Mousepee Pinkgill

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 30 October 2013 19:13

Has to be the most awesome name for a fungus. I am fairly confident that this little fungus that I found on tightly grazed chalk-grassland at Seaford Head on Sunday is a Mousepee Pinkgill. It did smell funny but I must admit that I don't know what mousepee smells like. The fact that the stem bruised a strong blue-green seems to be a good identification feature as does the habitat. Just a quick one, busy day tomorrow...

The wrong car park

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 28 October 2013 21:48

When attending field trips, it's usually a good idea to start at the correct meeting point. I usually stand by this advice but yesterday I found myself in the wrong car park and missed the BBS field trip to Seaford Head. Rather than head home with my tail between my legs, I headed down to Hope Gap to see what I could see. Having recently developed an interest in leaf-mines, I was keeping an eye out for any species of plant that I knew might have something lepidopteran in them. It didn't take long to find Caloptilia syringella on Wild Privet. I then picked up a mine from Agrimony but it wasn't until I got home that I realised I had picked up something interesting...

...a sinuous gallery becoming a blotch mine with the pupae remaining inside the blotch on Agrimony keys it out to Ectoedemia agrimoniae. The fact that the cocoon is lilac is a further clincher, and was quite a surprise when I opened the leaf up. Now the cool thing about this moth is that it is pRDB3 but has not been seen in Sussex since 1906 at the latest! It was then only ever known from Abbot's Wood. How cool is that?! I've only been doing leaf miners for three days and have only seen nine species. It just goes to show that there are good things to be found EVERYWHERE in Sussex but also that there are relatively few people recording difficult groups here too! October continues to be one of the best months this year for me and I end the day on 4569 species.

Swap Shop

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 26 October 2013 09:09

Thanks to a tip off by Steve Gale I was luck enough to catch up with yet another novelty alien fungus up in Surrey, the Red Cage Clathrus ruber. It was however already way beyond its best and was looking a little deflated by yesterday morning. Not all that different to the closely related actor Nicolas Cage Clathrus crapactor, also beyond his best, here he is expressing joy at discovering a rare leaf-miner on the set of the latest David Lynch film, 'Pan-species Listing: The Movie'. Early reviews suggest Cage's performance is lacklustre and that he wasn't even looking AT the leaf in this scene! 

Anyway, I met up there with Seth Gibson and as we both had the day off work, we headed into the field to see all manor of interesting things. We went back to the Aseroe site, as Seth hadn't been over to look at the freaky Starfish Fungi of which we saw many, including this one that was just opening up. It didn't smell at all compared to the ones I saw last week. I agree that Anemone Fungi works better.

Whilst trying to identify a webcap (as if!), I stumbled upon a fungus which was a tick for both of us. The rather smart Earpick Fungus that grows out of decomposing pine cones. Once you get your eye in there are loads there.

Seth is really good on leaf miners, an area of natural history I am ashamed to say I have not really ventured into. Seth showed me this Stigmella tityrella mine on Beech. You can see the larvae still feeding at the end of the mine. I can't believe this is the first Stigmella I have ticked! With very little effort, I saw four new moths, all very common. This is a vast reservoir of species that I am now a little more inspired to access. Thanks Seth!

We also found lots of the alien Girdled Snail which was a new one for me.

And this common but distinctive millipede was also a tick being Nanogona polydesmoides.

I must do more of this sort of thing. So far Seth added 10 new species from the day and I added 11 which I guess is about even. I ended the day on 4559 species. It's good for making me aware of how much stuff I miss right under my nose! I'll happily host next time somewhere in Sussex anytime any of the listers fancy a day out and I'm free!

Earthstar Trek

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 23 October 2013 19:34

I've been out to Ladys Winkins again today with my good friend Howard Matcham and his sidekick, Barney the dog. I saw lots of cool species and added at least four new fungi and one very rare moss. First up we saw loads of these Sessile Earthstars, the first earthstar I have seen other than the common Collared Earthstar.

Howard found these Foetid Parachutes in the area a few days ago and I was glad to refind them as this is quite a scarce species. It really does smell bad, like rotting cabbages.

These Cucumber Caps smelled a little more refreshing of, you've guessed it, cucumber. Another new species for me. A specialist of wood chip piles.

This Rooting Shank is a relatively common species that has passed me by until now.

By far the rarest thing we saw though was this moss that was actually discovered new to Britain by Howard and Barney this year! It's Ditrichum pallidum and is not even the books yet! I'm only the third person to see it in the UK.

I also saw lots of other interesting species that I rarely come across like Magpie Inkcaps, Lapidary Snails, Golden Scalycaps and Nut-tree Tussock larvae. Also, this is only the second time I have seen Dog Stinkhorn. There were at least 20 fruiting in one small area.

