Rare spider with comedy face on abdomen

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 20 April 2017 18:33

Last year I beat two immature Philodromus of the low branches of a pine tree at Graffham Common. I was convinced then that it was the Lichen Running-spider Philodromus margaritatus. However, I couldn't be sure. I started an invertebrate survey there today and found this immature female on the same branch! And nowhere else on the site. Now this is a BAP species (Nb) but with very few records. Check out the BAS page on the species here. It has only two records in Sussex both from Lavington (very close to Graffham) in 1979 and 1984. It's not been seen since in the county and this means it's a new species for any Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve. 

Although it's not adult and I can't be 100% sure it's that species, I really can't see what else it is. I'll go and look for it again next month but who really cares when it has such a cute face on its abdomen?

Goodbye Nikon Coolpix 4500, hello Olympus TG-4

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 7 April 2017 16:39

I've finally got a new camera! And I don't mean a fourth Coolpix. I only heard about the Olympus TG-4 about three weeks ago and have been counting down the days until the next tax year to get one. It's insanely good and easy in macro function, check out the awesome Horsetail Weevil Grypus equiseti which I found in a pile of litter at Waltham Brooks yesterday. This is the first record in Sussex since 1985.

Also yesterday was Philorhizus sigma, this being only the 2nd site for this (outside of Amberley next door) for this Na carabid.

This is the very cool Prasocuris phellandrii, which was all over one compartment yesterday. I've only seen this once before at Pevensey Marshes.

And here is a comparison between the normal macro and the photo stacking functions. Gotta learn my way around it but I'm pretty pleased with half an hour messing around in the garden.

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 3 April 2017 21:41

So Evan Jones has been to the exact spot and found a number of what must be Pardosa paludicola. There must be quite a population established there that are thriving under the pulsed grazing regime. I'm going to keep this brief and just use this post to show off Evan's shots of this impressive spider. What a beast!

When the Mouse ate the Wolf

Posted by Graeme Lyons 09:42

Last week we started a new invertebrate survey of our Butcherlands site, part of the wider Ebernoe reserve. This is an interesting project with a heavy 'rewilding' approach. The grazing is pulsed and has been mostly carried out over the winter months over the last three years with cattle, no other management currently occurs. In some places, the cattle were still on, so there was little to sweep and nothing to beat. Mostly we were looking at blackthorn and sallow blossom.

The site is a complex of fields on Wealden clay with thick hedgerows. Some sixteen years ago it was all arable. Hilland is the field that often throws up the most surprises. It has the nationally scarce specialist heathland spider Evarcha arcuata which I have only ever seen on heathlands before. It has Wild Service Tree naturally regenerating in the open. We had literally turned the clock on when I spotted what looked like a black Trochosa (a large wolf spider) so I took the specimen. It wasn't until I got home that I realised it was a mature female Pardosa paludicola. This RDB3 species is genuinely rare having not been seen in the UK since 2004. I must admit I hadn't even heard of it. I was working late at this point, maybe 9.00 pm and fortunately managed a record shot of the distinctive epigyne above. Exhausted, I went to bed and left the spider under my microscope.

When I went to look at it a few days later and put it in alcohol, I found the specimen had gone. Several legs were still there. In the middle of these legs was a tiny poo. Now I did see a mouse in the kitchen a couple of weeks ago but I wasn't expecting that! The little bugger kept me awake all last night too rooting around in my bin.

Anyway, it would seem that the exact habitat requirements of this species are not clear. It was last seen in Sussex in at Plaistow (date unknown - the record is not with SxBRC but is mentioned on the BAS wesbite), which as the crow flies is only around two miles from where I found it. And this being only one of seven sites it has ever been recorded at. What a great find for what was just arable fields several years ago. Who needs to introduce wolves when we already have them running through our grasslands? I look forward to seeing what else we find this summer...

Gherkins, lemons and lobsters: the best rock pooling I've ever had!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 29 March 2017 18:12

Last night was the biggest low tide of the year and a few of us (Evan Jones, Tony Davis and Oli Froom) decided to go and have a look at the Pound at Holywell, Eastbourne as in January we found a sea slug there and I was taken by how rich and easy to work it was. It was amazing! I don't even know where to start. Maybe with the star of the show above. It's not too hard to guess what it is but I just love this photo taken by Oli.

Every rock we turned over seemed to have a Shanny or a Rock Goby under, like this stunning male. We did see one Tompot Blenny but I didn't even get around to photographing that one.

We saw all manner of weird and wonderful worms including bootstrap worms which I have never seen before. Then Evan turned a rock over and I couldn't believe what I was looking at!

We believe this huge (15 cm) 'thing' is a Sea Gherkin Pawsonia saxicola. It's way east of its known distribution but we don't think there is anything else it can be. It retracted when we put it in the tray rather than unfurling its tentacles. Quite disgusting. I love it!

