This is just taking the Pistius now!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 11 June 2021 07:27

I have rarely had such a good day out in the field as I did last Sunday at Blean. By 08:59, I was looking at a very immature Pistius truncatus (have a look here for more info). A Critically Rare arboreal crab spider, something of a mega in the spider world. Not seen in the UK for 20 years and only ever known from the East Blean Woods complex (and old records in the New Forest). This was therefore a new location for the spider on the KWT managed land. It was also at the very far west of this area, about as far from East Blean Woods as it could possibly be. I picked this up on the second out of 24 plots I am surveying this year, so I expected I might see some more. I did not. I do still have three rounds of visits to go though. It's a gorgeous little spider, appearing to  have no hind legs to the naked eye. They're a translucent yellow, next to the greeny/brown body. Very similar in build and shape to Thomisus onustus. Here is my first view of it in the tray.

The spider list is epic. With Walckenaeria mitrata found in a conifer plantation last month, the total number of spiders with conservation status stands at 20 already! That's 20 out of the 127 spiders I have recorded so far. New this month was Salticus zebraneus and a stonking adult male Philodromus longipalpis. This really is clearly bigger than the other Philodromus in that group.


But it's not just the spiders. Across the board, rare species are turning up in droves. In fact, so far 46 of the 378 species recorded have some form of conservation status. I had four new beetles that day. First up being a real surprise for me that took a little while to digest. Lagria atripes was listed as Regionally Extinct in the 2014 review but it was widespread at Blean. I recorded 10 animals across six of the 24 compartments. It seems it has been turning up in a few places in Kent though, so is not that much of a surprise.


Then I had a "WTF?!" moment. I love that there are so many beetles in the UK that you can keep encountering ones that you have never even seen a photo of before. This is the Nationally Rare melandryid, Hypulus quercinus. Phwoar!!!


And quite a surprise was the recent addition to our longhorn fauna, Agapanthia cardui. Swept from a cleared area in the wood. I expect this will be all over the south east in a few years.


The fourth beetle was one that I am surprised it has took me this long to find, Pityophagus ferrugineus (not photographed). Additionally to all these lifers, there were loads of nice beetles I have only ever encountered once or twice before. First up the myrmecophile, Clytra quadripunctata. Found so far on three out of 24 plots. A stonking Nationally Scarce species. Not a surprise with all the Formica rufa there. Oh and I had a new ant, Guest Ant!


Two Anthribus fasciatus (Na) from one plot. Only the 2nd and 3rd examples of this I have ever seen. The last being Knepp in 2015.


Four Tritoma bipustulata (Na) on brackets on a recently fallen, rotten oak limb. I have only ever seen this at Levin Down in West Sussex.


Trogulus tricarinatus. Not sure why this isn't nationally scarce. This rather large and bizarre looking harvestman was found by suction sampling vegetated leaf litter (which is especially rich at Blean - the best leaf litter I have ever sampled).

A stonking Didea fasciata was a new hoverfly for me.

Always nice to see Lapidary Snail too. 

And a long overdue lifer. Although try as I might I cannot find this in any of the 24 plots. I walked passed a sunny bank of Cow-wheat and thought to myself, "if this isn't there, it can't be here at all". I found it in 30 seconds. The Cow-wheat Shieldbug Adomerus biguttatus. It must like plants growing on sunny rides and not under the canopy, not surprising really.

And of course, Heath Fritillary is the commonest butterfly there at the moment. What a beauty.

All this is baseline monitoring/research is driven by the application of the bison to the site. But it's important recording in its own right, with this area of Blean receiving relatively little invertebrate monitoring compared to East Blean Woods and the RSPB reserve. Monitoring like this is vital for nature reserves and rewilding projects alike, as it shows not only what is working but what isn't. So the management of sites can be adjusted accordingly. It's part of a whole package across a wide range of taxa that KWT are carrying out this year.

Definitely one of the best days I have ever had in the field and also, possibly the best survey I have ever done, for the sheer number of rare species and lifers. What makes it so good? Well, along with sites like the Surrey Heaths, it's the landscape scale effect I am sure. It's big enough to cope with small scale extinctions that can easily recolonise from other areas of the wood. Small, isolated sites can't cope with this. Continuity of management is always vital for good sites and it's also in the south east too, to be fair. I can't wait until July!

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