July PSL review

July has been a good month for pan-species listing, with 170 additions to my list across all the groups. This means that I’ve already achieved my end of year goal of 1000 new species! By the end of July, I’d seen 1024 new species in 2017, taking my overall total to 3753. I spent most of the month at home in Cambridgeshire, but the final few days coincided with the beginning of a weeks holiday in Dorset, providing a boost in new species! Here’s the usual breakdown of my new finds during July:

Lichens: 1 new species- Chaenotheca ferruginea. Group total now 21. I’m hoping to push onwards with lichens in a month or two when all the insects and plants disappear.

Fungi: 6 new species, taking my total to 131. All microfungi, including the mildew Erysiphe aquilegiae on my garden Aquilegias.

Vascular Plants: A reasonable 13 new species, bringing my group total up to 925. A few garden escapes from wandering around a local housing estate, including Argentinian Vervain (Verbena bonariensis) and Purple Toadflax (Linaria purpurea). Best of all was Violet Helleborine (Epipactis purpurata) at Monks Wood, and my first ever Sundews! Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) on Hartland Moor, Dorset.

Left: Argentinian Vervain (Verbena bonariensis). Right: Purple Toadflax (Linaria purpurea).

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Violet Helleborine (Epipactis purpurata)- a beautiful and scarce plant of shaded south-eastern woodlands.
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Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia). It was great to finally see some of these lovely carnivorous plants.

Arachnids: 10 new species. Mostly spiders including the impressive Raft Spider Dolomedes fimbriatus at RSPB Arne, and Trochosa terricola. Another major highlight was the UK’s largest pseudoscorpion Dendrochernes cyrneus at Woodwalton Fen. A very rare species indeed! Details of its finding are in my previous blog HERE.

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Trochosa terricola, an absolute brute of a wolf spider (Lycosid), this female having a body length of 14mm.
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Dolomedes fimbriatus, a Raft Spider. I spotted this individual near the edge of a boggy pool at RSPB Arne, sheltering underneath some Bell Heather.
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Brian Eversham’s photo of Dendrochernes cyrneus. An amazing creature!

Odonata: A rare addition to this list takes my total to 26 (I haven’t been Dragonfly/Damselfly twitching, or North, very much). Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens).

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Female Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) on Hartland Moor, Dorset.

Hemipteroids: A group I’ve been working really hard on this year, and July is a good month for finding them! 58 new species, taking my group total to 254. A terrestrial heteroptera (land bugs) course mid-month helped out, but I’ve also worked hard finding new leafhoppers and Psocids. A selection of some recent finds from Dorset are shown below.

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An incredible species of leafhopper- Eupelix cuspidata. Found in dry grassland areas throughout southern England.

Left: Dicyphus annulatus, a small (3mm) Mirid bug found only on Restharrow. Right: Tuponia brevirostris, another small Mirid, this time found only on Tamarisk. A recent colonist to the UK, first recorded in 2001, this bug is now widespread in southern England.

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Gastrodes grossipes, a very flat 7mm long bug found on Scots Pine, often living in the cones.

Hymenoptera: Slightly below par with only 8 new species, taking my group total to 110. Nearly all solitary bees, including the lovely Dasypoda hirtipes.

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Dasypoda hirtipes, nicknamed the Pantaloon Bee due to its ‘baggy trousers’ of hair on the hind legs.

Coleoptera: 33 new species, so I’m now at 474 for the group. Though a good increase, July has been much harder for finding new beetles, and many weevils and Chrysomelids are past their peak. At the beginning of the month, the moth trap accounted for some really nice species! Here’s a generous helping of my new additions.

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Nationally scarce A Geotrupid Trypocopris pyrenaeus from Hartland Moor. A sandy heathland specialist, distinct in having very shallow elytral striae and pronotal punctures.
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A bizzare Anthribid weevil- Platystomos albinus. Not sure why, but this deadwood specialist was climbing Soft Rush!

Left: Nationally scarce Apionid weevil Squamapion cineraceum. Associated with Self-heal on dry, chalky soils. Right: Curculionid weevil Cathormiocerus spinosus. A brilliantly camouflaged species feeding at the roots of plants on gravelly ground.