Then Evan struck gold again with as you've guest it, my first ever Lobster!!!

Tony had more luck picking it up than me as it nipped me straight away much to his amusement. Here it is next to a Squat Lobster. This is an unbelievable beautiful animal.

And the Squat Lobster too. 

And Oli's tail shot again as it's so great!

Under the same rock as the Lobster, Evan turned up a Yellow-plumed Sea-slug Berthella plumula!!! Another new one for me and quite uncommon.

Then Evan...wait a minute, if you're thinking, why are the other three of you not turning anything up, you'd be kinda right. Evan was a total machine and we were left in wonder at his finds to the point that he had turned up the next mega before we had finished photographing the last. Such as these mating Sea Lemons Archidoris pseudoargus, yet another type of sea slug!!!

We reached the point at which the Pound was draining out to sea through a series of weirs. We are in the kelp zone here, a zone only revealed at very low tides.

Actually I didn't need to find anything as I had an 'Evan on a stick' as can be seen in the photo below.

Then Evan on a stick found yet another exciting species, this Snapping Prawn! Sadly missing its claws.

It was quite simply the most mind-blowingly awesome rock-pooling I've ever had! A massive thank you to Evan for finding...EVERYTHING! So much so that I rushed down to Seaford Head before my meeting in the morning to get another fix but it wasn't anywhere near as good. These Dahlia Anemones though were stunning!

On an even keel

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 25 March 2017 15:51

What a keel! So not even a triple 50th birthday party last night could stop me from getting out in the field this morning. I joined Huw Morgan and his work party again at the Deneway in Brighton. I added 35 species to the reserve including this Sowerby's Keeled Slug. I also saw Iberian Threeband Slug. Both these species were new to the whole reserve network. We are currently on 9834 species across the 32 sites! Only 166 to go. Pretty sure it will happen this year now.

Also picked up the spider Amaurobius ferox.

100 species an hour

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 19 March 2017 12:12

Yesterday Dave Green and I tested out the recording forms I put together for the 1000 species challenge. It was an AMAZING day and we got a 100 species from the car before we even got to Levin Down. The recording forms worked well but this test run was a great way to see what works and what doesn't. Keeping a running count is harder than you would think though. Sieving moss (above) and beating Juniper yesterday was extremely productive, unlike the suction sampler.

We managed about 250 species in the first 2 hours 30 minutes. Not bad for an overcast windy day in March! I had two lifers, we go lots of species new to the site and one species new to the reserve network found by Penny! Now on the day, it's just gonna be Dave and I recording but it's so much fun doing this there is no way we could have all the fun on our own. Some interesting facts, our first raptor was at species 85 and that was Red Kite! We didn't see or hear a Dunnock all day nor a single migrating Meadow Pipit but that might be down to the breeze. The first species was Cuckooflower and the last was Pied Wagtail. 

We are pretty sure this species is Cordyceps gracilis, a rare parasitic fungus that we have seen at Mill Hill years ago. Have a look here for the post I did at the time. Yesterday there were two of them. There were also LOADS of Platyrhinus resinosus. 14 on clump of Cramp-balls! I've only ever seen three before! Thanks to Penny and Dave for the photos. I found this new to West Sussex (and only the 2nd Sussex record) at Levin last year. It's clearly done very well up there. Look out for it in the area.

The final score was 294 species comprised of:

Vascular plants 126
Bryophytes       13
Lichens             2
Birds                 39
Mammals          5
Beetle                26
Centipede          2
Millipede           5
Crustacean         5
Springtail           1
Earwig               2
Tick                    1
Hymenoptera     9
Moths                2
Bugs                  11
Flies                   4
Molluscs            16
Spiders               19

So, aiming for a 1000 species in a 24 hour period isn't looking quite so daunting now!

What's that coming over the hill?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 16 March 2017 10:28

This post is mostly about the value of casual recording. On Monday and Tuesday this week I need to walk around our three chalk-grassland sites Southerham, Malling Down and Ditchling Beacon on a compartment by compartment basis to check on our winter grazing. Now I've also been a fan of casual recording on top of the more structure monitoring and surveillance but since I put the spreadsheet together, it's really made me realise how little we know about our sites. So where ever yo are, if you always record the most interesting species of the day, you'll likely be recording something significant.

On Monday I walked up Southerham and the first beetle I encountered was new to the reserve, the common dung beetle Aphodius fimetarius flying around a cow pat. Not much happened then until I got to Bible Bottom where I saw my first Wheatear of the year on top of an isolated Hawthorn. I lifted my binoculars to this larger and paler than usual Wheatear to see it was a Great Grey Shrike! The first for the reserve and my first self found one. Amazingly we now have records of Great Grey Shrike at 10 out of the 32 sites. That's the same as Curlew, Med. Gull, Teal and Woodlark and more than Golden Plover. We only have records of Lesser Black-backed Gull at 11 sites!

