I had to take a break from species of the week last week due to several assignments coming along at once. I’ll blame it on that, and not the fact that I’ve become slightly addicted to birding in Cornwall! It’s hard to say no to an afternoon out, when I can go and see three new birds in a day, after thirteen years of birding. Yesterday the new birds were Great Skua, Lapland Bunting (4) and Rose-coloured Starling, with other highlights including Merlin, Yellow-legged Gull and a self-found Cattle Egret!
Anyway, enough about birds, and on to the species this week: Cercopis vulnerata, also known as the Red and Black Froghopper. This species is one of the largest British froghoppers, reaching over 10mm in length. It is also amongst the most attractive, here it is:
Cercopis vulnerata is found in a variety of habitats, but usually in lowland woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. I have found the species to be very abundant at Woodwalton Fen NNR (the location of my photo above), an ancient fenland site made up of reedbeds, wet woodland and fen carr. Due to its size and colouration, the species can be found relatively easily by direct searching on vegetation at the right time of year (April-August). Another method of finding the species is to sweepnet long grasses and reeds. The nymphs of this species are rarely encountered unless a targeted search is carried out, as they feed on underground roots.
The Red and Black Froghopper is fairly widespread in England and Wales, but is apparently absent from Scotland, and much of the midlands. It currently has very few records in Cornwall, which is something I’ll try to change next summer! However, due to how conspicuous and distinctive the species is it’s likely to be well recorded where it is present, so it might be that the species is genuinely rare in the far South-west. Here is its current distribution map:
Certainly a species to look out for next year!