We found a spider new to the UK on Brighton Beach!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 11 June 2023 16:44

Last year, I started monitoring the plants and invertebrates of a shingle translocation and creation project at Black Rock, Brighton carried out by Brighton & Hove City Council. Today, Karen and I were suction sampling an area having just found Pseudeuophrys lanigera (which I thought had to be obseleta but it wasn't). Buzzing off this high, Karen pointed to a jumping spider in the tray and asked "what's that?" There were three individuals in the tray from one suction sample. It was clearly a Heliophanus but not one I recognised. For a start, it had very obvious and striking black legs covered in white dots, as well as white-spotted black palps. I said it had to be Heliophanus auratus, a rare shingle species, as that was the only option (or so I thought). Which would have been a county first and a lifer. I was specifically suction-sampling the bases of large clumps of Yellow Horned-poppy. Here are some more shots of this incredible-looking little jumping spider.

I rushed home to look at one, only to find I had only collected females from two different areas but several were adult (actually, I didn't see any males). Two of these were hard to see as the epigynes were blocked but one was very clear. It was not auratus. I dissected the epigyne (below) and then it struck me - this must be a species new to the UK!!! I mean, it's obvious from just the general look of it. The palps aren't yellow for a start! I said at the time, the legs looked like nothing I had seen on a UK Heliophanus.

I jumped into the excellent website, Spiders of Europe (have a look here for a relevant species account) and closed in on species that were present just over the Channel but not yet in the UK. There it was, Heliophanus kochii. There is some more info here that helped, which stated it's a species that likes warm places. Another species moving north due to climate change then and looking at the European distribution, it likes warm and dry places, rather than being a shingle/coastal specialist. So, expect this to be spreading through the UK soon.

The patterns on the abdomen & the cephalothorax, the palps, the legs and the epigyne, especially the ducts, all added up. As did the dense covering of hairs on the abdomen missing from the very rear behind the last two white spots. I rang Richard Gallon and he was in broad agreement it was this species after seeing the shots. Now it might be prudent to wait until we have run it passed a European spider expert before calling it but I have never been the most patient of people. So I am calling it as my first (well joint first with Karen) spider new to the UK and my 2nd UK first! What a result. It's also my 526th UK spider.

Here is the habitat shot from the first encounter. One area of shingle created several years ago just west of the sauna place (I assume by the Council) but we found three more in area B (including an adult female) that was definitely created by the Council about 100 m behind where this photo was taken.

Now, any questions along the likes of "is it dangerous?" can get in the sea. It's about 5mm long maximum and is about as dangerous as our other 40 or so jumping spiders. It mostly likely ballooned across the Channel and colonised naturally, given the location. How cool is that? Very happy indeed to have found this.

Twin Peaks

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 1 June 2023 16:53

What do you do, when you are walking 50 miles a week for work and buy yourself a long weekend off at the end of May? Climb two mountains back to back looking for rare spiders and walk nearly 35 miles in three days of course! But before we get to Snowdon (photo) and Cadair Idris though, I'll start with my first ever visit to the Great Orme...

Apologies, I seemed to have some water on my lens for a few photos here. It's amazing how dry everything is after such a wet spring. And the grassland here on the south side of the Orme is distinctly arid and Mediterranean-like. A huge thanks to Richard Gallon for being my guide and putting up with me for three days! The sward here is dominated by Hoary Rock-rose. I have only seen this once before in the Burren. We had three target spiders here and we got two of them. There were large patches of Nottingham Catchfly and Bloody Crane's-bill here too.

We found several Drassyllus praeficus (spider no. 519) under rocks in this area but it was incredibly dry here. It also did not take long to find the weevil known only from this area that feeds on rock-rose, Helianthemapion aciculare. Liocranum rupicola (520) took some more finding though, and it was pretty much under the last rock I could handle lifting. In fact, it was just the thought of having to come out at night after being up since 4.00 am  to find this spider that was keeping me going and then, there it was! It was only a small immature but under the same rock was also an Atypus affinis web, and another Drassyllus praeficus! What a rock.

