Finally, I get some honey!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 30 September 2010 19:51

And what did it take? A ride in a convertible with the top down. Mark Anscombe's to be precise. We pulled up at the lights just east of Arundel where the dual carriageway of the A27 comes to an end. I had my bag (and therefore my bins) in the foot well as there was no room in the boot. A dark Honey Buzzard drifted south over the car with wings held flat just as we stopped and I had a great view as it drifted into the sun, flapping only once. Mark was embarrassed when I started birding from his open topped car. I have never found a Honey Buzzard on migration and after years and years of checking every buzzard I  have ever seen, I finally get one when I am in an open topped car. How awesome is that?! We closely followed it up with a chicken (on a verge) and whilst parked, a deadwood invertebrate entered the vehicle, the hoverfly Myathropa florea.

The Autmnal Suspects

Posted by Graeme Lyons 19:28

Look at this unlikely line-up! Despite last night's weather, there were around 10 species in the moth trap at Woods Mill last night. At this time of year, there are a whole suite of moths with yellow/orange markings, perfect camouflage to hide against the yellowing leaves of autumn. September moths are something special, a welcome break to the boring brown underwings and rustics of August. It also reminds me of the first moth trap I ever ran, it was on my school roof way back in September 1990. It was so cold at Woods Mill this morning, I was able to arrange the moths (with enough time for just one photo!) on a yellowing dock leaf. So, from left to right the above suspects are: Frosted Orange, Pink-barred Sallow, Sallow, Barred Sallow and Beaded Chestnut. So who's guilty? It's the Barred Sallow, I told him he wasn't allowed in the moth trap again.

Fennel Funnel

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 29 September 2010 18:11

Not much happening today, a very grey day at Woods Mill. I am struggling to fit back in to a more office based life-style, I always get that this time of year. I went a walk around Hoe Wood and didn't see very much at all. I found what I was looking for though, this fungus which is known as Aniseed Funnel or Blue-green Clitocybe Clitocybe odora that I thought I saw yesterday. I prefer Fennel Funnel though, they missed a trick when naming that one. It does indeed smell of aniseed but not as strongly as it suggests in the book, perhaps these were older specimens. Another new species to my fungi list that has almost doubled this September!

Oil beetle in Woodvale Crematorium!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 28 September 2010 20:11

Last night a friend of mine, Nick Hunt, posted a picture of an oil beetle that he had found in Woodvale Crematorium in Brighton. I became excited and asked if we had got time to go and look for it but as the gates were closed, I didn't fancy scrambling over a fence with a slipped disc. I had to wait till morning then. Nick then told me he had found it under an old piece of cloth and had put it back there. This made me think it was highly likely to still be there in the morning. 

Last night I dug out Volume 14, Number 1, October 2002 edition of British Wildlife which has a key to the oil beetles in. I was pretty sure by last night it was Rugged Oil Beetle Meloe rugosus and low and behold it was still there this morning and that was what it keyed out to. Peter Hodge tells me the beetle is spreading but this may be the most westerly record in Sussex. They have a fascinating life history and are very bizarre looking things. A bit like a fat-ant but quite slow and ponderous with it. They are flightless but the larvae hitch a lift with bees before parasitising them in their burrows! A great find by Nick and it has certainly drawn my attention to Woodvale again. Here is the habitat of this rare animal, an old abandoned sleeve from a goth's shirt?!
Nick also found this smart blue carabid hanging around a gravestone, which I keyed out as the Prussian Plate-jaw Leistus spinibarbis, it's quite common but has some pretty cool feeding adaptations. It has a setal cage (a cage of hairs below its face for dropping over springtails, the only way out is via the expanded mandibles!).  I might try that with my dinner, I could well use a pair of expanded mandibles. These features are just about visible in this photo. 
I found a fungus on my way out that also might be of note and the county recorder has asked me to send some material off to Kew Gardens! Not bad for an hours natural history before work, thanks Nick!

The eye of the tiger

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 27 September 2010 19:20

OK, I made a mistake. I originally labelled this fungus as Earthfan Thelephora terrestris a few days ago after a field trip to Graffham Common but it's actually Tiger's-eye Coltricia perennis. We did see both species in fact, although with hindsight they look nothing like each other! I also saw Rosy Spike Gomphidius roseus but I dismissed it at the time as a funny looking Russula.

