Tuesday, February 19, 2013

TQ6410 - un-earthed

A couple more species - the first three on Saturday near Herstmonceux Castle, the rest in Monday afternoon sunshine in or around the bluebell wood and wild flower banks on my plot.

Just as I was quietly bemoaning the partial destruction of TQ6410's only nightingale habitat (one or two singing males recorded over the past four summers in the recently decimated bramble scrub), I suddenly had some luck on the birding front: a flock of Fieldfares (already ticked) in the oak tree rhs of this pic, then seven Lesser Redpolls in the sallows next to the oak, then a Water Rail scurrying across the ditch next to the sallows. And if you look VERY closely, you might even see the southern boundary line of TQ6410 dissecting the ditch. So ..... 
238 - Water Rail
239 - Lesser Redpoll (flock of 7)

240 - Mole (with apologies to SKEV)

OK I didn't actually SEE this little blighter but the molehill was very fresh so I hung around expectantly with camera at the ready. Mini-excavations soon started coming to the surface every 30-60 seconds so I waited and watched for about ten minutes (much to the bemusement of one or two passing dog-walkers) while this little heap accumulated bit by bit. Not even a little (mole) toe was exposed but if that wasn't Talpa europaea, I don't know WHAT was.  Not even going to have a conscience about this one as I'm 100% happy that it's a bona fide 'alive and digging' record for the square  ....

On the other hand (or hoof) ...... this beast (one of a pair of stags) came trotting across the bridleway on Saturday morning, this time fairly and squarely inside TQ6410. But I'm going to have to pass on counting Red Deer in Sussex. Like several human beings I've come across (which I also refuse to count), this animal was neither domesticated nor exactly wild. But they are at least roaming free around here for now. What do you think? 

241 - Jew's Ear (fungus) Auricularia auricula-judae 
I'd ignored this one several times thinking it was just a collapsed Oyster Mushroom ..... but fortunately it wasn't ....

242 - Lichen - Cladonia coniocraea
I suddenly noticed this green lichen on an old oak trunk behind the workshop. I mistook it for another moss at first. The oak was mysteriously felled many years ago (hurricane?) and the trunk only uncovered by mini-digger in 2005 when I excavated a bit of the slope it was hidden under. Have since chain-sawed out a couple of seats halfway along ....

243 - Winter Gnat Trichocera relegationi
244 - Bluebottle Calliphora vomitoria (well named? yes it is, honestly) 
245 - Field Slug Derocereas reticulatum

OK - I was getting a bit desperate with these last three ..... 

246 - Buff-tailed Bumble Bee (queen) Bombus terrestris this afternoon plus a few mystery bumble bee mites. This is where lack of microscope/digiscope is going to cost me a few ticks .... or mites ..... as the case may be.

So still a few species to identify starting with bumble bee mite (left hand side of head) - one of the genus parasitellus??
And also this very strange fungus in a little damp glade by the wildlife pond. It's about 15cm/6" high  ....

..... and another rather strange one on a silver birch log!

Last but not least, a rather menacing-looking little spider - found in my barn - and only about 10mm long .... but which one ??

And I thought things were going to start getting easier! 

246 species and grinding to a halt .....



  1. The mites are likely to be Parasitellus talparum - see http://theweekendbiologist.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/couple-of-pics-of-mites-from-b.html

    Those pics were taken with the little Veho USB microscope which only cost me about £30 online and is an OK substitute for a proper microscope. Alternatively, Lidl often have USB microscopes on offer.

  2. Your strange fungus is a type of puffball. The top has collapsed in, showing the spore mass. Judging from the size and stalk, it is the Stalked Puffball (Calvatia excipuliformis). I'm not sure about the next photo down - maybe a mould on top of a fungus, or one of the 'rot' fungi.


  3. Thanks Rich - not noticed mites on bumble bees before. But that's the great thing about Andy's challenge - pushing us to be more observant than we thought we were. I'll have a look on-line at that USB microscope stuff - cheers. Ta v.much to James as well. I've read my Roger Phillips book inside out in recent weeks but still couldn't find anything that matched the mystery puffball - maybe I need to get some (Blackberry) apps pdq!

  4. Definitely agree with James on the puffball (Handkea excipuliformis in my book). Reckon the fungus on birch could be a very old and rotten Birch Polypore Piptoporus betulinus but wouldn't like to say. Worth breaking up to look for the distinctive red and black beetle Diaperis boleti.

  5. Your spider is an amaurobius species - probably a.fenestralis, but a good view of the epigyne is needed to rule out a.similis with certainty. The males are slightly easier in that they have tibial apothyses which can be determined with a x10 or possibly a good macro photograph from above.

  6. Thanks Mark .... one hell of a strange fungus if you ask me. I'll have a go for the beetle next time I'm back at the plot. I've seen a much fresher Birch Polypore in the rookery wood next door - are the beetles fussy as to the state of their home/dinner? Thanks also to Matt - that's really useful too as my arachnid knowledge is on a par with my lichens. The important thing you haven't told me is how long do I have to live if it manages to bite me?

  7. For some reason, the mites tend to be more common on the early emergers - they might get more time to find hibernating queens?

  8. Mike, breaking up old birch polypores always yields some beetles. Best if they're crumbly, riddled with holes and not too soggy. Diaperis boleti is an easy naked eye identification but the rest of the sample is likely to be little brown jobs and tiny staphs!