And these freshly emerged Silver-studded Blues were quite something. And endemic subspecies too! We had also seen the endemic subspecies of Grayling earlier.

But the Thin White Duke had spotted a big spider in the mountains, so the next day we headed off to Cadair Idris.

Day 2. Richard and his colleague Thom Dallimore were working under contract surveying the inverts on the mountain, I was tagging along to see Pardosa trailli. A big old alpine wolfy.

I was worried by knee would play up, the last time I climbed a mountain in 2016, it really did on the way down but it held. The best thing I learned from Richard was that the good stuff happens over 750 m. And it did just that!

I spotted my first Pardosa trailli (521) myself, a smart looking male. But this dust covered male was the only decent shot I got of one. This means there is only one Pardosa I am yet to see in the UK.

Here is the female, quite a striking and well-marked spider with very long, tapering legs. I only had my phone for this one though.

We didn't get a huge number of other invertebrates, but I was pleased to see my first Carabus arvensis in 10 years! We did see some odd things up high though, most likely blown there. I found a female Tanyptera atrata, Rhagium bifasciatum and Thanatophilus rugosus all over 700 m!

Oh and Ctenicera cuprea were everywhere, something I have not seen for about 20 years as I do so little up north!

Alpine plants were limited on Cadair but this Stiff Sedge stuck out. Look at those glumes! That was about 12.4 miles to ascend to 880 m and we didn't get back until nearly 10.00 pm. What a day.

Day 3. Just me and Richard today. And about a 1000 other people. Who climbs Snowdon on a Bank Holiday Weekend?! We were heading to that dome on the horizon, about 1000 m, just shy of the top (which we proudly didn't go to). It's 13 years since I last went up here, and coincidentally my first ever blog was from here. How things have changed in that time. Lots more idiots with portable speakers and drones for a start. 

Such an amazing landscape. 

And plants that I have not seen for some 15 years were very welcome. Such as Mossy Saxifrage.

We fought our way past the hordes to the frost-shattered rocky landscape of the near summit and began flippin'. I got three alpine spiders, all being lifers. The first and probably my favourite of them all was this Oreonetides vaginatus. In this area we also found Agyneta gulosa and Piniphantes pincola. A massive thanks to Richard for getting me to 524 species of spider. Wheatears, Choughs and a male Ring Ouzel provided the soundtrack.

And now, we headed to see Snowdon Lilly, a species I have wanted to see for years. But before that. Some mountain plant madness. Dwarf Willow near the top.

Starry Saxifrage.

Mossy Campion.

Roseroot. Phwoar!!!

Green Spleenwort. A lifer for me.

No idea what this stuff is.

Meadow Saxifrage. Think this is my favourite of the three saxifrages featured here. 

And a real surprise, as I don't remember clocking it at the time. There are a lot of similar white plants on mountains. This looks good for Spring Sandwort. Another one I have seen but not for decades.

Two for one here with Common Butterwort and Alpine Meadow-rue. I have not seen many of these plants since I went up Glenn Feshie in 2004! Half a life time ago.

Beech Fern.

Two very odd looking bryophytes.

And a lichen very like a Cladonia but I think it must be something else.

It's been a while. I think this must be Dioecious Sedge.

Closer now. Only the second time I have seen Northern Rock-cress.

Then, there it was! The enigmatic Snowdon Lilly! What a beaty!

What an amazing trip, and a massive thanks to Breeze B&B in Llandudno for being such great hosts and a HUGE thanks to Richard for being such a great guide. We walked 15.6 miles that day, the most I have walked in years. And the day after another mountain, I was surprised how quickly I recovered (apart from some awful lurgy I picked up). Anyways, that leaves me one last spider on the way home...

Day 4. A quick nip in to a site to spot Rugathodes bellicosa. My 525th UK spider. I think that means, for the time being at least, I have seen more spiders than anyone else in the UK. But I would love to be proven wrong!

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