There's nothing quite like the smell of Sphagnum on your hands

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 31 January 2024 19:28

I went out on Monday, my first time outside this year (other than the Northern Waterthrush twitch - AKA, shivering in a ditch for five hours on the one day it didn't show well - one of the worst natural history experiences of my life, saved only by bumping into Harry Witts, then dipping the Canvasback then getting detoured the wrong way around the M25). I really needed a day out wandering around a good site with no targets in mind, just the chance of a few good spiders. Typically, I was recording across taxonomic groups but focusing on spiders. I tend to head to the same sites for casual recording, so thought I should try and explore a bit more of Broadwater Warren, as I was last up there in 2020. Now, I did a lot baseline surveying on this site 17 years ago when I worked at the RSPB (but I wasn't really into spiders then), so I am very fond of this site. I spent a bit more time on the open heath on Monday, although I gravitated towards the Sphagnum later. 

It didn't take long to find a new site and hectad record for Rhysodromus histrio (above) by sweeping mature Heather. Fantastically camouflaged against the Heather foliage, this really is a heathland obligate - quite a rare thing amongst spiders. Nationally Scarce and restricted in Sussex to the West Sussex heaths and Ashdown Forest. With all the Heather being restored at Broadwater, it's not surprising that this has turned up. I found a second animal a few 100 m away, so good to see it established there. I nearly stood on a Woodock and also found a few Notiophilus quadripunctatus carabids on the scrapes (also a Nationally Scarce species). I thought I had an exciting liny with this little critter, but it was just Gongylidiellum vivum. You can see how small it is - that's an old Heather flower. I headed to the bog.

One of the commonest spiders in the Sphagnum in the bog, I must have seen about 15 or so, was Hahnia pusilla. A tiny spider that I didn't photograph, another Nationally Scarce species. That's more than I have seen in my life, I first recorded it there in early 2020 but only remember seeing one. The other really common specie there, is the money spider Centromerus arcanus. Ashdown Forest and Broadwater Warren are real outliers for this predominantly north-western species. Check out the SRS page for it, no species illustrates better how the High Weald is an 'upland island' in the south east. I also forgot to photo that species too. Then I sieved Euryopis flavomaculata, which is quite the looker (photo below). Yet another Nationally Scarce species.

With my muscles atrophied from four months of sitting at the desk, I was exhausted. Got stuck in some deep Sphagnum and decided to head back. There are some tussocks under Alder carr I remembered but it was hard to access and disappointing suction sampling them. Walking back to the car, I spotted a large patch of lush Sphagnum under pines. I have noticed that when sieving Sphagnum, big thick clumps of Sphagnum palustre are particularly good. I also have a rule; if I see something worth sampling, I have to sample it. It payed off. It almost always pays off. Loads more Hahnia pusilla, Centromerus arcanus, a Heather Shieldbug and an exciting little golden money spider. Little golden money spiders in Sphagnum are almost always exciting. Clearly a Centromerus, I looked at it as soon as I got in.

It was clearly Centromerus cavernarum. Nationally Rare, Near Threatened and new to East Sussex. The last Sussex record was by Dick Jones in 1998 at the very far end of West Sussex. I had hoped to spot this in Beech litter in the Chilterns late last year and have looked for it at many different sites in a casual way, but it was not on my radar for Sphagnum under pines! I love this genus, it's the 9th species I have seen in the genus and my 542nd UK spider! Being my first new species of 2024, my target is to get to at least 550 species by the end of the year! Here is the spider's rather lovely epigyne.

Pan-species listing has a brand new website!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 13 January 2024 18:13

How much things change in just three months! It only seems like five minutes ago we were discussing trialling putting the UK Species Inventory onto BUBO. It soon became evident that maintaining your list in BUBO and then adding your total on to the old BRC PSL website was just never going to work in the long run. So we started thinking, could we rebuild the website inside BUBO? If we could, it would need it's own identity though, to stop it getting lost in BUBO and it would need its own web address. We also got a slick new logo from Mark Lawlor, isn't it great?!

So after much work (mostly from the guys at BUBO I should add - but it's certainly taken up a lot of my time too), here it is: You don't need a new login ID and password, just use your existing one from BUBO and everything you have added will be there. They have done a fantastic job, it looks and feels great and does what we dreamt about when we first came up with the idea of a PSL website over 10 years ago but until now, were not able to do. 

The great thing is, it's run internally, so it will be easier to update and evolve than it ever was before. It's still free but it does cost to run it, so do please make a donation if you can. 

So what next for the BRC site?

Well, we'll keep it running for maybe the rest of the year, to give those a chance who have not added their lists on to the new site, to do so.

I will no longer be accepting new accounts to the old site. All new pan-species listers should go to and sign up there.

Once you are happy to say goodbye to the old site, please write something along the lines of "As of 13th January 2024, my pan-species list is now up to date on and I am no longer updating my list here" in the comments section of your profile.

A huge thanks to David Roy, John van Breda, Biren Rathod, Charles Roper and Bob Foreman as well as Biological Records Centre and Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre for their help and support over the last decade. It's a bit sad saying goodbye to the old site as I have pretty much used it every day for a decade but not that sad - as the new one is so awesome!

What's different on the new site?

We haven't gone for a like-for-like rebuild of the old site. Many of the features of the BRC site were not well used (especially those that emulated social media) so we haven't tried to replicate those. Energy has been focused on making the areas that were well used, much better.

Obviously, the huge difference is that you can now tick off all UK species, see other people's lists and use all the neat functions like 'targets' and 'blockers' but most of you will be used to this already, as it's been happening on BUBO for the last three months. See some of my earlier posts on this if you are not up to date.

We have updated the the 'Rankings News' section on the front page of the old site (on the new site, now called 'Listing Milestones'). I think it looks great, it doesn't have ranking changes this time, but more detail on progression through the taxonomic groups. And those grey boxes whenever you hit a multiple of a thousand? Yeah. We kept those, in all their glory.

We have new summary stats, showing the total number of species that all listers collectively have listed (currently 21,821) and the total number of listers and lists too.

We've updated the 'about' info (here), included an updated section on 'guiding principles' (a rebranding of what we used to call 'the rules').

That's enough of me waffling on, go and have a look around!

This just leaves one question. What exactly does happen when you reach 10,000 species? I have no idea, and it's a tightly guarded secret by the person who coded it. Here are some suggestions:

  • The site automatically orders you a cake.
  • Chris Packham offers to do all your data entry or all your washing up for a year (your choice).
  • David Attenborough comes around your house, impersonates your favourite song bird for one hour, then awards you an oversize medal that you MUST wear every day for the rest of your life.
  • You get this message: "You have completed pan-species listing. Your list will now be wiped and you must start again, or get a new hobby".
  • Some variation on the spectacular grey box, maybe with a gold frame and a fanfare of trumpets.

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