Sunday, March 31, 2013

not a Pallid Harrier in sight...

Unexpectedly had a couple of hours to kill before the mother-in-law arrived so sped off over Epsom Common for a sneaky bit of TQ1960 action.

An overhead Meadow Pipit was the first addition to the Challenge tally followed by an Engrailed on a tree trunk (noticed whilst having a pee up said tree trunk!). I noticed that a few of the Lords and Ladies were showing pale brown leaf spots, EOL supplied a list of possibilities, Google did the rest. Result was Spermosporina aricola, sweet. Less luck with Lesser Celandine fungal leaf spots, I'm hoping that by the time they finally start flowering their parasitic fungi will be developed enough to safely identify...all still a bit hazy at the moment though.

A bit of kerbside botany added Columbine and Common Chickweed before I had to get back for the mother-in-law. She duly arrived and offered to run us out into the countryside for a nice wee walk. Somehow we ended up back on Epsom Common (!!!!) where I wandered into the adjacent square, easily finding rares such as Mandarin, Teal, Bogbean, Barberry and Bank Vole. I'm hopeful of finding the latter in my square soon, not sure I'll get any of the others though *sigh*.

We waved goodbye to our visitor, ate a bit, drank a bit - then I got onlline and discovered the TOTALLY SHOCKING news that Surrey's first ever Pallid Harrier (a full-on adult male) has been flapping round Papercourt this afternoon. That's like...what...15 miles south of me! Bloody hell's bells!!!! It'll probably fly over Epsom Common tomorrow but I'm straight back to work at 7am. Dammit - suddenly square-bashing seems to be getting in the way of Surrey megas :(

I've seen Pallid Harriers before (3 in UK plus in Turkey) so I'll survive, but I did (ever so briefly) feel like "doing a Johnny Allen".

Anyway, today's additions are:

366 - Meadow Pipit - 1 overhead, Epsom Common
367 - The Engrailed - 1 roosting on tree trunk, Epsom Common
368 - Columbine - several growing in a kerbside near allotment plot
369 - Common Chickweed - finally decided to check it out, railway bridge steps
370 - Spermosporina aricola - frequent on Lords and Ladies' leaves, Epsom Common (LIFER)
371 - Pallid Harrier (I fkkn wish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

A handful more...

Well the last couple of days have not exactly yielded a bonanza of goodies, and STILL no Chiffchaff. Moth-trap on tonight looking like it will make it three blank nights in a row. Got a few spiders and things on stand-by but only three more added, bringing the total for the end of the first quarter to 261:

259 - Spring Crocus - invoking the 2 metre from a garden fence rule (desperate times...)
260 - Common Frog - finally, under the hundredth log I've turned over!
261 - Common Polypody

Also, any pointers on this lichen would be appreciated. There's a load of it on the trunk of a large oak tree; I wondered if it might be Ramalina sp? Thanks.

Lichen on oak trunk

Spring Crocus (leaves 5 mm wide so Crocus vernus right?)

Nice to get an addition that doesn't require a microscope for once!

I had a wander round my garden on Friday with camera. 51 Frog Spawn - the first of the year! 52 Snail- Great Ramshorn Planarbarius cornew 53 Woodlice - Rough Woodlice -Porcello scaber then there were 3 (possibly 4) Mosses I'll post photos - Seth suggestions are Grimmia pulvinata and possibly Brachythecium populeum? any help appreciated

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Forcipular coxosternite fun!

Left it a bit late, but managed half an afternoon wandering around the square. Only a couple of brief snow flurries, none of it settled and at one point...wait for it...the sun came out!!! Then went back in again.

Most of the action pertained to log-turning exercises. Plenty of slugs (many of which I studiously prodded, turned over, checked the sole colour, rubbed the slime and then put back again - still none the wiser) and the usual centipedes/millipedes/woodlice. I potted a couple of centipedes that looked a bit different and a few millipedes too. Back indoors I keyed them all out and added Lithobius piceus (that's a goodun, I think. Texts say it is pretty much restricted to woodland in Surrey/Sussex/Hampshire), Lithobius forficulatus and the new millipede was Allajulus nitidus.

I (rather hopefully!) lifted a reptile tin and discovered a group of ants on the underside. They keyed out very easily to Jet Black Ant (concave rear of head, round spiracle etc) which is another newly identified species for me, although I've seen them before.

