My big fat crazy spider year

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 31 December 2021 17:54

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. 2021. The weirdest year EVER that very nearly was a total write-off (apart from several awesome things that happened). One of those was the spider year listing challenge, that ran through 2021 like a thread of fine spider silk, stitching my life together like arachnological punctuation. This is the third and FINAL year that I have done this and I will NOT be doing it next year.

The rules: See as many spider species as you can in the UK between 1st Jan and 31st Dec 2021. You have to see it yourself in the wild (but you don't have to find it yourself). Now I wasn't going to do it again in 2021, in fact I didn't even go out in the field until late March and even then I wasn't going to take part. But by the end of June, simply through so much varied and complementary field work, I had amassed a big list and this included some real megas. Many of which were from the baseline monitoring I am setting up at Blean for the Wilder Blean project. So suddenly I thought, this might be the foundation for a really big list this year. I had reached 392 in 2019 and that was a mission. Was 400 possible?

Well, yeah. The final score was 473! I reckon that 500 would of been possible if I had managed to get to Scotland in November but due to weather, the pandemic and work commitments, I called it off. And I was lucky to not be trapped in a pub for a whole weekend with an Oasis cover band. So the season finale was a trip to down to see Tylan in Devon and Cornwall where I added 18 new spiders for the year, eight of which were lifers. I REALLY wanted to get to 500 to stop me from trying to do this again. 

So, 473 species is just under 70% of the UK's spiders. Of these, 53 species were new to me in 2021. There are only a further 38 species that I have seen on top of this (meaning I have now seen 511 spiders in the UK - almost 75% of all our spiders). Here are some of the highlights from 2021. 

A massive thanks to ALL the people that helped throughout the year but especially Tylan who was a great sport to compete with and did amazing to get to 400 species without living in the south east (I definitely have an advantage here). |Here is the mighty Arctosa fulvolineata. Which involved an epic dash across Devon and some frantic stone-turning, only to find four under one stone. It's big. It's beefy. And it has a dreamy creamy stripe. It's also a saltmarsh obligate which is well cool and quite unusual for spiders like this. A great December record too.

Perhaps he highlight for me though was Pistius truncatus at Blean. Not seen in the UK for 20 years, I found two immatures two months and less than 50 m apart. It has since been found in two other areas within Blean.

Even rarer and also at Blean was the novelty-headed bead-knob spider, Walckenaeria mitrata. Behold it's knob! Last seen in UK in 2004!

And Tylan took me to see these new aliens in Plymouth. What a brute of spider and what weird webs they have. Like fake Halloween webs. Badumna longinqua.

I added a couple of nice jumpers in 2021. Calositticus floricola has to be my favourite. Found this new to Staffordshire.

And also Calositticus caricis at a known site in Surrey.

Back to Staffordshire, thanks to Joshua Styles I was able to see Gnaphosa nigerrima at its two known sites in one day.

And in Surrey, the rather attractive Cheiracanthium pennyi. Phwoar.

Back to Sussex, Eratigena picta from Amberley Chalk Pit. On the second attempt. 

But on the first attempt, I picked up Centromerus albidus. The first UK record since...1969!!! And a new county record. This is probably spider of the year but it was very small and very dull and very dead by the time I looked at it. So it's not really a 'front cover' species. But I mean. Phwoarrr! Right?

A trip to Sherwood Forest with Richard Gallon and Tylan Berry produced an epic haul. The highlight being a male Mastigusa macrophthalma! Look at those palps!

Earlier that day, a walking Malteser. Meta bourneti in a drain!

An after dark trip to Surrey to see the incredible Alopecosa fabrilis with Mike Waite. What an incredible beast. Mike that is, LOL ;) (this spider is also featuring on the front of this post).

And also from Surrey. A myrmecophile money spider with a comb-over and tiny eyes. Acartauchenius scurrilus. As unpronounceable as it is weird.

I mean. I could just put picture after picture up now it was such a good year but what I think I will do is post the whole list. Here are all 473 species in alphabetical order with the species new to me in 2021, highlighted in bold. But as I suspect this is where I will lose all but the most hardcore arachnologists, I'll summarise this as follows (in terms of spiders and then in terms of other stuff): Spiders first. It was insane year. 473 is unlikely to be beaten easily BUT if time (and to a lesser extent money) were no issue, it could easily be done with a bit of prep. Scotland is probably essential. 

Other stuff. It was an insane year. I lost a dear friend, Tony Gowland. Mum has been really unwell too and is back in hospital again now as of Christmas Eve (get well soon Mum) and this very soon after Dad passing away in Nov 2020 has been tough. Six months of something weird in my leg from a Lincolnshire cornfield is still, two biopsies later, undiagnosed. But just when you thought it was a total write-off, something unexpected happened at the end of 2021. I got my act together and after a four year hiatus, started dating again and now have a girlfriend and she's awesome! Here's to a better 2022! Happy New Year ya'll. Now eat my list.

4 Response to "My big fat crazy spider year"

martinf Says:

Happy New Year, and a seriously impressive list. Good to hear things have taken a late upswing too. All the best for 2022.

Gibster Says:

Holy moley mate, you have a lass?!?! She must be batshit crazy putting up with all your spidery shenanigans, haha! So hey, let me know when you wanna hit Scotland during your Big Fat Crazy Spider Challenge Pt IV and we'll smash that 500. Oh wait, you aren't doing a BFCSY PtIV are you (lol, just keep in touch regards heading up here for the Scottish specialities). Congrats on a Herculean effort with the spiders and have a fantastic 2022 buddy!

Graeme Lyons Says:

Thanks buddy. Ha ha! Well, to be honest we have not left the flat much in the last two months!

Graeme Lyons Says:

Cheers Martin, same to you!

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