Choughed to bits

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 18 September 2022 17:44

Grassholm. The furthest west in Wales I've ever been. Actually, it's the first time that I have ever been to Pembrokeshire. It was my first real holiday in five years and the first time Karen and I have been away together for more than two days. And my first blog in over six months. A lot of firsts. We absolutely loved it. I tried not to make it too nature-based but it just kinda happens that way anyway with such a wild coast. Day one and we headed out on two boat trips with Voyages of Discovery. The second one here saw us head out firstly to Grassholm, where thousands of Gannets are getting ready to leave. This island is around 11 miles off the coast and the half of it where they breed, appears white even at this distance.

Such wonderful birds. Even more tragic to see this less than a week after I found this sick bird on the South Downs north of Brighton. Bird flu. This is the price of cheap chicken. Anyways, back to the holiday.

A little further out to some reefs (looking back to Grassholm) and we saw lots of feeding birds including these Kittiwakes being harassed by Arctic Skuas. It's 20 years ago this summer that I did the RSPB contract at Rhosneigr, looking after the tern colony there. So when we stopped at one reef and heard the distinctive call of a Roseate Tern, it was just so exciting. I couldn't get a photo though, the sea was very mobile.

Earlier, on the way out, we saw a group of four Harbour Porpoise, about as close as I have ever been to them. That's Ramsey Island. Ramsey Sound was incredible with these eerie, glass-like patches of up-welling water, interspersed with some ferocious rapids and broiling seas around the hidden rocks.

One such area known as the Bitches has a cruel history. Shags seem to like the Bitches.

We saw plenty of Grey Seals too but my photos were pretty awful. The skipper nosed the dinghy into a sea cave, which was well cool!

Before we got to Pembrokeshire, a brief visit to the Worm's Head on the Gower produced the first of the daily Chough action, their calls rapidly becoming a common feature in the local sound-scape. A quick bit of rock-pooling produced what I think is a Daisy Anemone.

EDIT 20/09/22 - Thanks Evan, Daisy Anemone looks nothing like this, of course this is the Elegant Anemone.

With help of some locals, I spotted a HUGE Sea Bass in a deep gully (the tides were great, both big tides and easy tides - really great considering I did zero prep). I didn't manage a photo but the young fisherman who was looking for bait, was almost crying because he didn't think to lunge at it with his big net.

It was wicked to see a Spotted Cowrie with it's mantle out all over the shell. We never saw these again after this.

And the first of many netted fish. The obligatory Rock Goby.

Green Sea Urchins were also not seen again on the trip after the Gower. That's one way to get mussels quickly!

Oh yeah, Bloody-nosed Beetle is EVERYWHERE in South Wales. Here was a four way, the filthy buggers.

Sorry, five way! This pervert was late to the party.

Day two. I had ONE target for the WHOLE trip. The only thing I vaguely researched was Scaly Cricket. I knew it was at Marloes Sands but it was a slim chance being mainly nocturnal. But there were rockpools there too. And they were full of Montagu's Blenny, hugely distracting. I could look at these goofy little twerps all day.

We spent an hour in an area that looked good for what I imagined Scaly Cricket would like. Turned out we were in the right area but just unlucky. Well, if you can call it unlucky. I saw a large black gnaphosid but I lost sight of it in the scree. I searched, saw it again but it went under the shingle never to be seen again. The tide was coming in and I didn't want us to get cut off and walk up the steep steps (this was a 47 miles in six days kinda holiday) when I saw a small spider with four small spots. It was unmistakable. It was clearly Callilepis nocturna. I am at the base of a cliff without signal and my camera is 20m away in my coat pocket and this thing looks like it's going to run into the shingle. It froze long enough for Karen to grab my camera then jumped onto my hand and started doing circuits. I looked like David Bowie in Labyrinth messing about with his balls. I got it in the tray. Behold!

I was rather stoked. Thinking I had a first for Wales, we headed up the cliffs for food and signal. Only to find that it was discovered on the exact same beach 'recently'. This is where it gets really weird. It was found there 20 years ago by another Brightonian, and a chap I know well. Dave Bangs. I might not have got a first for Wales but I did get all the excitement of one and I also stumbled on one of the rarest UK spiders (it's still only at three sites). That's my 518th UK spider. Totally beats that stupid cricket. We went back on day four as that beach was just so beautiful. Here she is in all her glory. What a beauty!

