Pan-species listing

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 31 January 2011 18:12

On the way back from hospital today I spotted this woodlouse that I have been keeping my eyes peeled for in Brighton for the last few weeks. It's the Armadillidium depressum and it's told from the Common Pill Woodlouse Armadillidium vulgare by its skirt like edge which is visible in the photo. Because of this, it can't quite roll into a complete ball like vulgare can. It has a strong south westerly distribution but when I checked this out on the NBN Gateway a few weeks ago I also noticed that there was a large cluster of dots in East Sussex. I have to say, it was not quite as obvious as the photo in the AIDGAP Woodlouse key but it's clearly different from A. vulgare.
That brings me to summarise where I'm at at the end of January. I have added 51 species since the start of the year putting me on 3072 species. Only 18 of these species have been new sightings, the other 33 are retrospective ticks from my old computer. Mark Telfer has also just written an article on pan-species listing for Birdguides and you can read the article here. It's a great read and there are some well labelled photos in there too.  It also includes updated rankings where I am currently 6th. I wonder if there will be some new additions to the rankings generated by this article, I hope so!

Winter Stalkball

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 30 January 2011 19:34

Mark Telfer was in town this weekend and we managed to get an hour of natural history in at Woodvale Crematorium in central Brighton. It was a freezing cold but beautiful day and Mark found three things in the cemetery that I had not seen and I was able to return the favour with some chalk-grassland mosses. The big surprise was this scarce fungi, Winter Stalkball Tulustoma brumale. I was showing Mark the spot where, in the autumn, Nick Hunt found the Rugged Oil Beetle Meloe rugosus and Mark spotted several of this unusual little fungus. Howard Matcham pointed out there are only five other records for this in Sussex!
Mark also found a specimen of the tiny but beautiful Ribbed Grass Snail Vallonia costata which was very easy to key out and this tiny woodlouse, Trichonishcus pygmaeus. This individual was under 2 mm long. A great end to the weekend and that puts me on 3070. Mark has also been kind enough to lend me a microscope so I can continue to identify the little things without getting a headache. Only 930 species to go!

I know Jays bury acorns...

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 29 January 2011 15:51

...but what buries Jays? Giant carnivorous acorns? On a farm survey in Hampshire today I noticed this dead Jay, partially buried in a winter wheat field. Now, as you can see, the bird is partly buried on its back. The field was drilled back in the autumn and the bird doesn't look like it's been dead very long. I doubt that anyone would make such a botched attempt at burying a bird they had shot, it seems pointless. Carrion feeding insects are surely out at this time of year and this would be a bit of  a mission for them anyway. So what does that leave? Giant carnivorous acorns or more likely a Fox or some other carnivorous mammal but I have to say I don't really have a clue and I didn't have the time to dig up a frozen dead bird! Comments, as ever, are always welcome! Oh yeah, in terms of the survey, there was very little different from previous visits but I did see the most Brown Hares (4) I have seen on a single farm visit.

Thuidium tamariscinum

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 28 January 2011 21:23

This is Common Tamarisk-moss Thuidium tamariscinum and is a beautiful fern-like pleurocarpus moss. It's pretty common but very distinctive. I decided to try something new today as I found this large hummock of the moss in the woods at Woods Mill.
I beat the moss into a tray and found a couple of bugs. I spent quite a bit of time identifying one of them just and I'm happy with the ID. It was Peritrechus nubilus and my first new species for nearly a week leaving me on 3067.

So ugly it broke my microscope!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 24 January 2011 18:51

On the way back from the cornershop today I noticed this harvestman on a wall and decided to key it out. I was pretty sure it was the one I have seen a few times this winter on walls and hedges in the middle of Brighton and indeed it was being Opilio parietinus. A common, widespread and highly synanthropic species. However, all is not well with my microscope. Whilst zooming in on this specimen, the two eye pieces suddenly went out of sync. The microscope functions perfectly but  now only at about x25 zoom. I carefully opened it up and it is clear that a plastic belt of cogs around one eye piece has perished (see the rather steam-punk photograph below). I think fixing it myself is beyond me. I now have to get it fixed ASAP as it's really quite frustrating having it stuck on a relatively high magnification but that means not having it for a while, possibly several months, whilst it's being fixed! A real spanner-in-the-works for my mission to 4000. At least it's not mid-summer...

