Everything, everywhere, all at once

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday 31 May 2024 21:41

It's took quite some effort to race through the remaining specimens and get the data into a useful format, though here we are. First off, all the photos in the post (unless I state otherwise) are Dave's that he took with his phone (like this stonking Stenocorus meridianus on Wood Spurge at Hoyle). They are far better (and more numerous) than the few I took on the day.

Before I start, a massive thanks to everyone who donated. We raised an incredible £2680! You can still donate here.

First off, the overall total for the challenge was 1072 species found, recorded and identified on the day. Just 37 species more than we managed in 2017. However, with the specimens I took, that figure rose to 1158 species. Pretty pleased with that. The total number of invertebrates found and identified on the day was 555 species, rising to 622 with all the identifications added. Here's how are totals compared to 2017 and what they looked like after the identifications made post 25th May were added. I was surprised we had such lower plant totals but we really did well on spiders and beetles. 

Our route went: Burton Pond, Graffham Common, Hoyle Farm, Levin Down, Rewell Wood, Climping Dunes, Peppering Farm and then back to Dave's. Singleton and Charlton were also pretty good!

Burton Pond

I'll put the full species list at the end but for now, some highlights. First up, Burton Pond. We spend the first seven hours at this very diverse site on the Greensand Ridge. I was pleased to find that we recorded 73 species of invertebrate there that had not been recorded there before, including five species never recorded on a Trust reserve before. Such as this Nationally Scarce sapro, Prionychus melanarius I found under bark in the Warren. 

We set the moth traps up and turned them on at exactly midnight, with one minute to spare! We then got onto beating, sweeping and suctioning before the dew started. I am not good on very little sleep and spent the first two hours trying to overcome an intense sense of impending doom. Then the Moon came up and it started to get pretty cold - but it was really weird being out so long that we watched the Moon go back down again. We did get a few good moths though, including 15 species new to the site. Surprising for such a small moth list and a well-recorded site!

Bird's Wing was indeed new to the site and Dave got excited by it!

A Privet Hawk-moth scared the bejesus out of us!

While we got a few larvae as well, including a couple I have not come across before. This is Dingy Footman.

And this two-tone fluffkin is actually a Rosy Footman!

Nightjars were all over Burton, which really surprised me. Over the day we got to 77 bird species, which I think is pretty good as we did not chase a single bird. We didn't however see a Kestrel, Little Egret or Bullfinch (the Great White Egret we had over Welch's Common on the reccy was a big ask to see on the day). I think I got about 10 lifers (which has helped get my personal pan-species list to 9000 species, wahoo!), mostly through the specimens but this gelechid was common at light there. It's Carpatolechia proximella.

We left Burton after a glorious sunrise to head to Graffham Common. Great photo, Dave!

Graffham Common
For some reason, we didn't take any photos at all at Graffham. It was oddly quiet there. Uloborus walckenaerius was in the first sweep net and we soon heard Hobby, Siskin, Crossbill and Garden Warbler. We still got 12 species new to the site, including (and this really surprises me) Lesser Cockroach - which was new to the Trust reserve network. I am sure it must have been reported from Rye Harbour?

Hoyle Farm
We got to Hoyle shortly after 9.00 am. I first surveyed this site last year and my third visit of the survey produced the most field dets I have ever had (297 inverts in just six hours of recording back in August last year). So we had to visit it. It did not disappoint. After a slow start at Graffham Common, it soon felt like we might make the 1500 species after 2.5 hours at Hoyle. Despite recording 621 species over three days last year, we still recorded 50 species on Saturday that I did not pick up last year. A highlight for me was this Pilemostoma fastusoa (Nationally Rare and Near Threatened) this species is not that uncommon on Common Fleabane in the West Weald. In fact, we had five species of tortoise beetle in an hour. So have a Nationally Scarce Cassida prasina too! These are my only photos here, my lens looks scratched compared to how bright Dave's phone shots are.  