I took the sucker this time but hardly used it. We found 16 more but 14 of these were from hand searching.

The habitat shot.

Whilst I poked around here for a little while, Karen did some reading and then told me about a place which is pretty good for Otters! Now, Otter is my biggest bogey species. That's day five sorted then! I did get one other rare spider here. A new site for Porrhoclubiona genevensis. It's known from the hectad but last seen there on Skokholm in 1934 by Bristowe! An important record then, not bad considering I only turned it on four times in the whole trip.

UPDATE 20/09/22 - It turns out Richard Gallon had both species from near there on a job in 2021! Oh well! But the main group I found appears to be in a slightly different area, so that's good.

But before day five. It's day three. And after a visit to Tenby in the morning which was lush, we headed to Wiseman's Bridge. The rockpooling was a let down. So I suggested walking along the beach to Saundersfoot where I could see an interesting looking rocky outcrop. A single large rockpool there, produced three fish that we didn't see anywhere else. First off though, probably the best underwater shot of the trip was of this Shanny. The Meadow Pipit of the rook pool. They get boring quickly. My TG-6 has been working hard under water of late.

First dip in this rock pool produced a lifer for me. I pushed a shoal of largish-looking fish into a blind corner and lunged with the net. I caught two but one jumped straight out of my empty Ferrero Rocher container. Took some figuring out this one but it's clearly Horse Mackerel. A fish of the open sea and not really a rock pool fish at all! Check out that dog leg in the lateral line and those weird ridges. Quite a strange fish. Nice to say that literally for once.

The second dip produced a single Long-spined Sea-scorpion. Common enough but the only one we saw and Karen was quite taken with its grumpy face and eyelashes.

But it was the third dip of the net that got me really excited. Initially, at the bottom of the net I thought this was a pipe fish but I soon realised it was an adult Fifteen-spined (or Sea) Stickleback!!! Just wow. This is a fish that I saw once, on Anglesey some 20 years ago and it was nothing like this. An absolute stunner.

I think we saw over ten species of fish on the trip. I think I got more into fish than spiders, which is a weird thing for any grown man to say but especially me.

But who knew how many spiders were lurking above them on that foot path/tunnel through the rock between Saundersfoot and Wiseman's Bridge? Loads of Meta menardi, Metellina merianae and a new hectad for Nesticus cellulanus. Herald and Small Tortoiseshell too. Plus these early Humans.

Earlier that morning we went on a long walk around the coast. Here is a flock of 30 Chough! Incredible. What's more incredible is that in the five minutes we walked past this flock, they were disturbed by two different dogs that were off the lead and by the second time, they left the field altogether. Imagine this stress, day after day after day. Put your choughing dog on a lead if you can't control it! There are enough pressures on nature beyond your delinquent dogs. It's a serious problem that dog owners, who are often nature lovers, have no perspective on. I don't think they see it as serious, or lack the long term thinking to recognise that this time, the time their dog does this, might just be the time that makes these animals leave the area altogether. Or worse. We never saw as many Choughs as we did this day (at least a group of 21 and another group of c36) but we did see or hear Choughs every day of the trip.

Right, nearly there. Day five. An early start to Bosherston Lily Ponds see the Otters was starting to feel like we were going to dip out. Some Common Calamint was nice to see though. 

Then a chap said, "There's a family of Otters up there!" We started running and we got there just in time! All those years electrofishing with the RSPB and nothing. Hours put in at the crack of dawn searching across the UK in the cold, nothing. And then there they were, not giving a monkeys about the hoards of people walking past, or their dogs. Amazing to watch this family of four with their synchronised diving. They reminded me of Studio Ghibli dragons but in the water instead of the air. A continuously rolling, relentlessly restless, wet, muscly and hairy sine wave of reconstituted fish. Sublime.

One final trip after a chap told us about Freshwater West, a nice west facing beach at the end of the peninsula. A bit of rockpooling there produced this lovely young Ballan Wrasse.

A nice under water shot of a Beadlet Anemone.