Harrier Potty and the Deathly Fallow

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 23 January 2011 17:41

Most stupid blog title so far? I think so. Another farm survey in West Sussex and the surprises still keep coming. I disturbed a herd of deer at close range, they then flushed a flock of Wood Pigeon. As I was counting them, through my bins, I got onto a distant ringtail Hen Harrier that flew towards me and plopped down in a stubble field. As I dropped my binoculars I realised that the last Fallow Deer in the herd was a beautiful white thing that had just ran straight past me and I missed a great photo opportunity. Never mind. I didn't get on to the harrier again as I walked over the stubble field but I did see the sum total of 8 Skylarks. This site has the lowest total numbers of Skylarks of all the farms I  am visiting, I've never seen more than 10 there (the other five sites rarely have less than 100 and often many more).
About an hour later and I caught up with the white Fallow Deer and got this distant shot. I can't believe how much it looks like a statue in this photograph. I saw very few birds for the next few hours and then suddenly flushed a male Hen Harrier! Then the ringtail came back on the scene and the two birds started scrapping, rising higher and higher and disappearing from view. I then saw a distant Red Kite and a Hawfinch landed in the tree I was standing under!

Just when I thought it was over with the harriers, the male came back for a final flyby (top photo). So lots of good birds but very few of the target farmland species. Not a single Linnet for example. Sadly the closest shot of the male Hen Harrier occurred at exactly the moment it presented its minimum surface area to me. See if you can make it out in this shot.
Embarrassing ticks included the spider Harpactea hombergi and the Common Pill Woodlouse Armadillidium vulgare. Both common things that I am sure I have seen before but have never recorded or key out. That puts me on 3065.

82 Corn Buntings

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 21 January 2011 16:11

I'm halfway through the farm surveys. I've walked about 150 miles so far. On a farm in East Sussex today were a flock of 90 Corn Buntings, in the above photo you can just about make out 82. A flock of 65 Linnets and a Golden Plover were also of note. This snail was new to me, the Wrinkled Snail Candidula intersecta which in hindsight I have seen before on the Downs.
I suddenly remembered another species I saw way back in 2002 but it did not come to mind before now because of how odd it is. One morning after coming off the island Ynys Feurig I was working on (species protection of a tern colony) the strand line was a vivid blue. I looked closer to find  the blue was coming from  vast numbers of the unusual jellyfish called By-the-wind Sailor Velella velella. They had wrecked on the beach overnight, as well as floating in all the rock pools on the islands. I remember how artificial and plastic-like they looked. That puts me on 3061.

I new I wasn't seeing things!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 19 January 2011 18:51

This is the parrot I saw in my garden that woke me up way back on the 7th September. It's just been taken into captivity and has amazingly survived the coldest December on record! Here is the article on the Argus website and here is my blog entry from September 7th:

'Today has been weird, so this post is going to reflect that I'm afraid. Lying in bed this morning I was awoken by a sound somewhere between R2D2 and Predator. I thought it was Jo's new alarm clock but when I then heard a sound like something from Jurassic Park, I flung the curtains open and saw a massive green parrot! It flew off before a photo could be taken but I saw it through my bins. It had a very short tail, a pale eye-ring and small but bright red patches in its wings. Bright green with perhaps some blue-green in there too. It was not a macaw. Last seen heading south towards Fiveways'.

So for the past four months, this large parrot has been eking out an existence in the nearby Preston Park in Brighton. I saw a comment on the Argus website that said it had been seen as early as August. Apparently it is in the genus Amazonia but there are quite a few parrots in that genus and I don't know what species it is. (not that I would tick it!). The photo is taken from the Argus website from an article by Ruth Lumley.

