My top ten natural history highlights of 2019

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 3 January 2020 08:55

Never before have I agonised over the order of my top ten natural history highlights but I do not exaggerate when I say 2019 was the best natural history year of my life. Anyway, spiders are here lumped as one and will get their own top ten at a later date. So here they are in reverse order.

10. Carabus intricatus (Blue Ground Beetle) with John Walters in Devon. 
It was hard keeping John in eye sight on the side of the hill so I was glad that he was able to find us one of these astonishingly smart beetles. December was an exceptional month for me in nature.

9. Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) larva beaten from willow at Holmwood Common.
Not a really rare species but my first encounter with the larva in September produced some unforgettable photos.

8. Snow Fleas (Boreus hyemalis). 
Both on purpose in the Wyre Forest, Shropshire in February and by accident on the Roaches in December.

7.  Mega rare moths found in the field, who needs a moth trap?
I found a LOT of rare moths, probably the rarest was this Purple Marbled that I managed to capture even without a net at Seaford Head during a bioblitz. Others this year including sweeping a Dewick's Plusia in a park in London and netting a Hornet Moth in flight on a freelance job in Kent. 

6. East Head sand dunes invertebrate survey. 
A summer surveying these sand dunes with Lee Walther for the National Trust was a blast. Still I think the site with highest proportion of species with conservation status I have ever surveyed. Here I have picked the sea-lavender feeding weevil Pseudaplemonus limonii as it's metallic purple!

5. Sea slugs at the Pound
My annual trip to the Pound at Eastbourne with Evan Jones was mid blowing last year and it's testament to how amazing a year this has been that this is way down at number five. Here is the one that blew me away the most and pretty much the only one I found myself, Polycera quadrilineata.

4. The baseline survey of Ken Hill Estate
My trips up to Norfolk this year were so enjoyable, so many great things to find but the day I recorded Breckland Leatherbug Arenocoris waltlii might be the most memorable.

3. A year of spiders
OK, here's the big shock. I have loved year listing spiders (and I will be giving them their own top ten very soon) but it doesn't make it to 1st or even 2nd place. Who will win the spider top ten? I suspect it might have to go to Philodromus fallax for being the most unexpected find in early November that I had almost given up on and one of my most sought after species of all time.

2. Melodious Warbler and breeding Dartford Warblers at Butcherlands
The Butcherlands bird survey has delighted me for nearly a decade. So the breeding Dartford Warblers in bramble scrub were amazing but then picking up an odd warbler in the distance on the last visit, chasing it, realising it was a bird I didn't know was possibly the most exciting thing ever. Especially as at one point it was getting away from me. Then a great big yellow warbler jumped right out in front of me, a Melodious Warbler!. Definitely the fastest song of any bird and a great way to end a very enjoyable survey. When I first picked it up it was in the big willow on the left.

1. My first first for Britain!
Not only a new species but a new family for the UK. Finding this at Marline Valley was such an exciting experience. What a strange looking thing. It was closely followed by a second specimen swept by young Ted on his work experience! I tentatively identified it as Coptosoma scutellatum and Tristan Bantock soon confirmed the ID and I gave it the English name Trapezium Shieldbug. A really exciting way to end 12 years at Sussex Wildlife Trust but I have to end this on a downer. It probably turned up in the hot summer of 2018 and this in turn is almost certainly down to man made climate change. 

We now have a government woefully inadequate in terms of its approach to climate change and emissions, so you have to do every little bit you can to prevent things from getting any worse. I don't think people realise just how important five years is in the crisis we are in now, I know I am preaching to the converted here but we just missed a huge chance to make serious change to our environment at this crucial tipping point in the climate crisis and influence others on the world stage.

But I know what you're thinking. "Where ARE its wings?!". Now lets see what 2020 has to offer...

4 Response to "My top ten natural history highlights of 2019"

Thomas Curculio Says:

Fantastic! What a year you've had. Had a good one myself but got some way to go to catch up with you. keep up the good work. Hope to meet again this year.Love the P fallax.

Graeme Lyons Says:

Thanks Simon! I hope to get access to Chartley Moss some time this year.

Michael J Pannell Says:

Awesome stuff, particularly like the Apatura iris larva appearing to pose for the camera!

Hilary Melton-Butcher Says:

Hi Graeme - sounds like a good year and well worth the branching out from Sussex Wildlife Trust and going freelance. Congratulations and I do enjoy reading your posts - cheers Hilary

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