I was explaining to Dave my rule that if I see something, I have to sample it. I saw a big stand of Blackthorn and tapped it. Out popped a Brown Hairstreak! It's not every day you see this Vulnerable, Section 41 butterfly and it made up for the lack of any Purple Hairstreak larva.

We got into the woods there which were also really great, including large charismatic species such as the longhorn at the top and this Chrysomela populi on Aspen.

A massive thanks to Bianca for hosting us and a providing coffee and nuts! I'm glad we were able to find so many new species for the site, including some really key invertebrates.

Levin Down (via Singleton and Charlton)
It got very hot between 1 and 2 pm and I started feeling a bit unwell in the sun. But I ploughed on. Obviously we added a lot of new plants but the inverts were not coming through as thick and fast as we would have liked.

We did get a few nice spiders though. Including the Nationally Rare/Vulnerable Trichoncus saxicola, at its only Sussex site. Entelecara flavipes (another Nationally Scarce money spider) was new to the whole reserve network. Butterflies were good, with Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper and Small Blue added here (we had 15 butterflies on the day!). This ball of Common Blues in mating frenzy was something!

A few nice bees too but they were not new to the site, Stelis ornatula, Andrena florea, Ceratina cyanea and Osmia bicolor were all nice and easy to ID species (although I didn't spot the Ceratina in the field). However, the super rare stonefly Nemoura lacustris that I found in the specimens was a lifer and another species new to the reserve network. On the NBN, there is a cluster of records around Charlton would you believe it. I guess it must be a chalk stream thing! What a result. I am so pleased we added 24 species to the Levin site list. In fact, between the three Trust sites we surveyed, 109 were new site records and a whopping NINE species had never been recorded on any Trust reserves.

Rewell Wood
This site really didn't pay off for some reason (two many species already picked up on similar soils maybe) and it went from being swelteringly hot to cool in the blink of an eye. A Pearl-bordered Fritillary was a target but the Cream-spot Tiger netted in flight was a highlight. It was at Rewell that it dawned on us that we were not going to make the 1500 species.

Climping Dunes
It was quite cold by the time we got to Climping, so many of the species I found on the reccy could not be refound. The plants were great though. And Sand Catchfly was a highlight for the whole day. There were a few nice inverts like Grey Bush-cricket, Dune Robberfly and Acrosathe annulata.

And the days only fish...a Small-potted Catshark.

And then back to Dave's for more moth-trapping and microscope work. It wasn't long before this Pygmy Shrew paid us a visit!

Although the first moth trapping at Burton was quiet, the trap was quite lively with an Alder Kitten a rare encounter for me. The last species of the day was this Great Silver Water Beetle. I was sat at the microscope for 2.5 hours but probably only added about 40 species. It was much harder doing this tired in someone else's house than I expected. In fact, it took about 15 hours to process all the specimens, and they only added about 150 species. So, for the 24 hour challenge, I actually think you are better not taking specimens. From a records point of view though, many of the best records came out of this lot.

So that's it! Here's us at about 7.00 am. We did not look like that by the second midnight! So before I finish with the entire species list, it's so long until the next time we are crazy enough to try something like this again.

Oh, one last thing. Out of the 622 inverts we recorded on the day, a whopping 58 had some form of conservation status (such species are included in bold in the following list). Many of these are now out of date but I have not had time to differentiate these. Also, this list is the full 1158 species and includes the 86 microscope IDs added after the challenge, I'll try and update it if I get time but a period of high pressure means I will be head down with work for days/weeks now. 

A quick summary of how we did...

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 27 May 2024 18:44

So, we didn't get to 1500 species as hoped. In fact, we were considerably short of it. We got to 1,069 species (expect this number to change a bit as I process the data, I suspect it might go up a little actually but not by much). Now this is more than we achieved in 2017 but not by much and interestingly in 2017 we got to 1,000 species way before we did this time (in 2017, species 1,000 was Drilus flavescens at around 19:30 at Levin, while on Saturday it was Rosy Footman at 22:00!). Despite seven years more experience, better planning and better health (hay fever and bad knees didn't scupper us this time), we struggled at times to build up that big list of inverts we had hoped for. 