Then on Tuesday I was walking up the Coombe at Malling Down when I saw a huge ungainly spider walking awkwardly towards me over a ridge. I was amazed to see it was a male Purse-web Spider Atypus affinis on a spring vacation from its subterranean lair! What a treat, I've only seen this spider twice before but in quite different circumstances so this was really exciting! We haven't had a record of this before at Malling and it's the first record on a reserve since 1968 at Iping and Stedham!

Here is another shot from the side. The Coolpix isn't doing too well these days since I dropped it in a rock pool. I'm planning on getting a new camera next month though and it's NOT going to be another Coolpix!!! Anyway, love this shot as you really can see how odd this spider. Even the male's abdomen has like a weird armoured cap on top. Huge pits in the cephalothorax too. Whatever will turn up next?

And the field season starts with a bang!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 12 March 2017 21:00

So yesterday was the first proper day out in the field in 2017 and what an awesome day it was! Andy Phillips organised a BAS day to our Old Lodge reserve Our Mission; to find Thanataus formicinus, a spider not seen in Britain since 1969. We didn't find it but it didn't matter as we found loads of other cool stuff and I soon forgot I was even looking for it. What was great for me about this day is it's the first day out in the field on one of SxWT's reserves since I created the spreadsheet. It's changed the way I do natural history!

So far we added 14 species to the site list (but expect this to go up as the other's identifications come in). Even better though, three of these species were new to my own list and two of these were entirely new to any Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve. So here is a breakdown of those 14 species and some notes on them. What's even more remarkable is that Chris Bentley and I did a very detailed invertebrate survey on the site in 2013, just shows you can never cover a site enough.

Aculeates (both of these are common and shows the site is quite under-recorded for aculeates)
Andrena bicolor
Andrena nitida

Aphodius sphacelatus (common as muck - literally being a dung beetle)
Anisotoma orbicularis (new for me and the site)
Acalles ptinoides (Nb - I've only seen this once at Iping in 2012. This time it was in the suction sampler)
Stenus kiesenwetteri (IUCN VULNERABLE. New to me. Old Lodge and any Trust reserve. The highlight of the trip...so far. Again it was in the suction sampler but spotted in the tray by Laurie Jackson)

Livia junci (AKA Mr Weird - a very odd looking psyllid)

Ixodes ricinus which was everywhere.

Stygnocoris sabulosus

Blaniulus guttulatus (sieved from Spahgnum)

Nesticus cellulanus (first time I've seen this away from caves)
Pholcomma gibbum (that's the photo above taken by Evan Jones - I've only seen it once before at Selwyn's Wood)
Ozyptila atomaria (an adult female in the suction sampler below)

Hypselistes jacksoni (a new one for me and any SxWT reserve. I thought that this was going to be a Hypomma but I soon realised it had a pair of eyes on top of the butt on its head that Hypomma bituberculatum doesn't have. It's clearly uncommon with a north western distribution. This fits with Old Lodge being higher and colder, it's a bit more like an upland moor than the West Sussex heaths.

This is Salticus cingulatus, a nice jumping spider not new to the site but the first time I've photographed it. A big thanks to everyone for an awesome day in the field.

...it was my ear and it came off when I fell out of a tree

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 10 March 2017 12:46

It's been a while since I posted one of my 12 year old bird diary entries and this is a corker. I have been looking forward to this one (hence skipping out the Snow Goose entry which was a bit boring really). So, it's 24th November 1990 and I'm fond of copying pictures from the Reader's Digest bird book. However, I think was my finest hour...

Very windy and cold with snow and hail now and then. We split up with Mr Berry at Park hall and went looking for the long eared owls. Then we saw a man with a strange cross bread dog (half dog, half bap), we asked him and he said that he had just saw one (in half) roosting in a tree and he marked a circle in the floor (AKA as ground Little Graeme) around the tree, we saw the bird but it was a bad view. We could make out the ear tufts.

So far so good and not that weird. Then we went looking for mushrooms...

              Then we whent to Shugborough for an hour, looked at some books had our dinner, there was some good books on fungi (I distinctly remember looking at the first edition of Roger Phillips and being amazed), and there was a disc on the computer called 'camping', which I was sent to hospital for drinking contaminated water. 

What?!?! This makes no sense to me, clearly there is a missing sentence and punch-line here. I have never been sent to hospital for drinking contaminated water. There is a slim chance Ewart will be able to shed some light on this but I think we might have to just accept that for what it is. Nonsense!

We saw some fungus, mycenas, parousel mushrooms and Jew's ear (that's Jelly Ear in the civilised age) fungus, which is very damp and soft and looks like someones ear (who knew?!). I pretended to Mr Berry that it was my ear and it came of when I fell out of a tree. Ha ha, I bet I thought he'd fall for it, I was totally convinced it looked identical to a human ear. The power of suggestion to a 12 year old!

Next up a Sociable Plover for an antisocial 12 year old...

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