Always nice to see White Saddles too.

And of course none of this could have been possible without Howard and his owner Barney. A big thanks to them both for getting me back into fungi today!

I found Nemo!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 20 October 2013 08:52

This was the first fish I caught yesterday whilst rock pooling at St Mary's Lighthouse and I soon realised I was looking at a young Lumpsucker Cyclopterus lumpus!!! It was only the size of a pea but there is no other possibility with the shape and the suction cup underneath. I have wanted to see this fish ever since I bought a guide to the sea shore when I was on holiday in Wales as a kid. If you look at the UK distribution on the NBN Gateway, it is well known from this stretch of the English coast line. In cellebration of my little Lumpsucker, have a listen to this.

I wasn't completely sure so I wanted to rule out Montagu's Sea Snail so I googled a few images of this species before carrying on dipping. Guess what the next fish I pulled out was?!

I watched the Montagu's Sea Snail change colour from an almost yellow to a dark brown in a matter of seconds.

I caught one wrasse which in the field I thought was Rock Cook but in hindsight I think this one is likely to be a young Ballan Wrasse, Rock Cook is very much a west coast thing and it doesn't have the right amount of spines on the anal fin. Quite obviously not the Corkwing that we see down south but as with the other two fish, I only caught one of this species. There are records of Ballen from St Mary's too so I'm happy with that.

There are also records there for this attractive goby, the Two-spot Goby which is highly distinctive to do with the spot at the base of the tail.

And this little fellow which I believe to be either a young gurnard or a dragonet as some people have pointed out. Either way these are difficult groups of species as adults so I won't be getting it to species. It was very small, barely a cm long but as soon as I put it in the tray it went from looking like a typical fry to this amazing little fish. I wish I could confidently say what it was. Most of the fish I saw were very small, making some identification a challenge. The largest (and most abundant) fish I saw was a Shanny. The only other fish I saw more than one of was the Butterfish.

Here is the full list of fish.

Long-spined Sea Scorpion
Two-spot Goby
Ballen Wrasse
Montague's Sea Snail
Gurnard/Dragonet? sp.

Words cannot describe how awesome this was. Every time I put the net I was pulling out something new! Despite driving rain off the north sea, I was loving every minute. Interestingly I must have started on the best bits because at one stage all I was pulling out were Shannys, I think I must have gained altitude slightly without realising. I'll definitely be having a look there every visit up to Whitley Bay, with an ecosystem that resets itself EVERY twelve hours, you can't afford to miss an opportunity!

I also added Common Brittlestar Ophiothrix fragilis. Four new fish and a new starfish!

The Thing

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Friday, 18 October 2013 17:58

Possibly the strangest thing I am ever going to see EVER. I called in to twitch the Starfish Fungus on my way north today. Must be the first fungus I have added to my list in nearly a year (#210). An introduced species from Australia, it certainly doesn't look like it belongs here. I made the mistake of smelling it and I can confirm it is somewhere between dog muck and rotting corpse. Disgusting, beautiful or somewhere in between? It just leaves one question. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT BROWN STUFF?!

What is going on with this crazy spider?!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 17 October 2013 21:45

I've wanted to see the male of this spider since I first saw an illustration of it in a field guide. It's Walckenaeria acuminata. It's a money spider, quite big for a money spider but still only a few millimetres long. Not at all rare, I found two today by sieving moss in a conifer plantation as part of an ongoing survey at Old Lodge. It's hard to believe what is going on with this spider Where the eight eyes are normally clustered on the front of the cephalothorax is a huge stalk with  a cluster about two thirds of the way up with four eyes on and the remaining four eyes on the top of the 'periscope'. This tiny little creature is one of the strangest things I have ever seen in this country. There are loads of different species of Walckenaeria and the males have a baffling array of different shaped 'heads'. I added my 202nd spider today, the common Walckenaeria nudipalpis. I'm just starting to open my eyes to money spiders and this genus is certainly one I'll be looking out for in the future. Check out the rest of the family!

If Pat Butcher was a dragonfly...

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 15 October 2013 21:40

...she would probably look like this. I've been at Rye Harbour carrying on with the NVC I'm doing there this year where I bumped into a species I have not seen for 12 years. It's a female Red-veined Darter and it was by far the most well behaved dragonfly I saw today (there were dozens of pairs of Common Darters ovipositing today as well as Ruddy Darter and Migrant Hawker but they were all very lively). I don't think I have ever seen the females of this species before and did wonder whether this was a teneral animal due to its reluctance to fly. I love the blue and red eyes, which along with the black-bordered yellow pterostigma and the yellow veins are ID features. Here are some more shots...