The same view as above obscured by two dodgy-looking Homo sapiens (species no 1).

Firstly, it wasn't for want of trying - the whole thing was a mixture of incredible highs and a few lows. We did not stop for the whole 24 hours. Getting up at 22:45 with just four hours sleep was brutal. Then hearing Nightjars, Field Crickets, Woodlarks and Nightingales all around Burton and watching the sunrise there was just wonderful. Feeling feint on Levin was really nasty but seeing the huge diversity of wildlife at Hoyle Farm was a site to behold. From species 2 at 00:00 being Field Cricket through to the final species at 23:59 being Great Silver Water Beetle at light, we did not stop for the whole 24 hours except to drive between sites and eat.

Several things didn't line up for us. Despite great weather in the day, between 02:00 and 8:00 it got very cold, and the dew was so heavy at Burton Pond it made sampling then impossible. It's not been a great season for moths either, so the first moth traps at Burton, were very light on moths. We also had a couple of sites that didn't produce as many species as we had hoped and finally, by 17:00 the sun went in and it got very cold again. It's also a lot harder to identify species at the microscope when you are tired out of your mind than I was expecting! And collecting specimens takes time too, which must eat into this. Game theory is quite key to this challenge and some things that you think will work in your favour don't necessarily pay off. However, all of these specimens will be identified (probably this week looking at the weather). And I will include them when I write a more detailed blog later this week.

I have entered nearly half the data so far and a few early stats include 109 species of spider, 15 species of butterfly (including this lovely Brown Hairstreak larva at Hoyle Farm) and and 146 beetles. I was hoping for something like 400 beetles and 200 spiders, clearly I was wrong to aim so high. Is 1,000 inverts possible in day? I think so easily but maybe if you are only doing inverts. Not sure how many plants we have but the Sand Catchfly at Climping was a highlight for Dave.

And finally, the really amazing thing is how much people have donated! We have raised £2284 for Sussex Wildlife's Trust reserve management! A huge thanks to everyone who donated, especially to the Pebble Trust, Edward Norfolk and Charlie Burrell for their incredibly generous donations. You can still donate here on the Just Giving page. Anyways, watch this space for a full write up later this week.

We're going to try and record 1,500 species in 24 hours, will you try and beat us in your area?!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 28 March 2024 09:51

Put the weekend of the 25th and 26th May (with 15th & 16th June as a back up), in your diaries. What time? I hear you say. ALL day, I say. Midnight to midnight. Make no mistakes, this going to hurt. As Douglas Adams said about the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster: It's effects are similar to having "your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick". Change the lemon to a sweep net and the gold brick to your suction-sampler, and you're starting to get the idea. We are going to try and see and identify 1,500 species (including my own secondary challenge of 1,000 invertebrates) in a single day! This is the sequel to the challenge we set up and achieved in 2017, (that's me and Dave some 12 hours in, in 2017, above) you can read about that here.

I have now set up a Just Giving page which you can access here. We are fund raising for the management of Sussex Wildlife Trust's reserves, which we will be spending most of our time on.