A friend in Brighton has found an oil beetle in a local cemetery today so I am going to meet him first thing and see if we can relocate it, how exciting, watch this space!

Octopus Stinkhorn

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 26 September 2010 17:48

I twitched my first fungus today and it was totally worth it. An amazing photograph posted by Ian Seccombe of Devil's Fingers or Octopus Stinkhorn at Chailey Common was enough to get me hooked. We headed to Pound Common and Oli found them first, three specimens looking a little tired and dry compared to the specimens in Ian's shot. This alien species does indeed smell like a rotting corpse, I made the mistake of sniffing it at close quarters which resulted in me nearly hurling up my lunch. I saw many other species today including Bay Bolete, Blushing Bracket, Brown Birch Bolete, Orange-peel Fungus more Fly Agarics than I have ever seen before and some Bearded Milkcaps (bottom photo). Thanks to Oli for lending me his camera today as I left my memory card at home again!

The Minotaur of Selwyn's Wood

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 25 September 2010 16:41

Alice and I moth trapped Selwyn's Wood on Thursday night but sadly it was a very poor night for moths. What truly stole the show was this male Minotaur Beetle Typhaeus typhoeus that came to light. This impressive dung beetle is more often detected by its burrows which I seem to see on heathland and sandy ground more than anywhere else. The males uses the protrusions on their pronotums to fight with other males. 
The moths were very few and far between, Pink-barred Sallows and Pinion-streaked Snouts were the highlights, I think we struggled to get ten species of macro despite warm and calm conditions. It did clear though soon after dark and there was a very bright moon that probably had a part in it. Here is a Pink-barred Sallow from the Woods Mill moth trap last week.

How low can I go?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 24 September 2010 18:53

Today I have been carrying out a lower plants survey of Graffham Common with Bruce Middleton, Jacqui Middleton and Howard Matcham. We saw lots of good stuff including Violet Crystalwort Riccia huebeneriana, a liverwort and only the second county record. There was LOTS of it around the edge of the pond.
Fungi are everywhere on the site, the commonest being a sticky bolete which is Bovine Bolete Suillus bovinus. Tawny Grisette is also very abundant. I saw a few fungi I had not seen before including False Chanterelle Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca. All in all, I have added 17 species to my all-taxa list today! Oh, I totally forgot there is a family of Hobbies in the area and we saw at least four mid air food passes from adults to young today. Also, singing Firecrest nearby.

Eyes on storks

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 23 September 2010 17:36

On the IALE conference field trip to the Cuckmere last week, Jim Latham from CCW took some nice shots of the White Stork and kindly emailed them to me (thanks Jim!). Just a quick one today as I am off to moth trap at Selwyn's Wood tonight...
And here is the poor thing getting mugged by the local chavs...the day after the sighting a White Stork was found in a moribund state and taken into care by the RSPCA. It may have been a different animal though as more sightings have occured since in the west but I think that is unlikely as it was not that far away.

Look into the eyes of our biggest jumping spider

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 22 September 2010 17:46

I know I have featured this spider before but I got some great shots today of what I think is the coolest spider we have in the UK. It's Marpissa muscosa, a nationally scarce jumping spider and also our largest. It likes bark/deadwood/fence posts in the sun and is quite common in Sussex being restricted to the south and east.

Also on the reserve today was a Whinchat and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (that I did not see, this was seen by Penny and Neil). I also had another fungus tick, three Shaggy Parasols in the little meadow.

Infectious fungal disorder

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 21 September 2010 17:53

I've been getting quite into my fungi recently. I called in to Ebernoe on my afternoon off and found nine fungi I had not seen before and a bug. Firstly the Pink Waxcaps Hygrocybe calyptriformis (first picture) are fruiting in the churchyard right now and are very photogenic. There is Butter Waxcap Hygrocybe ceracea there too.