I saw one Clouded Yellow today, I am hoping it was a female of the form helice but it was so fast and it appeared to come straight in off the sea heading north west faster than I could run, and I can run pretty quick! I wonder if the best way to find Pale or Berger's Clouded Yellows is to catch and check closely every helice type Clouded Yellow you see? It's the only one I have seen this year though and I didn't get a chance.

But perhaps the scarcest thing I found today was a new one for me. A nice scarce (Na) carabid called Cymindis axillaris. Not a bad day!

Kicked in the Southern Chestnuts

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 13 October 2013 13:51

WARNING: This post contains the details of an offensive encounter, some of the most shocking behaviour I have ever seen in a birdwatcher and a moth-related euphemism that triggered a painful trip down memory lane. It's about 90% rant and 10% wildlife.

Yes a lot went on yesterday. For those with less time on their hands, here is the abridged version: I ticked Radde's Warbler on the edge of Brighton and saw Southern Chestnuts at Ambersham Common.

Now the long version. Where to start with such a day? I was in the middle of some work when I heard about the Radde's Warbler up at Sheepcote Valley, just to the east of Brighton. I needed this bird so I legged it up there only to find it had not been seen for three hours. After half an hour of watching Ring Ouzels flying all over the place (I saw at least six) the Radde's was relocated in a thick bramble bush. It was not showing well, diving out of the top and then flying straight into thick cover and only rarely calling. A birder played calls of it repeatedly before actually crawling into the bush to flush it and play more of its calls to it. Is this normal behaviour in birding circles now?! It was enough to put me off twitching for life. The total disregard for the bird's well being was disgusting, to certain individuals it would seem that tired and disorientated wildlife exists for one reason. Their amusement. I saw the bird, sadly probably because it was flushed. I would rather have not seen the bird. I left the site feeling dirty thinking to myself 'bad things happen when good people do nothing'. So this is my protest to such behaviour. I would like to add thanks to all the decent birders who were not doing this!

I picked up the gang and headed off to the other end of the county to do some real natural history but not before I recall my last encounter with a Dusky Warbler (a bird very similar to a Radde's Warbler) 12 years ago...

...I was at Dungeness RSPB at the time as a residential volunteer. Dave Walker had found a Dusky Warbler at the Obs so I dashed around on my push bike and when I look back it was a very similar feel to the Radde's twitch. Lots of people rushing from bramble bush to bramble bush but birders didn't use bird song or crawl into bushes back then, they used field craft and patience. The bird was relocated some distance from where I was and I jumped onto my bike landing heavily on a rather sensitive region of my body. I fell to the ground in agony as birder after birder ran past and over me without stopping to help! I guess some things never change. Jesus, birders are so unfriendly sometimes. I saw the bird. Memory lane sucks, I'm going back to Ambersham...

...It was cold last night and despite four traps, we only saw about five moths. Grey Pine Carpet, Grey Shoulder-knot, Black Rustic, Red-green Carpet and at least four Southern Chestnuts. A pretty little moth. It wasn't exactly mothing at its best though and I was a bit concerned I might have put Rachael off mothing for life. That said it was a stunning evening with a beautiful sunset and an amazing cold mist that crept in across the heath. Would you believe this was my first time to Ambersham Common?! I really must go to more none SWT sites. We saw one other person all evening, a young lad taking his remote control car for a walk. Pretty strange but not as strange as what happened next. Two strangers from the Midlands were also moth trapping. Friendly as ever, I wanted to talk to them. This is the exchange that happened in front of Rachael and my friend Simon.

Me: Hiya. Are you finding much?
Stranger: I would do if you lot would go away. This place is big enough for us all to have some space.

For once in my life I was speechless! I'd only been in that spot just long enough to net and pot up a Grey Pine Carpet for ID. I think that's the rudest a stranger has ever been to me during a natural history event. I can't imagine how debilitating this behaviour is. We have such a laugh when we go out on events like this, the company is so important, especially as I do so much natural history alone. Why do people sink to the lowest common denominator in crowds?!

We went to the pub afterwards, where po-faced bar maids continued the theme of rudeness.

Rude people of Earth, I remind you of the words of Bill and Ted: 'Be excellent to each other!' A big thank you to Tony Davis, Dave Gibbs, Simon Cullen, Shaun Pryor and of course the lovely Rachael Dover for being, as ever, excellent!

Beating the end-of-summer blues

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 6 October 2013 20:39

I went to Seaford Head on a whim with Rachael today looking for Long-tailed Blues. We didn't see any, but we did see lots of butterflies for the time of year being Clouded Yellow, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Small Copper, Small Heath, Small White, Common Blue and Speckled Wood. Nice to see but not really that surprising considering the Indian summer. So as the last of the warm weather faded, I resigned myself to dipping out on Long-tailed Blue in the best year I have ever known for this species. How many more years would go by before I'd get this chance again? Despondent and hungry, we headed off for Sunday dinner...