But the highlight here was walking down to the beach. I was distracted suddenly by lots of white snails, which of course were actually White Snails (Theba pisina). Another reason to use capitals to distinguish between a species and just a white snail, of which we have many (White Snail being one of them). Then Karen said; "What's that?"

It's only a nymph of the Boat Bug (Enoplpops scapha). One of my most wanted species and the last UK squash bug I needed to complete the set! Result.

It was an awesome trip and another important reason for this trip was to give myself time to start writing again. Getting back into writing this blog (and other side projects that I have struggled to find creative energy for this year) being one thing but the main reason was to kick start the book I am writing on pan-species listing, now that the field season has almost finished. And that has worked a treat, with an hour a day producing a lot of words and the flood gates are now open. This holiday might have only had four lifers in it (Callilepis nocturna, Horse Mackerel, Otter and Boat Bug) but boy, what an eclectic mix they were. A pan-lister's dream holiday, with such a cornucopia of different taxonomic delights. We will definitely go back to this part of the world! Thanks to Karen for putting up with me, I see a rockpool and I am just a giant toddler and for her photos. And a huge thanks to the hosts at Pantier near Roch too, a really lovely place to stay. Hopefully I will try and blog a bit more frequently now, too.

Sign this post to support the capitalising of English names of species

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 3 February 2022 10:15

Last year I wrote this post. It is by far the most viewed post I have ever written on this blog in 12 years of blogging, with over 3000 views! So I thought we needed to put a little more momentum into it. 

So, if you agree with the following statement, why not put your name to it and ideally, let me know who you work for OR say 'rather not say'. Either comment or message me directly. And please share this post like mad so we can get a big list of names going. Yes, some big organisations are doing it wrong but some are getting right, like Butterfly Conservation, BTO and (now) Sussex Wildlife Trust. And publications like British Wildlife and Adastra also get it bang on. If you can think of anymore, please feel free to comment too.

"English names of species should be correctly capitalised and hyphenated, effectively treated as 'proper names'. This should be mandatory and standardised, as is the format for scientific names. There are many different reasons to do this explained more fully in the above mentioned post but perhaps none are more troublesome than the fact that lower case should be reserved for the generic sense, i.e., we have three species of forester in the UK, one of which is the Forester (above). Without the species being correctly capitalised, there is no way to distinguish species from genus. And there are a many different ways this can go wrong, from Small Blue becoming small blue to Little Ringed Plover becoming little ringed plover. The excuse that "capitals look bad on the page" is not a valid excuse. If you are writing primarily about species, they should be written with capitals. 

  • Little Ringed Plover NOT little ringed plover
  • Mediterranean Gull NOT Mediterranean gull
  • Silver-washed Fritillary NOT silver washed fritillary
  • Forester (or The Forester) NOT forester (or the forester)

The argument that species should be treated as 'proper names' is important. Yes, each species might be comprised of countless millions of individuals but by definition, they are distinct at the genetic level. There is (roughly speaking) one distinct set of code per species. It is this that should be treated as a proper noun/name. If we can be bothered to capitalise the names of man-made dog breeds and models of cars, we owe it to the natural world too."

Organisations, publications and projects that get it right.

  • Sussex Ornithological Society
  • Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland
  • The Species Recovery Trust
  • Wild Ken Hill
  • Buglife (changed due to this campaign)
  • Pelagic Publishing (changed due to this campaign)
  • Butterfly Conservation (BC)
  • British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)
  • Sussex Wildlife Trust (changed due to this campaign)
  • British Wildlife
  • NBN
  • iRecord
  • Recorder 6
  • British Birds
  • British Ornithologists' Union (BOU)
  • State of Nature
  • Back from the Brink
  • Adastra (Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre annual publication)

1). Graeme Lyons                  Freelance entomologist and ecologist

2). Tony Davis                       Senior Ecologist, Butterfly Conservation

3). Michael Pannell

4). Graeme Davis              Environmental Correspondent at Love Andover Observer