Two nationally scarce beetles from the moth trap! Left: Colydiid Aulonium trisulcus, usually found in the feeding galleries of Elm bark beetle larvae. Right: Dytiscid water beetle Rhantus frontalis.

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The exquisitely coloured Curculionid weevil Hypera nigrirostris. Widespread in England on Red Clover.

From left to right: Nationally scarce Curculionid weevil Mecinus circulatus. Nationally scarce Chrysomelid Calomicrus circumfusus. Curculionid weevil Rhinoncus castor, associated with Sheep’s Sorrel. Carabid Amara tibialis, distinctive due to its small size (c.5mm) and deep double streaks on each half of the pronotum.

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Brian Eversham’s photo of the Carabid (Ground beetle) Carabus granulatus. Although quite common, it’s a real jewel of a beetle, and nearly an inch long!

Diptera: 7 new species, bringing my total to 134. I’m certain I should be making more of an effort with flies! My latest addition was the large Tachinid Nowickia ferox.

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Nowickia ferox, a common Tachinid fly.

Lepidoptera- Moths: After an amazing June moth trapping in the garden, new species slowed considerably in July. Luckily, the garden in Dorset was amazing, and gave loads of new stuff over the first two nights. 29 new species, bringing my total to a nice round 600! All of the best new moths came from Dorset, and here are a few of them.

Left: Nationaly scarce A Four-spotted Footman (Lithosia quadra) male. Right: An amazingly fresh example of a Rosy Footman (Miltochrista miniata).

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Dingy Mocha (Cyclophora pendularia), a Red Data Book and BAP priority species restricted almost entirely to damp heathlands in Dorset and Hampshire.

Left: Nationally scarce micro moth Synaphe punctalis. Right: Small Mottled Willow (Spodoptera exigua), a somewhat uncommon immigrant species.

Insects- Remaining small orders: 4 new species, bringing my total to 28. All lacewings, the most recent being Nineta flava shown below.

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Nineta flava, a large lacewing (c.20mm) associated with Oaks. It has a distinctive concave outer edge to the forewing.

So with those 170 new species, and my end of year goal of 1000 new species exceeded, where next? Well I’ve decided to try and reach an overall total of 4000 by the end of the year, so I need to find another 247 species! Its amazing to think that I started my pan-species list last August on 2420, and I’m already headed towards 4000. It goes to show the amazing diversity of life that can be discovered.

 

Nocturnal beetling and more at Woodwalton Fen

On Saturday the 15th of July, at about 10:30pm, Brian Eversham and myself headed out to Woodwalton Fen NNR to see if the rare Tansy Beetle (Chrysolina graminis) is nocturnal or not. Our side aim was to find as much else of interest as we possibly could!

We crossed the bridge over the Ramsey Forty-foot Drain to enter the fen, armed with head-torches and sweep-nets. The first thing we came to was a large Oak tree, so we decided to stop and stare at the bark to see what interesting invertebrates were climbing Oak trees at night. We spent some half an hour at the Oak tree, finding bush-crickets, moths, caterpillars, harvestmen, and even the occasional ground beetle. At one point, Brian spotted an odd-looking beetle climbing up the bark. On closer inspection, it was a Psylliodes flea beetle, and then I found something lurking in the cracks behind it: a big pseudoscorpion! It turned out to be Britain’s biggest pseudoscorp (at a whopping 4mm), the Red Data Book species Dendrochernes cyrneus, new to Woodwalton, and perhaps Huntingdonshire! Brian has been kind enough to let me use his photos in this blog, so they’re much better quality than normal!

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Dendrochernes cyrneus, RDB pseudoscorpion, photo by Brian Eversham

As we moved onwards up the main ride of the reserve, a Grasshopper Warbler sang distantly. I’m not sure why, but I’d never quite realised that they sing in the middle of the night, so it felt very odd to hear one! Our walk was dominated by moths for a few hundred yards, with Fen Wainscot (Arenostola phragmitidis) by far the most abundant, followed perhaps by Anania perlucidalis. The head-torches also attracted Drinker moths (Euthrix potatoria), which being rather ungainly flyers, were repeatedly battering our faces. Luckily they’re rather soft things, so it’s sort of like being hit with a very small cushion. Here’s a selection of moths- photos by Brian again.