...what happened next happened so quickly I could barely believe my eyes. Upon leaving Seaford I spotted a couple of men at the top of a south facing road verge with cameras. I recognised one of them by the back of their head as Neil Hulme and instantly realised he must be looking at a Long-tailed Blue! So I pulled in, grabbed my bag and ran up the slope straight up to my first ever Long-tailed Blue!!! Before I knew it, TWO males were flying around my head fighting. What an incredible experience!

Several hours later after our roast, I realised I had left my camera on the bank so we headed back. Neil and co. were still there and Neil told me that he had seen seven males in total making this not only the site with the most in Sussex, but probably the site with the most LTB's in the UK!
I didn't bother trying to get a photo with my Coolpix as Neil offered to send me one of his shots, which was great, thanks Neil. I did manage to get a photo of the back of Neil's head though, which leads me seamlessly on to my parting comment. Always learn to identify naturalists by the back of their heads, you never know when you'll need to!

1st October list update

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 1 October 2013 11:27

I last updated my list on the 27th April 2013. Despite doing most of my natural history at work this year, I have added quite a few in this time, 283 species to be precise. Beetles continue to be the biggest grower with 71 new species, closely followed by spiders at 51. I split arachnids into spiders and harvestmen, so now my next spider will be my 200th spider! The third group which showed the highest increase this summer amazingly was fish! I added 24 new species this year, a 60% increase in this group for me.

I've seen so many good things this year but have had very little time to show them. Here are a few that never made a blog post of their own! First up is a male Araneus marmoreus we found at Old Lodge in September.

I also caught up with one of my most coveted species, the ant mimic jumping spider Myrmarachne formicaria. Yes, this IS a spider. This was at the Crumbles near Eastbourne in July. 

Also at the Crumbles I recorded a species new to Sussex, albeit a naturalised one. The small ground bug Nysius huttoni.

I had no idea that Cat-mint was a native and vulnerable arable weed. I had to do a 50 mile double take for this one.

New longhorn beetles are always a welcome addition to my list. I've encountered Arhopalus rusticus twice this year, this one was at Old Lodge.

I finally caught up with Red Hemp-nettle over at Rye Harbour.

And I've been enjoying getting to grips with coastal invertebrates too including this Liocarcinus holsatus from Rye Harbour last week. I'll resist showing you anymore photos of fish!

Here is the break down:

Vascular plants 1206 (+20)
Moths 895 (+22)
Beetles 615 (+71)
Birds 349 (+2)
Fungi 209
Spiders 199 (+51)
Mosses 172 (+1)
True bugs 129 (+21)
True flies 123 (+17)
Aculeates 86 (+16)
Molluscs 84 (+5)
Fish 64 (+24)
Butterflies 53
Mammals 45
Liverworts 43
Crustaceans 43 (+11)
Dragonflies 33 (+1)
Lichens 31
Crickets & grasshoppers 25 (+6)
Harvestmen 12
Lacewings & allies 7 (+1)
Reptiles 7
Seaweeds & algae 7
Amphibians 6
Caddisflies 6
Mites 6
Anemones 5
Leeches                         5
Millipedes 5
Jellyfish 4 (+3)
Cockroaches 3
Mayfly 3 (+1)
Slime Mould 3
Annelid 2 (+2)
Centipedes 2
Parasitica 2
Scorpionfly 2 (+2)
Springtails 2
Aphid 1
Cephalopod 1 (+1)
Earwigs 1
Flatworm 1
Lice                                1
Polychete 1 (+1)
Pseudoscorpion 1 (+1)
Sea Urchin 1 (+1)
Silverfish 1
Snakefly 1 (+1)
Sponge 1
Starfish 1 (+1)

So, 283 species later my list currently stands at 4505 species. However, the big change this year for me has been beginning the long process of databasing all of 25 years of natural history recording. I posted about this sometime ago but it took me a whole to get going. It's a long process but a hugely rewarding one and I might have only scratched the surface but it's changing the way I do natural history. My approach is that I will never allow current records to develop into a backlog and this is working. Perhaps half of the 7129 records I have put in this year are casual records from this year alone. So my casual records for the last five years are up to date. I now have to concentrate on surveys and older records. I am currently working on the RSPB years, 2007 to be precise but it does get increasingly 'birdy' the further I go back. It's quite nice delving back through 25 years of records, if a little daunting.

So here is my overview of the records at the Sussex level. You can see the Trust reserves as dense clusters.

And a close up of Brighton & Hove. You can see clusters of records at Woods Mill, Ditchling Beacon, Malling, Southerham as well as Seaford Head and the Eastbourne Downs. I would encourage anyone with more than a passing interest to go down this road and the quicker you do it, the better. I just wish I had started years ago.

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