5). Simon Edwards               Self employed

6). Daniel Blyton                  Amateur entomologist

7). Mark Whittaker               Animal Welfare Assistant

8). Adrian Knowles              Self-employed Ecologist

9). Martin Bell                      Amateur naturalist

10). Mark G. Telfer              Entomological Consultant

11). Marilyn Abdulla           Amateur naturalist & wildlife recorder

12). Malcom Storey            Naturalist and wildlife recorder

13). Louis Parkerson           Amateur naturalist

14). Julian Small                 Peatland Restoration Advisor

15). John Pilgrim                Ecological Consultant

16). Su Reed                       Naturalist and wildlife recorder

17). Mike Wall                    County Moth Recorder for Hampshire

18). Terry Crow                  Amateur naturalist & wildlife recorder

19). Rachel Bicker             Airport Biodiversity Consultant

20). Matthew Oates            Field Naturalist and Nature Writer

21). Ralph Hobbs               County Recorder for Orthoptera, Sussex

22). David Green                Trustee of conservation organisation & Ecologist

23). Rich Billington   Associate Professor of Biology and amateur naturalist, University of Plymouth

24). Darren Matthews         Former wildlife ranger

25). John Lyden                  Biology teacher and amateur naturalist

26). Mariska Hattenburger  Amateur wildlife recorder

27). Jim Ormerod                Amateur birder & naturalist

28). Lloyd Davies                Amateur wildlife recorder

29). Judy Staines                  Amateur naturalist & wildlife recorder

30). Neil Fletcher                 Environment Support Officer, Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Environmental Record Centre.

31). Andy Musgrove             Ecological Consultant

32). Bill Urwin                      Naturalist, Marauder, Educationalist (retired)

33). Ai-Lin Kee                     Amateur Naturalist

34). Kevin Rylands                Conservation Adviser Fair to Nature & RSPB

35). John Martin                     Retired National Vascular Plant Specialist at Natural England

36). Marcus Lawson               Ex Dorset Bird Recorder & Dorset Bird Club Chairman

37). Mark Skevington             Amateur naturalist, pan-species lister and Naturespot verifier

38). Roman Soroka                 Armchair naturalist

39). Natasha Clark                  Amateur naturalist & wildlife recorder

40). Paul French                     Senior Ornithologist, HiDef aerial surveying

41). Les Evans-Hill                Butterfly Conservation Senior Data Officer

42). Dr Barry Yates                 Ecologist, land manager, studied Zoology at Imperial College in 1970s

43). Clive McKay                   Ecologist

44). Piers Vigus                      Management Consultant

45). Dave Gould                     Amateur naturalist and biological recorder

46). Marc Taylor                    County Recorder of Diptera, entomological field surveyor and trainer

47). Leon Truscott                 Cornwall County Moth Recorder

48). Dave Appleton                Birder, entomologist, all-round naturalist and wildlife recorder. County recorder for Neuroptera and allies

49). Paul Griggs

50). Alastair Rae

51). Alan Miller                     Wildlife tour leader

52). Jon Dunn                         Nature write, wildlife photographer and tour leader

53). Iain Downie                    eBird Developer, Arachnologist

54). Liam Crowlie                  Postdoctoral researcher, University of Oxford

55). Edward Pollard               Technical Director, the Biodiversity Consultancy

56). Steven Falk                     Associate Stickler

57). Chris Gibson                   Freelance naturalist, author, speaker and tour leader

58). Gino Brignoli                  FSC BioLinks Project Officer

59). Dave Smallshire              Retired policy advisor with Defra/NE & retired Naturetrek tour leader

60). Steve Preddy                   Co-author, Ornithological Society of the Middle East regional bird list, County Dragonfly Recorder, Monmouthshire

61). James Emerson                Amateur naturalist

62). Adrian Dutton                  Entomologist

63). Monty Larkin                Writer, retired conservation adviser and founder of Sussex Pony Grazing & Conservation Trust

64).  Sean Browne                 Amateur naturalist

65). Seth Gibson                    Amateur naturalist on a mission        

66). Bill Sutherland                Professor of Conservation Biology, University of Cambridge

67). Tristan Bantock               Entomologist

68). Alex Prendergast             Vascular Plants Senior Specialist, Natural England

69).  Adam Rowe                    LERC Manager            

70).  Nigel Wheatley               Author of books on birds      

71). Carey Lodge                    Amateur recorder

72). Hawk Honey                   Visitor Officer, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, amateur Hymenopterist