Left to right: Udea lutealis, Argyresthia brockeella, Fen Wainscot (Arenostola phragmitidis) and July Highflyer (Hydriomena furcata).

Other moth highlights included Crescent (Helotropha leucostigma), and a huge abundance of Svensson’s Copper Underwing (Amphipyra berbera) on the famous Rothschild’s Bungalow in the centre of the reserve.

The walls of Rothschild’s Bungalow also gave us roosting Red Admiral (sadly no Purple Emperors), the nationally scarce ant Lasius brunneus, and lots of the spider- Scotophaeus blackwalli (Photo from Brian).

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Scotophaeus blackwalli, a rather impressive looking spider, which I’d only previously seen in my house!

We then headed towards Tansy Beetle area, but couldn’t resist stopping at one of Woodwalton Fens many bridges, which provide areas of bare ground great for finding Carabids (ground beetles) and Lygaeids (ground bugs). Sure enough, I managed one new species for me from each group! The Carabid Platynus assimilis, and the Lygaeid Scolopostethus puberulus. The latter is identified by having the basal two antennal segments uniformly pale, the apical two uniformly dark, and having a rostrum long enough to reach the hind coxae. All features are shown in my phone-microscoped photos below:

Above: The Lygaeid bug Scolopostethus puberulus.

After these many brilliant distractions along the way, we eventually reached the part of the reserve where Tansy Beetles are known to be found. We checked the stands of Water Mint and Gypsywort (known foodplants) very carefully, and found feeding damage, but no beetles! Luckily we found a few other nice beetle species along the way- the bizarre 2mm Pselaphid Rybaxis laminata, and contrastingly, the 2cm Carabid Carabus granulatus! Both new to me. Below is Brians photo of this beasty beetle!

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Carabus granulatus, a beautifully sculptured Carabid.

We continued further into the fen, sweeping the Common Reed and Tufted Vetch, which yielded a new Apionid weevil for me- Oxystoma cerdo. It’s a particularly odd looking weevil, with a ‘roman nosed’ look given by the narrowing and bumped rostrum. Phone-microscoped pic of mine below:

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Oxystoma cerdo, an Apionid weevil associated with Vetches.

We also looked closely at flowerheads that we passed, as these were packed full of moths and beetles. One of our best finds was from the head of Common Ragwort- the chunky Curculionid weevil Brachypera zoilus. Photo by Brian.

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Brachypera zoilus, a Curculionid weevil usually found at the roots of Clovers… but not at night!

Before heading back, we switched off the head-torches to appreciate the sounds around us, and listen for more Grasshopper Warblers. Unfortunately we didn’t hear any Warblers, but just listening to the wind gently blowing the reeds, whilst looking up at the Milkyway (a rare sight in Cambridgeshire!) was lovely.

So, my thoughts after my first ever nocturnal fieldwork session… brilliant! Compared to fieldwork in the daytime, it seemed much more productive (unless you prefer bees, wasps and most fly families). Each sweep net seems more full, with more interesting things, and the tree trunks come alive! I can’t wait for the next time.

May and June pan-species review

I can hardly believe it’s been so long since I last blogged- 2 months! Unfortunately the reason behind this is that I’ve been really quite unwell, for much of this time. I’ve found that getting out and amongst nature when I can, even for just half an hour has helped me to stay positive.

Much of May was spent down in Cornwall at uni. It was a month of exams, but I managed to get out from time to time to some great places, and found lots of cool things! June has mostly been spent at home, trying to get back to work, and visiting local wildlife trust reserves. At the beginning of May, my pan-species list stood at 3229. By the end of June I’d managed to get to 3583, an increase of 354, leaving me only 146 species from my goal of 1000 new species this year! Here’s how the species were added across the groups:

Fungi: 7 new species added, mostly gall causers, taking my total to 125.

Vascular Plants: 23 new species, bringing my group total to 912. Here’s a collection of some of the more memorable species, mostly from the Lizard!