15 pairs of legs

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 18 January 2011 20:16

Another centipede in a completely different order. This is the Variegated Centipede Lithobius variegatus in the order Lithobiomorpha or the 'stone centipedes'. This species has strongly striped legs and was again found hiding in the gate where the valley field had flooded. Opening this gate is becoming a bit like opening a  moth trap. I also had another tick today, the tiny black harvestman Nemastoma bimaculatum which I have seen many times dead in pitfall traps but only noticed it alive today under a log in Hoe Wood. That puts me on 3059 species.

21 pairs of legs

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 14 January 2011 18:28

I've been very busy writing up reports for the last few days and the weather has been too awful to get out. I did get as far as keying out my first centipede yesterday though. Here is what I am fairly confident is Common Cryptops Cryptops hortensis. Apparently there are 57 centipedes in the UK in four different orders. The order that these fellows belong to has only four species in a single genus which made it quite easy to key out and is species 3057.

Provisional Atlas of the UK's Larger Moths

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 12 January 2011 18:24

I don't do many book reviews but I thought this one was worth a mention. It is a great piece of work and an amazing achievement by the Moths Count team, updated distribution maps for all the macro moths in the UK. I was on the steering group for the Moths Count project back when I worked for the RSPB and so I have a particular interest in it.
If you are a moth-er, you'll find this to be compulsive page turning. So many moths are surprisingly scarce  (or occasionally surprisingly abundant). No wonder I have never seen a Lappet or a Northern Drab, they might even be nationally scarce if they were assessed today! There are literally millions of records in the data base that produced these maps, 868 species mapped in all, awesome! It's an essential companion to an ID guide.

You can buy it from the Butterfly Conservation website at £20 plus £5.00 P&P and has been so popular that  it is currently undergoing a reprint.
Finally, I have to point out two of my records on the map for the ridiculously named Bloxworth Snout. The one in West Sussex (the 8th Sussex record) I found in a cave in 2008, the one in Brighton (the 9th Sussex record) I found in a book the Mr Men section but that is another story...

I wish I could fly but I can't

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 11 January 2011 18:39

The stream flooded again today at Woods Mill and in the process dislodged hundreds of invertebrates, many of which climbed to higher ground and sought shelter on the gates and fences around the valley field. I went up at lunch time when the water level had dropped to see what I could find and there were lots of things around. Dozens of beetles but mostly staphs that I can't identify (yet!). I picked up a few carabids, a woodlouse and a harvestman that I will attempt to identify tonight so I will report back on those tomorrow. As I was searching the gate I noticed this tiny female Winter Moth. Considering how often I see the males this is only the second time I have bumped into a female. I am sure they are easy to find if you know how to find them but it was a nice find anyway. It's a bit tatty because it would have been in the flood with everything else...

...Imagine being a tiny caterpillar that against all the odds evaded being gobbled up by young Blue Tits, survived the larval stage free of parasites, emerged into the world as a flightless egg-laying blob  in the coldest winter for a hundred years, then you get washed away in a flood, you manage to hold on to a passing gate, you dry yourself off only to end up being photographed by a giant hairy monster who puts you in a glass pot. Don't worry, Orvil will be released unharmed tomorrow.

Handsome Woollywort

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 10 January 2011 21:04

I'm afraid I have unearthed a whole load of old records I have for bryophytes whilst searching through my old computer, adding another 18 species to my list but that is it for the old records. I went on a bryophytes masterclass course in September 2005 and we went to the Long Myndd and Whixall Moss. Long Myndd first. The above liverwort is a strange fern-like thing with a ridiculous English name; Handsome Woollywort Trichocolea tomentella. I saw this in the same gully as I saw Wilson's Filmy-fern in too. This is a really nice moss, Urn Haircap Pogonatum urnigerum and is very distinctive being so glaucous (I love glaucous plants, don't  know why). The photo is a little blurred, I had only owned the Coolpix 4500 for a few months at the time and hadn't figured out I was supposed to keep it still when taking photos.
We also went to Whixall Moss where I got to grips with most of the common Sphagnum but I forgot I saw this beauty, which just so happens to be quite a local one. This is Golden Bog-moss Sphagnum pulchrum (with a little Round-leaved Sundew).
So that puts me on 3053 and I can promise no more retrospective ticks (I was a little eager to put my list together in the summer and didn't quite collate all my older sightings). Finally though I leave you with the best photo I took that day, the larvae of the Broom Moth curled up on a path and one of my all time favourite shots.