73). Elizabeth Jude

74). Pete Holdaway

75). Vince Smith

76). Jeremy Dagley

77). Finley Hutchinson          Amateur entomologist

78). Paul Tout                        Naturalist, translator

79). Dan Asaw                       BioLinks Courses

80). Ian Carter                       Naturalist and author

81). Graham White               Ecologist

82). Dawn Balmer                 Ornithologist

83). Mike Hoit                       Ornithologist and field ecologist

84). Richard Mabbut             Amateur botanist recording in VC55

85). Tim Inskipp                    Naturalist and author

86). Dawn Nelson                  Botanist

87). Alistair Shuttleworth       Amateur naturalist

88). Hillary Melton-Butcher 

89). Jeremy Lindsell               Director of Science and Conservation, A Rocha International

90). Linda Robinson               VC65 (Botanical) Recorder

91). Thomas Curculio             Author and amateur entomologist

92). Audrey E. Turner             Butterfly recorder for VC95/Moray

93). Sarah Whild                     Botanist and biological recorder

94). Alyson Freeman               VC32 Botanical recorder

95). Peter Llewellyn                Botanist

96). Richard Goldlfinch          Amateur naturalist

97). Ian Bennallick                  BSBI recorder for East Cornwall

98). Mike Crewe                      Tour guide, environmentalist and editor

99). Chris Vincent                    Amateur naturalist and moth recorder

100). Jayne Chapman               Estate and Conservation Manager, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

101). Rebecca Jones                 Marine Ornithologist, Natural England

102). Jason Steel                       Amateur wildlife photographer

103).  Owen Beckett                 Entomologist

104).  Sam Buckton                   Yorkshire Naturalists Union/British Plant Gall Society

105). Sam Stripp                        Amateur naturalist

106). Paul Hopkins                    Amateur naturalist

107). Mark Lawlor                    Guernsey bird recorder and naturalist

108). Steve Smith                      Dorset birder

109). Andy Butler                      Derbyshire birder

110). Kevin Clements                Naturalist and Green Space Manager

111). Diana Spencer                  Bats in Churches

112). Neil Hulme                       Freelance ecologist and wildlife guide

113). Robin Knill-Jones             Retired academic and Lepidoptera recorder

114). Paul Tinsley-Marshall       Conservation Evidence Manager, Kent Wildlife Trust

115). Matt Phelps                       Conservationist and write

116). Savanna van Mesdag        PhD student

117). Chris Glanfield                  Amateur naturalist

118). Denise Wawman               Amateur naturalist, Hippobosciade recorder and bird ringer

119). Sam Bayley                       Consultant Ecologist/Ornithologist

120). Rob Grimmond

121). Tylan Berry                        County recorder for spiders in Cornwall

122). Ian Hartley                        Editor Bird Study, Senior Lecturer , Lancaster University

123). Paul Dolman                     Professor of Conservation Ecology at University of East Anglia

124). Mike Mullis                      Naturalist

125). Tom Simon                       Senior Countryside Officer, Epping Forest District Council

126). Liz Palmer                        Birdwatcher

127). Richard Moore

128). Steph Holt                         Ecologist

127). Bill Honeywell

128). Chris Raper                       Manager of the UK Species Inventory, The Natural History Museum

129). Andy Marquis                   Amateur naturalist

130). Rosemary Parslow            BSBI Recorder, Isles of Scilly

131). Rob Large                         Field Ecologist

132). Steve Dudley                    COO, British Ornithologists' Union

133). George McGavin              Zoologist, entomologist, broadcaster and President of Dorset Wildlife Trust

134). Jake Everitt                      Countryside and Ecology Manager

135). Robbie Still                      Digital Transformation Officer at Kent Wildlife Trust

136). Tom Gittings                    Ecological Consultant

137). Lee Dingain                     Naturalist, ecological consultant, nature writer, conservationist

138). Julian Hughes                  Editor of the Welsh Bird Report

139). Tim Thomas                    Environmental Consultant

140). Steve Elcoate

141). Tony Perry

142). Steve Lister                     Lifelong birder/naturalist, retired county bird recorder and & annual report write, eBird regional reviewer

