From microfungi to myriapods

In the last few days, I’ve been lucky enough to get out and about and looking for wildlife quite a bit. I’ve seen some good stuff with some great people!

Starting with Friday evening- “ooh Calum, come and have a look at this” mum said from another room. She’d just found a beetle on the washing line, a very nice beetle, which I’d never seen before! Chrysolina americana, the Rosemary Beetle. This European species has been spreading in southern England since the 1990’s, and is now fairly common in some areas.

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Chrysolina americana– Rosemary Beetle

Saturday morning, we were just heading out to visit my Uncle and Aunt in Lincolnshire, when I noticed this Red-legged Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes) sitting on the window. It’s a very common species, but I still find them quite striking.

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Pentatoma rufipes– Red-legged Shieldbug

My Uncle and Aunt are lucky enough to have a large garden, with lots of areas set aside for wildlife: a small mixed woodland planted about 10 years ago, and lots of rough wildflower patches covered in pollinating bees and flies. They also have lots of cats, one of which we noticed was eyeing up something in the undergrowth. Presuming a small rodent, we went over to investigate, and found the creature was in fact a huge Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar!

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Sphinx ligustri– Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar

Later on in the day (after dark) Brian Eversham and I headed out to Woodwalton Fen for another night time excursion (for a blog on our first trip click here). Immediately as we entered the fen we noticed several Carabus granulatus (big, pretty Ground Beetles!) wandering about, feasting on slugs. These lovely beetles became a feature of the evening, with tens and tens seen as we walked the fenland rides.

Also near the entrance to the fen, Brian noticed that one of the spiders underneath the natural England office security light was Larinioides sclopetarius, a species almost always found on buildings or structures near water. New for me! Throughout the rest of the fen, Araneus marmoreus var. pyramidatus seemed the most frequent spider.

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Larinioides sclopetarius– Brian Eversham’s photo

Moving deeper into the reserve, we noticed various moths flying around, and feeding on flowers. The most abundant species by some margin was the Snout (Hypena proboscidalis), but we also had a few nicer things, including Oblique Carpet new for me.

Left: Six-striped Rustic (Xestia sexstrigata) nectaring on Hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum). Right: Oblique Carpet (Orthonama vittata). Both Brian Eversham’s photos.

We had a few random finds as we checked the trees and bushes, in the form of galls, leafminers and microfungi. Here are a couple which were new to me. Please note, you do not need to be out at night to look for galls, leafminers and microfungi, it’s a perfectly acceptable daytime activity.

Left: Venturia pyrina, the Pear scab fungus. Right: Phyllonorycter corylifoliella, a leaf mining micro moth very common on Hawthorn (Crataegus). Both Brian Eversham’s photos.

Last but not least from the fen, a new bug! I’m at the stage with Heteroptera where I’ve got plenty of fairly common species left to see, but I tend to have to target a species specifically to find it. This was the Stiltbug Metatropis rufescens, found only on Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana). I only managed to find nymphs unfortunately, but at least I’ve got something to look forward to (the adults are double the size, and more colourful!).

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Metatropis rufescens nymph- Brian Eversham’s photo

After a day off on Sunday, Monday was another day, or half-day, of fieldwork. This time I went out with a local recording group known as ‘the eccentrics’ to look at plants, fungi, galls, birds and whatever else we could find at Cavenham Heath in Suffolk. After a short woodland walk with a few new fungi and galls found, we headed out onto the heath itself to look for Stone Curlews. At first 4 birds were picked up sitting tight in the drizzle, but then, due to a disturbance (horse riders), 21 birds flew up from the heath over our heads. Amazing though this was, I’d previously seen over 70 birds in flight at this site!

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Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), a phonescoped record shot.

Slightly further up the main track on the heathland, I spotted an unusual looking plant. I recognised it as Narrow-leaved Ragwort (Senecio inaequidens), a species I’d only seen once before. Its growth form, colour and leaf shape make it a very distinctive plant! Though rather pretty, this is a non-native, and potentially invasive species in the UK.

Narrow-leaved Ragwort (Senecio inaequidens) showing its distinctive narrow leaves, lime-green colour, and large-ish flowers on delicate stems. I forgot to take any to have a closer look at the rust growing on it!

Here are a few more bits and pieces that we found as a group on the rest of our walk.

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The common Hoverfly Cheilosia illustrata, often found on Hogweed. It’s apparently a bumblebee mimic, but it isn’t the most convincing!

Left: The leaf mine of the Agromyzid fly Amauromyza morionella, found on Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica). Right: Dark Mullein (Verbascum nigrum), a plant I’ve yet to see outside of Breckland. I found the Mullein mildew Erysiphe verbasci on this plant!

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The unusual gall caused by the gall midge Dasineura crataegi, on Hawthorn. The leaves at the tip of a new shoot become deformed- thickened, clustered and spiky! This protects the larvae within.

The next day (Tuesday) I went to a Bedfordshire Invertebrate Group meeting at Whipsnade Zoo. It was a fair way for me to travel (being based in Huntingdonshire), but with a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) grassland to look at, and a heated butterfly house with loads of interesting invertebrates otherwise known only from Kew or the Eden project, I decided it was worth it! Unfortunately when I arrived (and for most of our time on the SSSI) it was lightly raining. Not the best weather for invertebrates! Fortunately there were a few nice plants and microfungi to look at too. The best of the microfungi was the rust Uromyces gentianae on Autumn Gentian (Gentianella amarella). The best of the plants…

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Clustered Bellflower (Campanula glomerata), looking almost artificially bright!

Being at Whipsande Zoo, there were a few other things to look at as we walked between different areas of the site.

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Not an invertebrate, record shot

At the end of the day we headed into the heated butterfly house to sieve the leaf litter, in the hope of finding some interesting hothouse Myriapods, amongst other things. The first thing we found (and found in great abundance) was the woodlouse Anchiphiloscia pilosa, a relative of our own native Striped Woodlouse (Philoscia muscorum). This species was found new to Britain only last year from the butterfly house, and nobody has any idea how it got there! It’s an Asian species, but none of the imported plants are from Asia…

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Anchiphiloscia pilosa

After continued rummaging in the leaf litter (and a few strange looks from passing families), we found some of the target myriapods. The tiny 4mm millipede Cylindrodesmus hirsutus, and a commoner, larger hothouse millipede species: Oxidus gracilis. Both new for me!

Left: Cylindrodesmus hirsutus. Right: Oxidus gracilis.

Other highlights from the butterfly house included a minute ant species Plagiopus alaudi, the centipede Lithobius lapidicola, and a hothouse mushroom- Leucocoprinus cepaestipes!

All in all, a great few days of fieldwork, with a whole host of additions for my pan-species lists. Since then, I’ve been getting ready to go back to university, leaving tomorrow!!

 

 

 

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