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Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica) from near St.Ives, Cornwall. Common in the West, but near absent from my native East Anglia, hence new to me!
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Hairy Greenweed (Genista pilosa) from the Lizard. A real South-western rarity!
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Yet another rarity: Thyme Broomrape (Orobanche alba), from Kynance Cove, Lizard. An amazing little parasitic plant, feeding off the roots of Thymus.
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Now this one hardly looks wild, but I’ve found it almost a kilometre from habitation on (yep, you guessed it) the Lizard. Naturalised enough! Eastern Gladiolus (Gladiolus communis).
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Lastly, this rather understated plant- Sulphur Clover (Trifolium ochroleucon). Found at Woodwalton Marsh, Cambridgeshire. A much declined species in recent decades, now pretty much restricted to East Anglian boulder clay.

Arachnids: 19 new species, taking my total from 93 to 112. A real mixture of species- a few gall mites, some spiders, and a harvestman: Odiellus spinosus.

Hemipteroids: As insect season really got underway, I managed to find lots of new species in this group: 65 to be precise! My group total by the end of June was 196. I’ve managed a few new leafhoppers, and several new psocids, including two uncommon species living on the walls of my house: Blaste quadrimaculata and Loensia variegata. Most of my new species were Heteroptera (true bugs), which are beginning to become one of my favourite groups. Here are a few of my favourites:

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Beosus maritimus, a fairly scarce ground bug (family Lygaeidae) restricted to south and west coasts. Found on the Lizard in some numbers.
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Henestaris laticeps, another localised coastal species, also found on the Lizard. The ‘eyes on stalks’ look is distinctive of the genus.
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Sciocoris cursitans, the Sand-runner Shieldbug. A very unusual looking species, only 5mm in length. Another southern coastal scarcity, found near Gwithian, Cornwall.
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Arenocoris fallenii aka Fallen’s Leatherbug. An amazingly camouflaged bug found on sandy soils. I found a few at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes, Cambridgeshire.

Hymenoptera: An increase of 15 species from 87 to 102. Most of these new additions were bees (which I’m slowly learning), but I also managed two new ants, a group which I’ve been looking at for 5 years! Myrmecina graminicola and Temnothorax albipennis, within a few feet of each other on the Lizard. Despite my love for ants, I must concede that my favourite new hymenopteran was a bee: Eucera longicornis! (Hand credit Will Hawkes).

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A spectacular male Eucera longicornis, from the super diverse Lizard peninsula again.

Coleoptera: This is the group I’ve made by far the most progress with. I’ve been starting to learn weevils (from all families) and seed and leaf beetles (Chrysomelids) this year, as well as having a go at identifying almost any beetle I can find! All of this effort resulted in 114 new species during May and June, taking my total to 441. It’s really hard to choose which species to include in this blog, but here’s a few of the weirdest, coolest and best!

First up, a few weevils. From left to right: Coelositona cambricus, an odd looking weevil that looks to me to have the texture of old carpet! Cionus scrophulariae, the commonest ‘Figwort weevil’. Dryocoetes villosus, debatably not really a weevil, but the ‘Bark beetles’ have now been placed in the family Curculionidae. Finally, Nanophyes marmoratus, one of Britains’ two Nanophyid weevils. This pretty little species is found on Purple Loosestrife.

Now, some of the weirder species! Left to right: Tillus elongatus, from the family Cleridae. Glaphyra umbellatarum, a nationally scarce A Longhorn beetle found at Monks Wood. Anobium fulvicorne, now in the family Ptinidae. The pronotum almost completely covers the head. Last but not least, another Ptinid: Ptilinus pectinicornis, with its amazing pectinate antennae! The whole beetle is only 3mm long.

These three beetles at first seem unrelated, but they have one thing in common- they all turned up in my garden moth trap! First, the Carabid (Ground beetle) Stenolophus mixtus. Second, Trox scaber! A cool, rough looking beetle, usually found in birds nests. Finally, the best on the bunch, nationally notable B weevil Phytobius leucogaster. Usually found feeding on Water-milfoils!

Finally, two beetles from Fen Drayton Lakes. Left: the tiny ladybird Scymnus frontalis. One of the smaller Coccinellids, which some people might not recognise as a ladybird at all! Right: the fairly scarce Carabid (ground beetle) Microlestes minutulus. This species was discovered new to Britain in 1995, and is spreading through South-east England.

