Notable A) New
Trechus obtusus New
Viburnum Leaf Beetle 2016
Xantholinus longiventris New

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