143). David @the Hall of Einer    Wildlife and nature blogger

144). Warren Maguire              Marine Isopod Recording Scheme and linguist

145). Cath Hodsman                Insect Artist

146). Libby Morris                   Amateur naturalist, student and wildlife artist

147). Joe Beale                         Naturalist

148). Josie Hewitt                     Amateur naturalist

149). Bob Vaughan

150). Kelly Thomas                  Senior Ecologist

151). Howard Vaughan             All round naturalist, RSPB

152). Jane Thomas                    Amateur naturalist

153). Lee Hurell                       Lepidopterist and English teacher

154). Steve J. McWilliam

155). Tim Jonas                         Amateur naturalist and photographer

156). Philip Amies                   Retired estate land manager and ecological consultant

157). Dr Phil Saunders            Ecologist/ornithologist

158). Ben Lewis                      Conservation warden, bird charity

159). Bob Foreman                  Biodiversity Data Lead, Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre

160). Mary Atkinson                Field naturalist

161). Harry Hussey                  Consultant ornithologist

162). Sue Loader                      Amateur naturalist and recorder

163). Ian Lewis                         Retired Biochemical Scientist

164). Tom Derutter

165). Martin Roberts                County Dragonfly Recorder and amateur naturalist

166). Dan Brown           

167). James Lowen                  Naturalist and author       

168). Mark Duffell                   Botanist, botanical lecturer and surveyor

169). Paul Doherty                   York birder and producer of wildlife videos

170). John Moon

171). Samantha Batty               Horticulturalist and wildlife recorder

172). Brigit Strawbridge           Amateur naturalist and author

173). Graham Madge

174). Shaun Pryor                     Ecological consultant

175). Robert Edgar                    Retired English Nature Conservation Officer

176). Tony Stones

177). Dan Chaney                      Birder

178). Ottavio Janner                  Birder and translator

179). Vanna Bartlett 

180). Robin Harris                    Amateur naturalist

181). Penny Green                    Ecologist

182). Joshua Styles                   Botanical Specialist

183). Glenn Norris                    Ecologist, Sussex Wildlife Trust

184). Simon Hedges                 Conservationist

185). John Hancox

186). Andy Brown                    Principal Specialist, Species Conversation

187). James Lowther                Molecular Biologist

188). Phil T                               Lifelong birder

189). Lee Walther                     National Trust Ranger

190). Dr Clive McKay              Ecologist

191). Dr Roger Kendrick          Director, C & R Wildlife, Hong Kong. Founder: Asian Lepidoptera Conservation Symposium series. 

192).  Chloe Edwards                Director of Nature Recovery, Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust

193).  John Burnham                 Amateur entomologist and photographer

194). Tim Dixon

195). Mariko Whyte                  Conservation Officer, Dorset Wildlife Trust

196). Ian Ellis                           Consultant Ecologist

197). Richard Lewington          Wildlife Illustrator

198). Suzy White

199). James Langiewicz           Amateur naturalist

200). Dawn Langiewicz             Amateur naturalist

201). Liam Olds                       Entomologist and organiser of the National Oil Beetle Recording Scheme

202). Stephen Wadsworth        Ornithologist and Naturalist

203). Brian Clews

204). Wil J. Heaney                 Ecologist/entomologist

205). Alastair Forsyth              Retired ecology technician and teacher, now amateur entomologist

206). Alison Cobbing              Amateur naturalist

207). Toby Collett                   Warden

208). Frances Abraham           Sussex Botanical Recording Society

209). Mike Edwards                Entomologist

210). John Boback                  American naturalist

211). Clare Blencowe             Head of Sussex Biological Records Centre

212). Dom Price                      Director, the Species Recovery Trust

213). Stewart Sexton               Amateur naturalist

214). Libby Ralph

215). Anne Donnelly                Data Officer at ERIC NE

216). Nigel Jennings                Volunteer Group Leader, Kent Wildlife Trust

217). Dr Gordon McGlone OBE      Conservationist and campaigner

218). Ian Boyd                         Ecologist

219). Derek Crawley

220). Talya S. Davies

221). Keiron Derek Brown      National recorder for earthworms

222). Stepehen Welch               Lothian SOC bird recorder


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