Diptera: Never my best group, but I managed to add 22 species in May and June, taking my total to 127. I added a few nice new hoverflies, including Xanthogramma citrofasciatum on the Lizard, and a few new leaf miners, including Phytomyza leucanthemi. I found this species on a cultivated Daisy species in my garden, and managed this cool picture showing the internal frass by holding a torch behind the mine. Thanks to Barry Warrington for helping confirm the ID.

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Phytomyza leucanthemi mine on a daisy sp. in my garden. The exit slit at the top of the mine, and irregular spread out grains of frass are distinctive.
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Another new fly, Epiphragma ocellare. A Limoniid cranefly associated with heavily wooded areas, found at Monks Wood.

Lepidoptera- butterflies: 1 new species! As I’ve seen most common butterflies, and don’t go out of my way to find more species, this is a rare addition! Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary from the Lizard.

Lepidoptera- moths: It’s been an excellent two months for moth trapping, both in Cornwall, and back home in Cambridgeshire. The hot spell in June produced some of the best garden moth trapping I’ve ever had, with countless new species, and a Huntingdonshire (VC31) first macro moth- Cloaked Pug (Eupithecia abietaria). In total, 73 new species takes my total to 571.

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Cloaked Pug (Eupithecia abietaria), new to VC31.

A couple of new moths found by day. Left: Red-necked Footman (Atolmis rubricollis) found at Monks Wood. Right: Burnet Companion (Euclidia glyphica) feeding on Agrimony.

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Common, but new to me- Leopard Moth (Zeuzera pyrina), from the garden moth trap.

Insects- remaining small orders: 9 new species, taking my total to 24. A couple of Mayflies, and several Lacewings- a group I’m becoming more fond of.

Fish: 1 new species, and it’s my biggest fish yet… Basking Shark! Seen off the Lizard on a beautifully warm day in May. Missed out on Ocean Sunfish twice in the same day. My group total now 52.

Birds: 5 new species, all from Cornwall of course, and all in May. My group total is now 264. The five were: Richard’s Pipit, Purple Heron, Red-rumped Swallow, Iberian Chiffchaf and Bee-eater! I must thank Toby Phelps for allowing me to hop in his car for endless birding and short-range twitching (and long range dipping, in the case of Portlands Spectacled Warbler).

Richard’s Pipit phonescope record shots, from fields on the edge of Lizard village.

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A quality photograph for once! Because it was taken by Toby Phelps. Purple Heron on a birders garden pond near Truro.

A rather trickier bird to photograph, but some decent record shots from Toby. Red-rumped Swallow at RSPB Marazion Marsh.

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Iberian Chiffchaff, in full song at Prussia Cove near Penzance. Lovely picture by Toby again. After a record year for the species, how long before it’s no longer a rarity I wonder?
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Bee-eater in a horse paddock near Hayle. An absolutely stunning bird. It was amazing to watch it grab a bumblebee out of the air, rub its tail end on the wires to remove the sting, then swallow it whole!

Looking back through May and June, I can hardly believe it myself how much stuff I’ve seen! With only 146 more species to go for 1000 new this year, will July be the month I make it?!

 

March and April- PSL review

It’s been a busy few weeks, mostly spent doing fieldwork, working, identifying stuff and moving back down to uni, so I’ve been neglecting my blog a little bit. So to make up for it, here’s a big colourful blog about all the new things I managed to find during March and April, on my way to 1000 new species this year.

March

In total, I managed 131 new species during the month of March!

Algae: 10 new species this month, all seaweeds (marine macro-algae), taking my total to 40 for the group.

Lichens: A poor 3 more species added, taking my total to 20. I’ve decided to leave these until the autumn.

Fungi: Slowly increasing as ever, 2 new species. Total 110 for the group.

Bryophytes: As the main bryology season drew to a close, I managed 19 new species, taking my group total to 197. Amongst these species were some excellent liverworts: the extremely rare Riccia crystallina, and the highly localised Sphaerocarpos michelii. Thanks to Matt Stribley for telling me where to find them.

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Riccia crystallina, typically 5-20mm across

 

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Sphaerocarpos michelii

Vascular Plants: I managed 13 new species, taking my total to 884. These included the grass Poa compressa, and a couple of classic Cornish escaped Campanula species. Also Ranunculus tripartitus, the very localised Three-lobed Crowfoot, found on the Lizard.