Woods Mill stream from Truleigh Hill

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 9 January 2011 16:13

Another farm survey completed. Highlights included a Peregrine, two Ravens and a Reed Bunting. This is the view from the top of Truleigh Hill to the stream restoration project at Woods Mill. The camera is on full zoom, a bigger lens or a super zoom would do this justice. Today has been the first day that the visibility has been good enough to bother to take this shot. Woods Mill itself is just visible through the trees, the car park being just behind the Leylandii hedge.

Isopod nano

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 8 January 2011 18:54

I had two ticks today, both woodlice. Jo and I went to Shoreham Beach/Harbour and I resorted to poking around under drift wood in the salt marsh. I struggled to get good shots as they were very mobile. I have definitely seen this first one before but did not realise that there was only one species, it's Common Sea Slater Ligia oceanica. This is a big woodlouse, this one was well over 2 cm long but it was really quick and hard to photo before it shot under some Sea Purslane.
This species is much smaller (c5 mm) and prettier. It's the Rosy Woodlouse Androniscus dentiger and although I found it under an old piece of plywood on the saltmarsh, it's not in anyway restricted to the coast. Another common species I have somehow managed to overlook for years! That puts me on 3035.

A few more old records

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 7 January 2011 18:51

It still seems easier at this time of year to dig out old records of species I have missed for my all-taxa list than it does to get out there and find new ones! I added another 10 lichens after a trip to Kingley Vale in 2009 and a trip to Eridge Rocks in 2010 with people who really know their stuff and found the records and photos on my old computer. This puts me on 3033 but I think that is it for the retrospective additions.
Here is the beautiful Bunodophoron melanocarpum at Eridge Rocks which might be the only site for it in East Sussex. I think is my favourite lichen, really coral like.
This one is the far commoner Evernia prunastri which I recognise from the sand dunes at Frensham Great Pond too, in fact I think I have seen a lot of this throughout my life. The literature states it has a wealth of uses by man, testament to how abundant it is. I struggle with lichens, I think I need to spend more time in the field with those that know them. As with bryophytes, and many fungi, I feel like I have reached almost as far as I can go without a high powered microscope. One thing I like about these two species though (as far as I can tell) is they are the only ones in their respective genera. These were taken with the Coolpix 4500.

The Moon and the Sledgehammer

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 6 January 2011 20:07

I just heard about this film, The Moon and the Sledgehammer. Set in 1971 in a rural part of Sussex (not sure where but I would love to find out). Apparently it's a documentary about a family who live in comparative isolation but it's from a period of cinema/era (the 70s) that I love and I would like to find out more about this film. Has anyone out there seen this and/or know where it's filmed? It's being shown at a night in Brighton called The Hedgerow Society at The Basement on the 21st January at 8.00 pm and I think I will go and look.

Dead duck diaries

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 5 January 2011 20:09

OK, the upper of the two feathers shown above is one of the feathers I displayed yesterday and assumed to be a wing feather. Mark Telfer pointed out that they looked like tail feathers so I compared it to some Mallard tail feathers that I collected and mounted as a kid (there wasn't much to do in Staffordshire). Look what I was doing when I was 15!
Anyway, it looks a pretty good match in terms of the proportions. The pointed tip is different (more worn perhaps?) and the feather is clearly darker but roughly similar. I think that this bird could well have been a dark farmyard Mallard brought, in part, from a neighbouring farm by a Fox. The pointed feathers possibly suggesting the tail of a bird kept in captivity? Alternatively, a duck perhaps a little smaller than a Mallard. I am convinced now that they are tail feathers though. Any more thoughts anyone?