I've been toying with the idea for a few years of trying this again but with a higher target this time BUT I have had years of back problems until this winter that put me off it So, we've been fleshing out the rules and if you want to do it in your region too, you are more than welcome, the more the merrier. The rules are:
  1. It has to be Saturday 25th May or Sunday 26th May. Go with the best day weather-wise in your area. If the weekend is a wash out, then the 15th & 16th June have been selected as a back up but there the only dates we are doing it. This is the only deviation from the rules we set up in 2017, to allow for some regional variation in weather. The following rules are all the same.
  2. It has to be from midnight to midnight in one 24 hour period of a single day.
  3. It has to be teams of two. No more. And you must see everything together (although you both don't have to ID it). This is to stop people splitting up into groups and to encourage some aspect of learning and camaraderie.
  4. We'd much rather you find a partner to work with but if you don't have any friends, then it's going to be a major handicap to do this solo, so we'll allow it if you have no choice. Scribing alone is going to be extremely intense. I really want to encourage people to find a partner though, as we have set this up as a two person challenge and we could always do a solo one another time.
  5. If one person ducks out due to tiredness, they can no longer record as soon as they leave you or until they return. Again to stop people splitting up.
  6. One vehicle. With as much equipment as you like. You can deploy traps but they can't be activated until midnight. So you could dig a few pitfalls in but they have to have lids on until midnight, set some moth traps up but you can't start them until midnight etc. Bare in mind though that you can only have one vehicle full of equipment with only two people in it. Other people can attend but not help in anyway, including with kit.
  7. Moral support in terms of food and drink bought in by other people is OK though.
  8. You can start and finish where you like and drive as much as you like.
  9. Supporters can't go and pin things down for you in advance. By all means, use your knowledge of your sites and local area, this will be vital but no one else can help.
  10. ALL records must be submitted to your local record centre afterwards.
  11. A running total must be kept. This is vital to stop you over/under counting but also to let you know where you are and if you have made it to the total!
  12. Carefully designed recording forms will be key to this but you're on your own for how they'll look.
  13. Leave a few hours at the end for microscope work if need be. All identifications though must be completed by midnight. After that it's game over. This is going to be very difficult to gauge.
  14. I'd also encourage everyone doing it to raise money for conservation charities in your area. I'm doing it for the Sussex Wildlife Trust and as yet, one undecided charity with a significant biological recording focus. Much of our route will be on SWT sites. So I'll start fund raising closer to the time so any support there will be much appreciated. I think a penny a species might be a good way to approach it.
Now I hope people don't think that's too strict. Just want to get the rules down so that people can then decide if and how they'll play it. It will be great to get a list of who is going to take part. You can a;ways do a different challenge if you don't want to play!

We know 1000 species is achievable but that was tough but we did that last time without suction sampler and without doing any microscope work, so I think 1500 species is doable.

I'm hoping to get the press, Springwatch and maybe even the Guinness Book of Records involved (we got on local BBC radio in 2017). I really doubt anyone has ever done anything like this before anywhere in the world, the closest being a bird race/bioblitz. Birds are going to be almost incidental in this. Provisionally we've said 75 species but it will be a waste of time to go looking for them, just wait for them to flush or fly over. The big gains will be in the inverts and plants.

Have I missed anything? I'm trying to be as inclusive as I can without making the rules too easy to flaunt. So any comments are welcome. Please let me know what you think and lets start putting some names down as to who exactly is involved. 
  • Graeme Lyons & Dave Green - In Sussex raising money for Sussex Wildlife Trust + one other charity.

I made 55,111 records of 4,505 species in 2023!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 14 March 2024 11:47

Last year, I really got much better at capturing the records I make throughout the year. Now I wasn't trying to 'pan-species year list' here, I was just trying to record as much as possible. I had no idea what I had recorded until I added it up two days ago - 'blind listing' if you will.

The grand total was of 55,111 records of 4,505 species. That would put me in 22 place (out of 239 people) on the PSL rankings and is more than half of everything I have ever seen (currently 8919 species). Of these 4,505 species, some 3,267 were invertebrates, including 1025 beetles and 401 spiders. Yet there is no way I could have done that without being involved in PSL for the last 14 years. I suppose this will be the decade in my life I get the most done. I am pretty pleased with these totals. That's 151 records every day on average. The majority of my records are from Sussex and I have already synchronized some 40,000 records with Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre. Actually, my peak was on 28th April with 1,042 records made as part of City Nature Challenge.