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Ranunculus tripartitus (Three-lobed Crowfoot)

Cnidarians: An increase of 2, making a total of 12. One of these was an awesome stalked jellyfish: Haliclystus octoradiatus. I can’t remember what the other was!

Molluscs: 9 new species, so I’m now at 110 for the group. Additions included a monstrous 20cm Sea Hare: Aplysia punctata!

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Aplysia punctata (Sea Hare)

Bryozoans: An increase of 1, from 3 to 4. Cellepora pumicosa.

Annelids: 4 new species, taking my total to 17. A few of the easier rockpool species.

Arachnids: 3 new species, bringing me up to 79 for the group. The highlight by far was the Spitting Spider: Scytodes thoracica, found and brilliantly photographed by Will Hawkes.

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Scytodes thoracica (Spitting Spider) photographed by Will Hawkes

Myriapods: An increase of 1, taking my total to 51.

Crustaceans: A surprising increase of 11 species, bringing my total to 45 for the group. I’m very pleased with my additions to this group, which included 5 isopods from the genus Idotea, and some cool crabs, including this purpley Risso’s Crab: Xantho pilipes.

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Xantho pilipes (Risso’s Crab)

Orthopteroids: 1 addition, an Unarmed Stick-insect found by Ellie Mayhew! Temporarily brought indoors for people to come and admire. A real Cornish speciality, naturalised since 1979!

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Acanthoxyla inermis (Unarmed Stick-insect)

Hemipteroids: 9 new species, including a few Psocids (I’m not sure why these are part of hemipteroids in PSL groupings, surely they should be in ‘remaining insect orders’?). Total now 86.

Hymenoptera: 10 new species bringing my total to 77. Mostly solitary bees, added with guidance from Will Hawkes!

Coleoptera: Perhaps my favourite insect group currently. 15 new species this month, increasing my total to 235. Mostly weevils, including ‘species 3000’ Neliocarus nebulosus.

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Neliocarus nebulosus

Diptera: 4 species added, up to 93 now overall. These included the hoverfly Cheilosia albipila, seemingly not recorded in Cornwall for a couple of decades!

Moths: 4 new species, now at 487. These included the wonderful Pine Beauty (Panolis flammea).

Echinoderms: 1 new species, the green sea urchin (which isn’t always green) Psammechinus miliaris. Total now 7 for the group.

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The sea urchin Psammechinus miliaris next to a Painted Topshell, Calliostoma zizyphinum

Fish: After being relatively stuck for new fish for quite a while, 5 new species was excellent! Total now 51 for the group. Additions included Shore Rockling (Gaidropsaurus mediterraneus, right), Butterfish (Pholis gunnellus, top left) and the rare Giant Goby (Gobius cobitis, bottom left).

Birds: 3 new species this month, and all pretty nice things if I don’t say so myself! Hume’s Warbler (twitched on Portland with Toby Phelps and Liam Langley), Bonaparte’s Gull (a super showy individual half an hour from campus) and a Hoopoe (quick diversion from birding on the Lizard to see it)! Now at 257.

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Bonaparte’s Gull phonescope

 

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Hoopoe, attempted phone-bin

Mammals: 1 new species this month, total now 39. I was persuaded to add Human (Homo sapiens) to my list by fellow PSLers.

 

April

April has been the biggest month so far with regards to adding new species to my list. I surpassed my own expectations by quite a way, with 204 new species! 6.8 new species per day on average. This did include an epic 40+ lifer day involving a day out in chalk grassland (Devil’s Dyke, Cambs) and the Brecklands with Brian Eversham, followed by about 7 hours of microscope IDing!

Fungi: 8 new additions, mostly gall-causers. Total now 118.

Vascular Plants: 5 new additions taking my total to 889. One new species was the long awaited Pasqueflower, at Devil’s Dyke, Cambridgeshire.

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Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasqueflower)

Molluscs: 3 new species, total now 113.

Arachnids: 14 new species. A mixture of gall-causing mites and spiders. A personal highlight was finding the fairly localised spider Steatoda phalerata on the Suffolk coast.

