This blog is about my top 20 wildlife highlights from 2017. It was hard to choose them, and even harder to put them in an order! Some are finding or seeing a specific species, some are days out, and some are a series of particularly good days! So here goes from 20th up to 1st.
20– Finding Eucera longicornis (A Long-horned Bee) on the Lizard. For this I have Will Hawkes to thank, for showing me where to find them, and helping me to see them on the day! This beautiful Bee is an uncommon species, with a scattered U.K distribution mostly across Southern England.
19- Thyme Broomrape (Orobanche alba) from the Lizard, I believe found by Sally Luker whilst on a field trip. This very rare plant is confined almost exclusively to the Lizard and the Hebrides in the U.K, and is a parasite on Wild Thyme.
18- Finding the beetle Ptilinus pectinicornis at Upwood Meadows nature reserve in Cambridgeshire. This is a fairly widespread species, which I found by beating an Oak tree. It can be overlooked due to only being around 3mm long! It’s in my top 20 because of its amazing pectinate antennae (near enough the exact English translation of ‘pectinicornis’).
17- Finding the Anthribid weevil species Bruchela rufipes probably new to Huntingdonshire (VC31) near Holme Fen NNR. This species was first found in Britain in 1984, and appears to be slowly spreading. I swept it from its food plant, Wild Mignonette, in some numbers.
16- Grey Phalarope on Helston boating lake, showing down to about 5ft! I have seen Grey Phalaropes before, but almost always on seawatches, where they fly past half a mile or so away. Seeing one swimming around next to the bank I was standing on at Helston Boating lake was incredible!
15- Finding the Rhynchitid weevil species Neocoenorrhinus pauxillus at Pingle Cutting nature reserve in Cambridgeshire. I found two of this nationally scarce A weevil by beating Hawthorn in spring 2017. It is described as being not only scarce, but usually very hard to find. It was one of my first 20 or so weevils, so I was very lucky to stumble across it completely by accident! The reserve is in Huntingdonshire vice-county (VC31), the national stronghold for this species.
14- Cloaked Pug (Eupithecia abietaria) from my garden moth trap, new to Huntingdonshire (VC31). This rather pretty (for a Pug!) moth turned up during a series of very warm nights, giving me the best garden mothing (and moth trap bycatch) I’ve ever had, with around 100 moth species recorded a night! This species may be a migrant, or may be establishing some resident populations in Britain. It is unusually large for a Pug, with a wingspan of up to 30mm. I was very happy to catch this, as macro moths are very well recorded, so new vice-county records aren’t common!
13- Basking Shark! It was amazing to see one swimming past Lizard point this spring. Unfortunately it was a little too distant for photos.
12- Rockpooling in Falmouth. This year, Falmouth’s rockpools have given me a huge selection of incredible species, some of which it seems just shouldn’t occur in Britain! Here are a few of the best:
Left to right: Giant Goby (Gobius cobitis), Butterfish (Centronotus gunnellus), Risso’s Crab (Xantho pilipes) and Sea Hare (Aplysia punctata).
Left to right: Spiny Squat-lobster (Galathea strigosa), Topknot Flatfish (Zeugopterus punctatus), Yellow-plumed Sea Slug (Berthella plumula) and a Spider Crab (Macropodia rostrata).
11- It’s another bird from Helston boating lake! This time a rarer species: Bonaparte’s Gull. The Bonaparte’s Gull is the North American equivalent of our Black-headed Gull, but is slightly smaller and has pink legs. All birds which turn up on the boating lake are fantastically tame, as they just follow what the local birds do, which in these case is fly towards people when they have bread. This allowed for views down to 2m, surely once in a lifetime for such a rare bird.
10- Moth trap beetle bycatch! Across the summer of 2017, my moth trap bycatch provided me with lots of new species, many of these being beetles. There were times when small ground beetles like Trechus quadristriatus far outnumbered the moths! A few of the best beetles are shown below.
Left: Nationally scarce B Dytiscid water beetle Rhantus frontalis. Right: Nationally scarce A Colydiid Aulonium trisulcus.
Left: Nationally scarce B Curculionid weevil Phytobius leucogaster. Right: cool-looking Trogid Trox scaber.
9- Seeing Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) hunting, and leaping fully out of the water off Land’s-end. This is a fish species I didn’t think I’d be seeing without going out on a pelagic trip. Even at range, their immense bulk is very apparent- they’re huge!
8- Seeing Bee-eater in Cornwall. A perfect break from spring exam revision, to see a fantastically exotic-looking bird. It caught several bumblebees as I watched it, and it was fascinating to see how it removed the stings by rubbing the bee’s tail against the telephone wires it was perched on.
7- Visiting Schistostega pennata (a.k.a Goblin’s Gold) at Carn Euny ancient village in West Cornwall. This amazing moss has a reflective protonema (early life phase), and grows in dark, dry tunnels. This means that as you shine a torch around, the walls glisten and glow golden-green. Schistostega pennata is not a common species, found only in dry caves and rabbit burrows, mostly in southern England. I found it especially memorable seeing it in the fogou of an ancient village, on a spookily quiet, foggy day. It all seemed a little mystical!
