When the Mouse ate the Wolf

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 3 April 2017 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...

1 Response to "When the Mouse ate the Wolf"

Matt Prince Says:

That's a very odd record, in that the habitat was thought to be fairly well known - and damp. I can't see what else that epigyne shot is off though - there's a few species on the continent with similar epigynes, but not quite like that. Crying shame the specimen has gone :( [btw I was talking to Bill about looking for this at Shapwick as now is peak time of the year to find it]. Find another one Graeme!

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