It's not all been easy. Mum died in January which was really tough. For the last two winters too I have had to condense six months write up and microscope time into four months to leave time to write the book on pan-species listing (this winter that was 192,000 words, over 18 reports), which has meant very long days and very few days off. I am very grateful here for a thing called hyperfocus. I am 80,500 words into the book and the other unexpected thing this year, was discovering that I am both autistic and ADHD (AuDHD) as part of my research for the book. 

That's a HUGE thing to take in and this is me publicly coming out about it for the first time. That's where the hyperfocus comes from then. In some ways, it helps explain my obsessive energy for natural history and my better-than-average-memory but it also sheds light on areas of my life that do not work as well as they should. Someone described it to me once as "having a brain like a Ferrari but with the brakes of a Nissan Micra." And for all those people who have criticised my spelling over my life, this explains why (and why it annoys me so much). I wonder how many other pan-listers are neurodivergent? I bet a fair few are specifically AuDHD too. "We're all on the spectrum somewhere" comments are not helpful BTW, it's usually people feeling awkward, trying to shut you down from talking about something that makes them feel uncomfortable and dismissing what you have discovered about yourself. Try getting a proper assessment and then we can try that conversation again, I guarantee it will be totally different. More on the pros and cons of neurodivergence another time.

Anyways, back to the recording. The bulk of these 55,111 records are from paid surveys, I had 93 field days in my schedule last year, slightly more manageable than previous years. Well, 12 of these days were from two voluntary surveys but I treat them the same in my schedule. I did however, do quite a bit of recording outside of work. I wasn't year-listing spiders, so have done very little recording after September but I did do away quite a bit, the idea being to research the book and meet as many pan-listers as possible that I had not yet met. I had week on the Isle of Wight in March, I did City Nature Challenge at the end of April/start of May, a trip to North Wales and Snowdonia at the end of May (Great Orme being the furthest north I went), the PSL field trip to Sandwich Bay at the end of June (furthest east) and then another week away to Dorset in September and a long weekend in Cornwall in October (furthest south and west). I recorded in 89 hectads throughout the year.

And here, at the Sussex level.

I use a rotation of ten notebooks, never taking one in the field that already has data in. I get this into Excel ASAP, then import this into my Recorder 6 database. Specimens wait until the winter. It works!

Here is the breakdown of the number of species in each group  that I recorded in 2023, I was blown away by 1025 beetles! I really had no idea.

Late last year and early this year, the new pan-species listing website was launched, it really is rather good and there has never been a better time to get involved with the movement. Have a look here and get involved!

With the advent of the new website, it's very easy to start pan-species year-listing but a word of caution with that. Pan-species listing is a life long vocation to see as much as you can, over your whole lifetime. If you become too distracted with annual year-listing of everything, not only will you have missed the point of PSL, you could also find that your list doesn't grow as fast as it could and you could also start falling into the trap that so many birders do. Driving around the country to the same places each year to see the same species. What I would suggest is, go for it maybe once or say once a decade but don't start doing it every year OR do it blind like I have here. If I started ticking everything off the new website each year, not only would I lose loads of valuable time at the microscope, I'd start chasing the targets. Which would mean losing more time in the field where I should be finding things I had never seen before.

What better way to celebrate the madness of last year then, with a belated top ten of my wildlife highlights. Some of which, I never got around to writing on my blog. Now, I would have put the creation of the new PSL site as number one, but I wanted these to be about actual sightings and records.

1). I found a spider new to Britain on Brighton Beach!

And it was a jumper too! I found this with Karen while I was monitoring the shingle creation/translocation project by Brighton & Hove City Council. It's Heliophanus kochii. More here.

2). Snowdonia and the Great Orme
I climbed two mountains in two consecutive days and got seven new spiders, thank to Richard Gallon. But finally seeing Snowdown Lily was possibly the best memory of all. More here.

3). The PSL field trip to Sandwich Bay
So many amazing memories and I really should write this up more in full now but I think cleaning up on shieldbugs and moths was the highlight. Here I include finally catching up with Greater-streaked Shieldbug and Restharrow. Thanks to Kev and Debs for organising.

