A Storm of Swords

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 28 June 2014 19:04

I swept this incredible caterpillar from Burton Pond last week. It puked up all over the net in quite a horrific manner, I've never seen anything like it (other than on the Exorcist) where it thrashed its head from side to side. It was pretty huge and being so striking, I didn't think I'd have any problem identifying it. Despite going through Porter THREE times, I didn't come up with a single candidate. I swept it of Purple Moor-grass with some young birch growing through it.

So I tried a different tactic. Working through the larger moths of the macro fauna, Googling the Latin names (with the word larva) whilst keeping an open mind. So I started on the first large moth on the first page of the book I opened it at. This just happened to be Red Sword-grass. Bingo! That was it. This is a really scarce moth in Sussex and it's great to have confirmed breeding at Black Hole! It just goes to show that not only do caterpillars vary as they grow older (just look at the larvae of the Alder Moth - which we also saw at Burton by the way!) but they also vary greatly between individuals and one photo is just not enough, even with a striking larva like the Red Sword-grass.

Trainee Ecologist finds first for Sussex at Burton Pond!!!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 26 June 2014 07:18

Which actually means a first for TWO counties, even more significant than a county first really. This rather stunning creature is the Alder Leaf Beetle Agelastica alni which we recorded at Burton Pond on Tuesday. In fact, this summer's Voluntary Trainee Ecologist, Adrian Holloway spotted it sitting on a young Alder tree and he should be very pleased, as it's almost certainly the first record in the south east of England for many years! Despite looking at plenty of suitable habitat, we only found one specimen. What a great find. The species has recently had a bit of a come back in the north of England and has the status RDBK, which means we don't really know what is going on with this species! Has it clung on in the south east undetected, is it an immigrant or maybe even an introduction, we just can't say other than it's clearly not common down here. We also saw a number of aculeates using the scrapes at Welch's Common including the Na Crabro scutellatus which I have only seen once before in the New Forest.

The invertebrate survey we are conducting at our land holdings at Burton Pond this year is proving to be quite interesting, with nearly 400 species recorded so far from four visits and with many flies and aculeates still to be added to this total. We have had one beetle new to Sussex and one spider new to West Sussex so far. Whatever will this incredibly varied site turn up next?!

Unlucky for some

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 23 June 2014 20:28

But not for me! I swept this 13-spot Ladybird Hippodamia tredecimpunctata on Saturday from a site near the Pevensey Levels. It's quite a scarce species and one I've never seen before. In fact, I saw quite a few scarce species including the fly Atylotus rusticus and the bee Eucera longicornis. I also saw this reed beetle, the nationally scarce Donacia clavipes with red legs. Nice to see Seth too, even though it was short notice and I was having quite a severe reaction to grass pollen and could barely speak!

Wharf Borer

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 19 June 2014 19:04

I found another cracking beetle I've never even heard of today, this one even has an English name. The Wharf Borer Nacerdes melanura. I found it under a railway sleeper at Rye Harbour which was fortiutous, as we only had time to look under one! Sorry for the bad photo, it was in a hurry and so were we!

Now a beetle I was expecting to see today was Lixus scabricollis on Sea Beet as Chris had told me all about finding it a few weeks ago. It's a strange looking thing alright! Also today stumbled across the Nb ground bug Megalonotus sabulicola. I have just recorded my 500th new species of 2014!

Here be dragons

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 16 June 2014 18:53

Well, very cool caterpillars. I've seen hundreds of Pebble Prominents Notodonta ziczac (isn't that the best Latin name!?) but have never seen the larvae before, despite beating hundreds of suitable trees every year. We walked right up to these two larvae feeding on Aspen seedlings today in Badlands Meadows.

Right next to them was this cracking Chrysomela populi showing the indicative black tips to the elytra and new for me today was the Broad Damsel Bug Nabis flavomarginatus.


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 15 June 2014 10:20

I like seeing new wildlife, especially when I've never heard of it before! That's what happened yesterday with this beetle. This is the nationally scarce (Nb) Hallomenus binotatus and I found three on the underneath of a Sulphur Polypore at Ashcombe Bottom. I've been doing some freelance entomology for the National Trust up there and I have to say, it's a very strange place.

I'll paint a picture. It's quite hard to get to, about halfway between Ditchling Beacon and Lewes and not far from Black Cap (2.5 miles from Ditchling Beacon car park, I know this, as my legs are killing me). The site is a large ancient woodland nestled in a valley so when you are in there you see hardly anyone, hear hardly anything and don't feel at all like you are on the Downs. There are some huge ancient oaks and ash in there but the old hazels and hawthorns are perhaps the most remarkable, the biggest hawthorns and hazels I have EVER seen I saw yesterday. In fact, the above Sulphur Polypore was growing out of a huge hawthorn. Bracken grows everywhere throughout the wood but there are pockets of chalk-grassland in the form of glades.

Sweeping under the above oak tree, I picked up Ampedus elongantulus. I saw a number of saproxylic beetles there I usually see in the West Weald in West Sussex such as Melandrya caraboides and Hedobia imperialis.

This striking larvae looked easy enough for me to identify and indeed it was, this is the Frosted Green which I beat off a Turkey Oak. Lots of specimens to identify including a tiny Malthodes the size of a thrip and some rather nice looking crab spiders...