Schistostega pennata at a foggy Carn Euny ancient village.
6- American Cliff Swallow twitch to Tresco. Though the journey to Tresco isn’t as long for us as it is for most people (45 min drive to Penzance, 3hr boat to St.Marys, 30 min boat to Tresco), it still felt like quite an ordeal day-trip twitching this mega-rarity. At one stage it looked like a certain dip, as everyone who had been watching the bird on Tresco left for the Cedar Waxwing which had just been found on St.Agnes! But after a stressful hour Toby refound the bird, and it gave us amazing views down to around 10m. Meanwhile, 3 Bee-eaters flew around us, giving their bubbling calls as they went! Amazing times.
5- Finding over 40 new species in a day with Brian Eversham at Devil’s Dyke in south Cambridgeshire, followed by the Suffolk Brecklands. It was incredible to see not only so many new species, but such a diversity of species! I saw new spiders, beetles, bugs, leafhoppers, snails and plants, and that’s just off the top of my head! A small selection are shown below.
Left to right: Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), A Delphacid planthopper (Kelisia sabulicola) and an Apionid weevil (Exapion fuscirostre).
4- Two awesome days of seawatching at Pendeen. Firstly, an 11.5 hour monster seawatching session on the 11th of September, with 4 lifer birds (Leach’s Petrel, Great Shearwater, Long-tailed Skua and Sabine’s Gull) and my first ever Ocean Sunfish! The second was shorter (I had to leave early) on the 22nd of October, and involved tonnes of Skuas (over 100 Great Skuas for those who stayed a little longer!), some of which flew right over our heads. I covered the first seawatch in more detail as a part of my ‘Back to birding’ blog here. My notebook for both days is shown below.
Pendeen seawatching notes.
3- An incredible day of twitching and birding that took us (Myself, Toby, Liam and Kali) from Falmouth to Dorset to Davidstow to Pendeen! We made it to RSPB Lodmoor for 8am, where we quickly connected with both of the present mega American waders: Least Sandpiper and Stilt Sandpiper. These were supported by a Great White Egret and a few Green Sandpipers. Then we made our way to Portland, where we had crippling views of Buff-breasted Sandpiper, followed by a Wryneck in the quarry near the observatory. After that we headed back into Cornwall, and to Davidstow airfield, to see Little Stint (needed for Cornwall and year lists), before finally ending up at Pendeen for an evening seawatch, which produced Leach’s Petrels and Grey Phalaropes alongside a smattering of Skuas! I covered the day in more detail in my ‘Back to birding’ blog here.
Left: Least Sandpiper. Right: Stilt Sandpiper.
Left: Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Right: Wryneck.
2- Two nocturnal fieldwork session at Woodwalton Fen NNR with Brian Eversham. These produced a huge amount of new species for me, some of which were quite rare! Perhaps the rarest species of all was the Red Data Book Large Tree Chernes (Dendrochernes cyrneus), which we found on our first visit by staring at the bark of a large Oak tree under torchlight. Perhaps my favourite memory from the first visit was switching off the torches to appreciate the clarity of the milkyway and the stars, and listen to the sound of a Grasshopper Warbler singing from deep inside the reedbed, in the dead of night! A standout feature of the second visit was the huge number of Carabus granulatus (a large ground beetle) that we saw walking the grassy paths. There must’ve been hundreds! I covered the first trip in more detail in a previous blog here. Here’s a small selection of what we found.
Left to right: Oblique carpet (Orthonoma vittata), Larinioides sclopetarius, Brachypera zoilus, Carabus granulatus. All photos are Brian Eversham’s.
1- An awesome week spent in Dorset on a family holiday with my mum and dad. I saw far too many cool things that week to mention here (though many of my finds are mentioned in my July and August PSL review blogs, found by clicking the links), but off the top of my head, here are some of the best: Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), Dwarf Gorse (Ulex minor), Dorset Heath (Erica ciliaris), A Raft spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus), Heath Grasshopper (Chorthippus vagans), rare weevil (Platystomos albinus), Dingy Mocha (Cyclophora pendularia), Four-spotted Footman (Lithosia quadra), rare micro moth Metalampra italica and rare migrant micro moth Cydia amplana! There were several other rare or scarce invertebrates, and tens of other species new to me. All of that with beautiful weather, and some lovely walks. Here are a few photos from the week.
Left to right: Metalampra italica, Cydia amplana, Dingy Mocha (Cyclophora pendularia) and Four-spotted Footman (Lithosia quadra).
Left to right: Dorset Heath (Erica ciliaris), Dwarf Gorse (Ulex minor) and Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).
Top left: A Raft spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus). Top right: Pantaloon Bee (Dasypoda hirtipes). Middle right: Nationally scarce Geotrupid Trypocopris pyrenaeus. Bottom: Amazing leafhopper Eupelix cuspidata.
Left: Nationally scarce Chrysomelid Calomicrus circumfusus. Right: Nationally scarce Anthribid weevil Platystomos albinus.
Left: Old Harry Rocks. Right: Durdle Door.
Hope you enjoyed the blog!