4).  A week in Dorset
Another holiday with a heavy PSL slant. Lots of good moths but finally seeing Scaly Cricket was the highlight, as was all the time on Portland. More here.

5). Trip to Cornwall in October to meet Sally, Finley and Louis
Another one that needs writing up BUT relocating a spider I had found ten year earlier, confirming it as Enoplognatha mandibularis and getting my 2nd spider new to Britain in 2023 (although it was 2013 originally). Unarmed Stick-insect was a close second. 

6). Isle of Wight in March
A huge thanks to Mark Telfer for showing me around the island and for all the lifers! Yet my self found Edmundsella pedata at Freshwater Bay was my highlight. More here.

7). Finding Nephrotoma sullingtoniensis during City Nature Challenge
I helped secure Brighton and Hove as the city that recorded the most species AGAIN in 2023 but to actually find one of the rarest UK flies with very few previous records and add to our understanding of this rare species phenology and life cycle. More here.

8). Surveying Hoyle Farm
I had a great time at this place, with my highest total of field dets of invertebrates for a day (298) and my largest overall day total of invertebrates (367). There were plenty of rare plants there too. More here.

9). A work trip to Devon
I was working on Moor Barton, and picked up a few nice things down there in the evenings and on my way back home. Finally catching up with Cliff Tiger Beetle, Marsh Fritillary and Lulworth Skipper were some of the highlights.

10). Surveying the Downland Estate for BHCC
I am working my way through a landscape scale biodiversity study of these incredible 5000 ha of farm and downland. So far, I have made 13,422 records of 1618 species. Including 1160 invertebrates (not all in 2023 mind). I thought I had found this weevil new to Britain but I was beaten to it, Aulacobaris caerulescens. It was new to East Sussex at least.


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday 26 February 2024 18:22

Today is species 200 in #speciesaday, a series of daily 'microblogs' that I have been doing on Twitter for the last 200 days. Why bother? Well, I haven't had much time to do longer blogs lately, and I really like the snappy format of being restricted to 280 characters. I also REALLY like playing with my maps. As my Recorder 6 database hits 252,611 records, the maps are starting to be quite meaningful. So here are the rules...

  • I have to do it every day. So far so good, but this is the 3rd time I have attempted this. Don't think I got this far before though...
  • It must be something I have seen and have a photo of.
  • If I have a meaningful story to tell about the distribution of my records, I will. Including how many records I have for it, etc.
  • I'll include as much info as I can, including conservation statuses.
  • No repeats.
This means I need to keep track of what I have featured so far. I was surprised to see that out of 200 species, beetles were winning with 63 species featured and spiders were a long way behind at 37 species. I do tend to feature whatever I am writing about at the time for work, so they are often out of season. That will change come the summer! This does mean there is a tendency to feature rarer things, as that's what I usually photograph and have to write about in reports. In fact, 117 out of 200 species featured had some form of conservation status. My mean number of records for feature species is 41.8.

Will I ever run out species? Well, I add new species to my PSL list at a rate of about 1.2 to 1.5 species a day and this has been consistent for well over a decade. So I doubt it! But I might run out of species that make good photos. Not any time soon though!

Here is today's effort featuring the photo from the top of this post.

1/3 #speciesaday no. 200 is Pardosa paludicola. Nationally Rare & Endangered. Massive, near-black wolf spider, speckled with golden hairs. Known from less than 10 UK sites. Early adult period, although females later. White egg sacks, like a Pirata.

2/3 I have 16 records from two sites. 15 from Butcherlands next to Ebernoe in West Sussex and one male from a site in Hants. Both could be considered as pragmatic/hybrid rewilding projects (although this is likely coincidence).

3/3 At Butcherlands, as of 2022 it had spread to six fields after I first discovered it there in 2016.

I do sometimes put these on Facebook too but it really goes from a 10 minute thing to a 30 minute thing if I do this. So best to get on Twitter to see these daily updates.

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