Is 400 species of spider achievable in a year?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 24 December 2019 07:41

Yesterday I headed to Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's Gun Moor reserve (just over the way from the Roaches which looks much less impressive from a distance). Basically I am picking the furthest north sites and exploring my home county in a way that is very cathartic. I am utterly devastated by the collapse of the Red Wall, I might not ever reconcile this but I am falling in love with the landscape all over again instead. Nature and big open wild places are good for healing the soul. And there are so many spiders too. I am in uncharted territory now, so as I approached Gun Moor I was a little lost and asked a chap for directions...

Me: "Excuse me, is that Gun Moor?
Stranger: "Yes, well Gun Hill".
Me: "Is there a layby along this road or that road back there?"
Stranger: "That road back there. There's nothing there though. It's just a hill".
Me: "I'll be the judge of that". Speeds off into the distance...

All of that happened except the last line. Nothing there?! I would have thought someone going for a walk would have had a better opinion of the local wildlife. Or maybe a better opinion of people under 50. 

There wasn't even a Costa or a toilet when I got there! One star.

I had no idea where to go so I followed the water with one thing in mind: Sphagnum. Within fifteen minutes I had a lifer!

The unbelievably small Theonoe minutissima. At barely a millimetre long, this is dwarfed by pretty much every liny. It was extremely common in Sphagnum there (377 and a long overdue lifer). Here it is being dwarfed by Pholcomma gibbum on the left. It's also a new 10 km square record.

I knew that one in the field and I had a few other things I didn't recognise. My assessment was therefore between one and four species new for the year. It was actually six! This turned out to be Micrargus apertus (378 - lifer). This is a new 10 km square for this species.

And the nationally scarce Hypselistes jacksoni (male top). Not a new one for the year but nice to see.

But things got really exciting when I got back to the microscope. I had another four lifers. Mainly quite widespread north western species that I had never seen before. From left to right: Micrargus apertus, Aphileta misera (379), Tapinocyba pallens (380) and Theonoe minutissima. These were all lifers and all new 10 km square records except Tapinocyba pallens.

I also had a female Bolyphnates alticeps (381). And then this popped out, don't even remember picking it up. Saaristoa abnormis (382).  These two and Tapinocyba pallens were all also new to the group so we have seen 67.8% f the UK's spiders now.

Now I am currently nine species ahead. That could all change daily. Is 400 species of spider possible in a year? I have added 14 species in four days just by going home for Christmas (13 of which were lifers). There is eight days to go so I think it is possible.

I had a long overdue bug lifer. Stenodema holsata.

I sieved a Heather Shieldbug from Sphagnum.

And I am assuming this is Red Grouse poo? And not Pheasant poo?
Today I head to Brown End Quarry.

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