I promised to include a photograph of Bittern and Green Woodpecker feathers too as these were  species you suggested, here you go:

Can you identify the bird from the feathers?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 4 January 2011 19:06

I found these feathers in the valley field at Woods Mill today. I can usually ID birds from primary feathers if it's a non-passerine but this was all I could find of the kill and it stumped me. The wing feathers (I'm not sure even what wing feathers they are, secondaries?) look to me like a duck or a wader, I'm not certain on that either. The wing feathers are about 9 cm long but have had the shafts cut off suggesting a Fox or some other mammal killed the bird. Is there anyone out there that recognises this bird as it's doing my head in? I bet it turns out to be something really obvious, I have tried to eliminate the birds I see at Woods Mill but have failed to come up with anything realistic. 'Tracks and Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe' didn't help much either.

Old Lodge, New Camera

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 3 January 2011 19:09

Jo and I went up to Old Lodge to play with our new cameras. I finally bit the bullet and bought the Canon PowerShot G12, which I have no idea how to use yet so I think it is going to take me a while to get used to it and start getting the quality of macro shots I am so used to with the Coolpix 4500. Anyway, first off is a moss known as Dicranum scoparium, it's very common but I'm really pleased how bright this came out despite it being such an overcast and lifeless feeling day (the only bird I saw all day was a Crow, although I did hear a Redpoll and a Raven). This next one is Hypnum andoi that grows on tree trunks and the shoots always grow vertically downwards.
I think I have exhausted the potential for many bryophyte ticks on heathland/woodland without a bit of help so I resorted to turning over logs and looking for invertebrates instead. I saw these two woodlice, the first being  Common Shiny Woodlouse Oniscus asellus, believe it or not, one of the commonest five woodlice and a tick for me. I know I have seen this before many times but I have never keyed it out to species. The second is the Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber which I have bothered to key out before. The camera certainly picks up the textures of the two species.
After that I stumbled on a beetle which was quite unexpected. I keyed it out to be the tenebrionid Cylindrinotus laevioctostriatus. It's listed as developing in deadwood and also in peaty soils on heathland so not a strict SQI species. Either way, I have seen it before so I ended the day only two species up (I added another retrospective moss tick whilst I was trying to identify them in the field today). 3023 it is then! Anyway, I'm pleased with the new camera, taking a bit of getting used to after six years with the same trusty Coolpix but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it.

Early Doors

Posted by Graeme Lyons 16:44

I just found this male Early Moth in the door way of the local bookies at Fiveways as I was walking past. Got some funny looks and comments from a couple of blokes as I was taking the shot, reminded me of the time I chased a moth into a shop doorway, by the time I identified it as a humble Cabbage Moth, the door opened and I realised I was standing in the doorway of a strip club and the bouncer didn't look too impressed as I muttered something about moths and cabbages before running off. Anyway, I think Early Moth has so much more hope in its name than Winter Moth, before you know it there will be moth traps full of quakers and drabs and spring will be here. Bring it on!

Bohemian Like You

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 2 January 2011 18:20

I need 979 species to get to 4000 by next year. This works out at a mean of 2.68 species per day! So far this year, nothing. I think I need to get organised. So, for the the first month of the year I am going to concentrate on bryophytes (and maybe lichens). I will also twitch any bird I need within about 100 miles but that does not happen very often! I still have not had chance to play with my new camera but I will be off to see what mosses I can add to my list tomorrow!

As for today's farm survey, good numbers of Skylarks and a flock of 600 Wood Pigeon were of note but as for the oddities, there were three Brambling, a Snipe (flushed from a stubble field complete with a big blob of clay on the end of its beak - looked pretty odd in flight!) and best of all, a Waxwing! It was bound to happen eventually but I only heard it. It called twice but I find birds quite hard to pick up against big blue skies and I couldn't see it. Frustrating. Anyway, it's on the site list now! I think Bohemian Waxwing is a pretty cool name and I might start using it.
I was amazed at how much Common Field Speedwell there was in flower. I know this plant flowers all year round but I would have thought the snow would have really knocked it back. It's nice to see some flowering plants already. Oh yeah, there was also a Skylark singing today and a drum-off between two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. In recent years I usually hear my first one before Christmas but these are the first ones I've heard this winter. It was nice to see the Sun again!

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