Also in the churchyard I found this dinky little bolete which I managed to ID as Matt Bolete Boletus pruinatus. It was only about 2 cm across and had very tiny pores separating it from some closely related species.
Whilst I was photographing the above mushroom, this bug landed on my hand. It's Parent Bug and one that I have never seen before.
Still in the churchyard. With a little help from Barry Hughes of the West Weald Fungi Group I was able to identify this fungus as Velvet Brittlegill Russula violeipes. It has slightly pink stems that darken with age.
Finally I got out of the churchyard after about an hour and found lots of Porcelain Fungus on fallen Beech. They look a bit like jellyfish I think.
Later on I saw these huge boletes with red-flecked stems. I cut one open and it had red pores and flesh turned blue before I had pulled it apart. This is Boletus luridiformis. Thanks again to Barry for confirming my ID.
Finally, I saw this bolete with a collar and a slimy cap, it's Slippery Jack and yet another species I have not seen before. I'm well on target for 3000 species by Christmas...

Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 20 September 2010 17:11

I saw this really nice and fresh Fly Agaric in the woods at Woods Mill today. The white spots really remind me of crushed nuts on an ice cream. Mmm. Obviously, stay well away from this toxic/hallucinogenic nightmare. Nearby I saw these strange little grey fingers sticking up from the woodland floor. I am not convinced they have finished growing but I think they are Wrinkled Club Clavulina rugosa. I am not a hundred percent on this one yet and will go and have another look at the end of the week.
At the end of the reserve today I had two birds sitting next to each other that I have not seen in two and a half years of working at Woods Mill, two Whinchats and a Redstart!

Still twitching

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 19 September 2010 18:52

I always feel slightly dirty after a twitch and I feel doubly so today after twitching two birds, both of which were new to me. It is quite fitting that the photos should be equally dreadful and soiled. Oli and I went to Kent, first stop the White-rumped Sandpiper at Oare Marshes which was pretty easy and as we left the bird was still present. I saw a Bearded Tit there too. We zoomed off to Grove Ferry where the Wilson's Phalarope had not been seen for over an hour but after an hour of standing around ,it appeared for about 15 minutes. It was very active and was showing its unusual feeding movements which was pretty cool. It quickly buggered off out of view and that was that. See if you can spot it in this awful photograph. I can't remember the last time I had two lifers in the same day in the UK, must be seven years ago or more.
Finally, yesterday's mystery beetle larvae has been solved by Mark Telfer. The larvae is Drilus flavescens (a Na snail killer). I have seen the males earlier this year and they are quite small, the wingless females are much bigger though and I am sure this must have been a female due to how big it was.

Devil's Coach-horse and friends

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 18 September 2010 18:12

This is the Devil's Coach-horse Ocypus olens. A massive (2-3 cm) rove beetle with a serious attitude problem. You can see clearly the 'smelling glands' at the end of the abdomen that produce a foul smell but I didn't notice it. Those jaws look formidable. I love the colloquial name, I read  a myth that said reapers would embed one of these in their scythes to improve their technique! I went to Malling Down today and saw so little that I resorted to turning logs over. Under the same log as the Devil's Coach-horse was this carabid which is the common Abax parallelepipedus. It has a fairly broad pronotum with characteristic pairs of grooves.
I also saw this odd looking larvae that at first glance I thought was going to be an ermine moth or something in that family. I realised it was not Lepidoptera as I bent down to take the photo. However, I have so far not been able to identify this beast, I am pretty sure it is a beetle though. Watch this space. UPDATE: Mark Telfer identified this as the larvae of Drilus flavescens, a Na species and a south-eastern chalk-grassland specialist!
Finally, it's always a good day when you find one of your favourites. I will never get tired of Platystomos albinus. Look how cute it is! I told it a joke and it cracked up laughing!

White Stork lands in front of us on a conference field trip to the Cuckmere!!!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 16 September 2010 17:15

OK, picture the scene. I'm stood with a dozen delegates on an IALE landscape conference field trip on the edge of the mouth of the Cuckmere. We we were having an interesting discussion about the future management of the valley, I was, as ever distracted by birds, being migrating Meadow Pipits, Tree Pipits and Yellow Wagtails. In the corner of my eye I saw quite a few birders but they didn't look like they were on to anything in particular. Fifteen minutes later our group split, three going back to Seaford Head to get vehicles and the rest of us headed north along the Cuckmere. 