Myrmecophiles and fails

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 12 June 2014 19:54

This is the spectacular Clytra quadripunctata, a beetle I have wanted to see for many years. Like the Scarce Seven-spot Ladybird, it's a myrmecophile and we did indeed sweep it from near Formica rufa nests. Flatropers Wood is a great site for invertebrates but my grass traps were a total failure. They completely vanished! What was I doing wrong?!

Today we saw three individual jewel beetles of two species (one Agrilus as yet unidentified) and this stonking Agrilus biguttatus that I caught in a rather unconventional way. I could see something big flying back and forth around my head in an elliptical orbit but I couldn't get anywhere near it as it zoomed in and out. I stood still and swung my net around like a mentalist and after a few seconds, the beetle was in the net! What a cracking beast! I have seen this twice in Chiddingfold Forest and once in the New Forest and I have always netted them in flight or watched them land on me! Anyways, better get back to the microscope!


Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 11 June 2014 18:19

I've been at Iping today with Adrian, Penny and Dave setting up some more monitoring of the scrapes. By far the rarest invertebrate we saw was spotted during our lunch break, away from the scrapes completely is the RDB2 Vulnerable Cryptocephalus biguttatus which I have seen once before in Surrey. A great find as I have been told it's on the site but have never seen it there until now. Two red patches at the back of the elytra give it away but there is a confusion species being a particular form of Cryptocephalus bipunctatus. It tried to get away by falling off the Cross-leaved Heath it was perched upon into the litter beneath but its two bright red patches were pointing right up at me!

The Heath Tiger Beetles were down to only one individual today but we did see it use a path. I have always hoped that if we can get them onto the paths, they'll find their way around the site. Fingers crossed.

We saw a couple of what I believe are Xysticus sabulosus, a species of crab spider that I think I may have seen years ago at Arne but wasn't able to confirm.We also saw a smart female Talavera aequipes, both species spotted by Adrian!

Penny spotted a ground bug that turned out to be the Nb Megalonotus dilatatus which was new for me and the survey! Great to see lots of scarce bare ground specialists using the scrapes. Silver-studded Blues are out in numbers now and we even saw a couple of Anisodactylus nemorivagus. Agonum sexpunctatum are becoming common place, whatever will we see there next?!

Butterfish fingers

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 9 June 2014 20:31

I've been poking around St. Mary's Lighthouse again this morning, even though I'm writing this from our sofa in Brighton! It was quite hard work, in fact I only saw three species of fish. I think it's easier to catch them when the water is cold! This is the eel-like Butterfish which is really hard to catch by hand (I netted this one).

I thought I would try and have a go at barnacles but I left my hand lens in the car so I will see if I can get anywhere with these from this photo. I'm not even sure if there are two species in this photo or just one. Too much driving to stimulate any creative thought tonight I'm afraid!

A renaissance of the all round naturalist

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 7 June 2014 08:37

I am proud to announce the new Pan-species Listing website. About six months ago a conversation began between Mark Telfer and I that led to another between me and Charles Roper. I met up with John van Breda who, among many other thing, created iRecord and gave us direction and of course, a quote! I then formulated a request for funding to David Roy at the Biological Records Centre and I was pleased to find that they saw the value of PSL approach to natural history and provided the funding. Back in April we began constructing the website and slowly added more and more users, testing it out and improving the site all of the time. As with all websites, it's still a work in progress but it's looking pretty good now.

Firstly, it's not a recording platform. It's more of a social network which facilitates recording through a number of neat tools. When you sign up you fill out a profile page and enter a little information about yourself. At this stage you can enter your list as a single number of (preferably) as a taxonomic breakdown. This automatically feeds into the rankings page and is therefore entirely automated. Here are the rankings at the time of writing.

We have added the 'latest addition' section which has proved to be extremely popular, it shows a little of what is about at the moment. Keeping this really up to date is key and I'm pleased to see so many of the top listers doing this, often on a daily basis! I'm giving a few details on where and how I found each species I enter onto the latest addition section and/or the photos I upload so it might help others find the same species.

Another completely new feature is the 'rankings per group' section. Each taxa has its own rankings (all automated) and you can see on this summary page who is the lead for each group and how many species they have seen in that group. Pretty cool hey?

And if you click on one of the taxonomic groups, I've picked arachnids here, you get this screen.

If you click on a person in the rankings, it will take you to their profile page which looks like this.

Another new feature is the location rankings. Like PSL but for a site rather than an individual, so perfect if you want to get into this for recording wildlife in your garden or on your nature reserve.

Another really great feature is the blog, where you can write a blog directly OR add a link to your existing blog.

We have a photos section, the latest uploaded photos being shown on the home page, a calendar of events (this has had a few glitches so needs plenty of events to be entered before we start to see the benefits), a resources page full of keys and useful websites and a forum to discuss all sorts of things and get identification help.

This website will only ever be as good as the material that is entered into it but we want this process to be as smooth as possible so I'm always happy to receive improvements and tweaks and hear about glitches. So, please have a look and see if this is for you. An explanation on the about page will tell you all about PSL in more detail if you need it. I believe this is the start of a 'renaissance of the all round naturalist', so if you are keen on wildlife recording and have a liking for lists, can you afford not to get into PSL?! Now sign up, get off your computer and record some wildlife so you can update your rankings!

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