Hemipteroids: A fairly substantial increase of 45 species, from 86 to 131! This included lots of species of Leafhopper (Cicadellidae), a few Planthoppers (Delphacidae), a Lacehopper (Cixiidae), and lots of Heteroptera (Bugs). Far left: A common leafhopper species, Eupteryx florida. Mid left: A common lacehopper species, Tachycixius pilosus. Mid right: A planthopper species associated with Sand Sedge (Carex arenaria), Kelisia sabulicola. Far right: A lacebug (family Tingidae), Physatocheila dumetorum. Fairly frequent on lichen covered trees, but at 2.5mm long, easy to miss!

Hymenoptera: 10 more species, bringing my total up to 87. These were all species of solitary bee, and included Nomada goodeniana.

 

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Nomada goodeniana

 

Coleoptera: Beetles were very much a focal point for me this month. I specifically targeted the various weevil families (Curculionidae, Apionidae, Rhynchitidae etc.), and the seed and leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae), but also spent lots of time attempting random beetles that I came across. I managed 92 new species, bringing my group total to 327! Here are some pictures to illustrate the amazing diversity of beetles, a sample of things new to me in April!  

Curculionid weevils left to right: Phyllobius viridearis, Acalyptus carpini, Curculio glandium, Mogulones asperifoliarum. P.viridearis was my last lifer in April, and 500th lifer for the year.

Orthocerous weevils left to right: Exapion fuscirostre, Apion frumentarium (Apionidae), Neocoenorrhinus pauxillus, Tatianaerhynchites aequatus (Rhynchitidae).

Chrysomelid beetles left to right: Cassida vibex, Longitarsus dorsalis, Bruchus rufimanus, Phyllotreta vittula.

Other beetles left to right: Salpingus planirostris (Salpingidae), Psilothrix viridicoeruleus (Dasytidae), Aderus populneus (Aderidae), Glischrochilus hortensis (Nitidulidae).

Diptera: 12 new species, meaning that I’ve finally reached 3 figures for the group! 105 now the total. Most additions were leaf miners, gall causers, and Bibionid flies.

Moths: 11 new species, my total is now 498. A few leaf miners, and a few common-ish species that I’ve finally caught up with, such as Common Heath, Ematurga atomaria.

Insects remaining small orders: 1 new species. I actually had 3 new lacewings, but realised that my two thrips species belomged in the ‘hemipteroids’ category.

Birds: 2 new species, bringing my total up to 259. Contrasting with the rare and scarce additions during March, these were both long-term bogey species: Black Tern (at RSPB Minsmere) and Common Crossbill (seen whilst dipping the Haddon Hill Two-barred Crossbill). Crossbill is probably the best finch I’ve ever seen.

 

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Male Common Crossbill phonescope

 

Other animals: 1 addition, so my total is at last 1! The gall causing nematode worm Ditylenchus dipsaci, easily found on Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata).

Species of the week- 20

I’ve been doing lots of fieldwork recently, and have seen loads of cool stuff, so its been hard to choose a species to write about! I’ve been getting started on learning my bees this year, using Stephen Falks brilliant bee guide. So this weeks species is a bee, Gooden’s Nomad Bee: Nomada goodeniana.

 

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Nomada goodeniana male

 

Many people are surprised by the diversity of bees in Britain, we have nearly 275 species! One of these species is the Honeybee (Apis mellifera), roughly 25 are Bumblebees (Bombus spp.), and all of the other species are solitary bees. Of those solitary bees, 34 are in the genus Nomada, which are all roughly wasp-like in appearance, and cleptoparasitic on Andrena mining bee species.

Nomada goodeniana is cleptoparasitic on the common Andrena species A.nigroaenea and A.nitida, as well as the much scarcer A.thoracica. The female Nomada finds the nest hole of one of its host species, and sneaks in whilst the adult is absent. They lay one egg in the wall of a nest cavity, containing a grub of the host with its food store. The Nomada larva then eats the host Andrena larva, and all of its food store!