The group of birders from earlier were just ahead of us and this time my birding sixth-sense kicked in. They were all stationary with scopes pointing in the same direction. I could smell a twitch! I lifted my binoculars to see a massive White Stork flying straight towards us, mobbed by gulls. I shouted 'WHITE STORK!' several times and eventually everyone (bar the three who walked up the hill) got onto it. It flew very close and even landed on the path right in front of us! I caught up with the birders thinking I had stumbled on a twitch but when I spoke to Paul James, I realised that they had stumbled on the bird just moments before. How cool is that!? It was being hounded by every corvid, heron and gull in the area and is only the second time I have ever seen one in twenty years of birding. The photos are a little blurry as I took them through a birders scope. (thanks whoever you were!) Here it is flying off, awesome!

Alien community

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 15 September 2010 19:19

This is Sweet Flag, a species introduced to the UK probably before 1660 and was used as a sweet-smelling floor covering. At Frensham Great Pond, there are some very larger areas of the plant but it also rearing its head at Woods Mill. It smells very strongly of tangerines and vanilla and this is quite over-powering when you're stood amongst it. Unusually, this alien species has its own NVC community, S15 Sweet Flag Acorus calamus swamp. It generally occurs as a single dominant species within the community. Apparently, it does not produce seed in Europe, it spreads vegetatively by its rhizomes. See Volume 4 of Rodwell for more details.

Water Boatmen

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 14 September 2010 20:05

Surrey again I'm afraid. I have been on Frensham Great Pond all day in a boat carrying out an aquatic macrophyte survey. Whilst doing that I found this little water boatman and decided to have a go at keying it out using 'Adults of The British Aquatic Hemiptera: Heteroptera - A Key with Ecological Notes'. An hour later looking down the microscope and I am fairly confident it is Sigara distincta, a fairly common and widespread species. Phew, I forgot how long this key goes on for! I did some of this with the RSPB at Old Hall Marshes but have forgotten it all. Anyway, the water boatmen are not easy, especially if your specimen is a female (this one is a male - males have strange asymmetrical abdominal segments, not sure why, probably some perverse sexual thing!). According to the above book there are 35 species in the family Corixidae. Another good thing about aquatic bugs is they can be found as adults in the winter months (more non-seasonal natural history for me!). However, I think the best thing about this beast is its tiger stripes, which are almost invisible to the naked eye (it's only 8 mm long) but really striking under the microscope.

The moth with the bunny on its back

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 13 September 2010 07:13

I have had a great weekend at Sam's (Jo's Mum) in Surrey this weekend, we have moth trapped which I can't do in Brighton due to the slight complication of not having a garden. We caught a few nice things including  this funny looking micro. This moth has a cartoon outline of a rabbit on its back and always makes me smile. It's Ypsolopha sequella and is a local species on Field Maple. 

There was one Hoary Footman (I know it's turning up everywhere now - I think I have seen more of these than Scarce Footman this year). This micro moth, Crambus hamella,  which is nationally scarce (Nb) and is a new one to me was also in the trap. It feeds on Wavy Hair-grass and seems to have a large locus around the Surrey Heaths area. The broad white streak with an obvious off-shoot is diagnostic. As is the dark mark at the tip of the wings which in this specimen is missing.
Other nice things included Brindled Green, Oak Hook-tip and Maiden's Blush. A Vine Weevil and half a dozen Forest Bugs also paid a visit.

Look at this tiny but amazing longhorn beetle!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 11 September 2010 18:51

I got back to Frimley Green today and saw a tiny longhorn beetle on the outside of an upstairs window. I managed to get it into a pot without falling to my death. It's Pogonocherus hispidus, a local species that I have not seen before. I did see one of the three similar species in 2002 but that was before I new there were three species! The other closely related species, Pogonocherus hispidulus, has a white scutellum while this one has a black one. I am pretty sure this is a bird-dropping mimic too, it's certainly in the right size range. It has really hairy legs and antennae, swollen femur and being only 5 mm long, a lot of the detail is not visible by  naked eye. It's also a new one for me, awesome!

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