Recognising a Nomad bee isn’t too tricky, but identifying it to species can be. First you need to figure out if its male or female. Males are slightly slimmer, with slightly longer 13 segmented antennae. Females are stockier with shorter, 12 segmented antennae. Males are then identified by having no red or brown marks on the abdomen, 0 or 2 yellow spots on the propodeum (never 1 large spot), an unbroken yellow band on tergite 2 and mostly orange hind tibiae. All of these features can be seen in the photos above and below. Females are recognised similarly by having only yellow and black abdomens, 2 yellow dots on the propodeum and a complete yellow band on tergite 2.

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Nomada goodeniana is frequent throughout southern Britain, becoming scarcer and more localised further North (a pattern seen in many bee species due to their thermophilic tendencies). Here’s its distribution map (may not be complete due to the NBN atlas not having all datasets yet):

https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NHMSYS0000876427

I look forward to finding more bees, especially Nomad bees, soon!

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Species of the week- 19

Yet another two week gap since my last blog. I don’t like leaving it so long, but exams had to come first. I’m now home for a month, and although working, will try to blog more often! The species I’ve chosen this week is extra special to me, as it was the 3000th species (of anything and everything) that I’d seen in the UK. I found it for the first time last sunday. The weevil Neliocarus nebulosus.

 

Neliocarus
Neliocarus nebulosus

 

With its portly figure and plodding movements, I find it to be a rather friendly looking little weevil. Its identification isn’t ever so easy, but the features include: 3-4mm long, keeled elytral base, eyes asymmetrically curved to give a swept-back appearance and pronotum widest at or behind the middle.

This weevil is typically found on low growing plants, often near the roots, where it presumably feeds on the roots and/or foliage (I can’t find any specific information on its diet!). It is most frequent on light and sandy soils in fairly open habitats, such as heathland, or coastal grassland. I found my individual by beating Gorse bushes on a Cornish clifftop.

Neliocarus nebulosus is quite widespread in England and Wales, becoming rarer further North. It is almost absent from Scotland. It seems odd that a seemingly generalist beetle is quite rarely recorded. Though widespread, records are thin on the ground. The excellent new NBN atlas (replacing the NBN gateway) shows this well: https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NHMSYS0020152778#overview

Another excellent feature of this new site is the records shown in each Vice-county. As you can see, West Cornwall is the best place to find the species! https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NHMSYS0020152778#records

Though it may not look like the most exciting species, I’m very fond of it, and it marks a pan-species milestone!

Species of the week- 18

It’s been a truly hectic couple of weeks at uni, and it’s not looking like its going to ease off until the Easter break. I’ve taken some time off this weekend to get out, do some birding, find some new insects, and write this blog! It’s about a species that I’d been wanting to see for ages, and last week, saw my first. I’ve yet to find one for myself though…

The species I’ve chosen this week is a striking, and truly fascinating little spider, the Spitting Spider: Scytodes thoracica! Thanks very much to Will Hawkes (website: https://www.willhawkesphotography.com/) for finding this spider, showing it to me, and letting me use his amazing photos!

Wills pic

The Spitting Spider is a completely unmistakeable species! It is unique in many ways: firstly, it has only 6 eyes (the vast majority of spider species have 8), secondly, it’s the only spider in Britain with this colouration, and finally, its method of prey capture is amazing!

The Spitting Spider doesn’t move very fast, so can’t outrun its prey. It also doesn’t make a web. What it does do is creep up to its prey and squirt it with a venomous, sticky, silk-like substance, fired from its chelicerae at a range of around 10mm (pretty impressive when you consider the spider has a body length of 3-5mm!). It even waves its chelicerae from side to side as it squirts out the substance, in order to completely cover its prey, ensuring that it is gummed down. Prey consists of a variety of very small invertebrates, such as small flies. The Spitting Spider also uses its long-range weapon to ward off attacks from larger spiders.

Wills pic 2

Due to its small size and slow movements, Scytodes thoracica is no doubt under-recorded. That said, this species appears to be genuinely quite uncommon. Wills record looks to be the first one in West Cornwall! It is only found in and around houses, and has a distinct southerly distribution bias. Here is a link to the Spider Recording Scheme website for extra information, and a distribution map: http://srs.britishspiders.org.uk/portal/p/Summary/s/Scytodes+thoracica

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about what must be one of Britain’s coolest Arachnids. Keep your eyes peeled, they could be living right under your nose!