Last new species today was a fungus on Cow Parsley leaves, Protomyces macrosporus. It causes little blisters and bumps on the fresh leaflets. There are a couple more fungi that occur on Cow Parsley so I shall keep checking. Loads of white spots on Lesser Celandine leaves were Entyloma ficariae, first seen a couple of weeks back and now really starting to become prevalent on several patches of the hostplant.

So, today's additions:

357 - Nalassus laevioctostriatus (a darkling beetle) seen last week but just identified (LIFER)
358 - Protomyces macrosporus - (a fungus) growing on Cow Parsley leaves (LIFER)
359 - Great Willowherb - leaves coming through all over the place
360 - Cormorant - 1 overhead
361 - Common Toad - 1 small individual under a log. About time too!
362 - Jet Black Ant Lasius fuliginosus - colony under tin sheet in grassy area (LIFER)
363 - Lithobius piceus (a centipede) - 1 under a log, whacking long antennae (LIFER)
364 - Lithobius forficulatus (a centipede) - several under logs
365 - Allajulus nitidus (a millipede) - 1 under a log

Tomorrow I'm otherwise engaged and then it's straight back to work on Monday. So that's it for another week :(


We're almost into April and this means a potential stalling of the 1KSQ list. We are now well into bird migration time, so when I have a couple of hours spare, I am less likely to trawl the lanes around home but will be drawn to the coast to search for rarities. This morning I have a few free hours but I'm gonna hit the cliffs and look for rares.

Eristalis pertinax - a brief sunny period brought one or two insects to the garden.

I have managed a couple of walks in the last week and have found a few new little spots which look good (albeit private). Best bird was a Firecrest feeding in a garden along the road. It's a species which I should have seen in the square before but I haven't previously walked around it a lot. One night seemed fine enough to put the moth trap out which seemed a bit pointless as the temp dropped, but in the morning there was an Oak Beauty sat on the side which was a new species for the garden list - one of only 5 individual moths though.

Oak Beauty

The other night I spent a few frustrating hours with a beetle and my new carabid beetle book. I took me quite a while to understand and get used to the key and at various points decided to give up, but in the end I managed to identify the beast as Amara lunicollis. (I won't post a photo because if someone says I got it wrong it might make me cry!)

273 - Marchantia polymorpha (Common Liverwort)
274 - Cochlicella acuta (snail)
275 - Netted Slug
276 - Firecrest
277 - Sheep's Sorrel
278 - Sun Spurge
279 - Squirrel-tail Fescue
280 - Oak Beauty
281 - Common Quaker
282 - Amara lunicollis (beetle)

Found some of these scale insects on Polypody along the roadside near home. It looks like pictures of Soft Brown Scale but I presume there are a few similar species.

I was looking at some old local maps and found one from 1787 which shows that the northern part of my square used to be saltmarsh!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Shotesham - still plugging away

About time I posted again. Been a tricky few weeks, not least because of the continuing lack of spring. It briefly got about five degrees today, and a few bees popped out of the hive, but they didn't stay out long. And the worst thing is that there doesn't seem to be any end in sight. I know us Brits are supposed to moan about the weather, but it is getting increasingly worrying for the state of our wildlife this year. I don't think I've ever had a March without Chiffchaff or Hebrew Character (since I was aware of the existence of such things anyway) but with two days to go it's looking like that might be on the cards.

Anyway, I have kept plugging away and the list has risen to 258. Additions have been as follows:

Clubiona terrestris - a spider found in the moth-trap. I'd rather some moths to be honest, but nice to clinch this one - a female ID on epigyne pattern.

Segestria senoculata - a spider found whilst sorting out our woodpile; quite a distinctive thing.

Intermediate Screw-moss Syntrichia intermedia - on our front patio within sight of this computer...

Springy Turf-moss Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus - searched for, and found, on the lawn following postings of others

Pointed Spear-moss Calliergonella cuspidata - found (and photographed) at the same time as previous species

Schendyla nemorensis - a centipede, bit of a tricky one but looked OK

White-shouldered House-moth Endrosis sarcitrella - found by my son in his bedroom

Barren Strawberry Potentilla sterilis - in flower! What's it thinking of?!

Nipplewort Lapsana communis - leaves only

Great Willowherb Epilobium hirsutum - leaves only

Marsh Tit Poecile palustris - this bird has been holding territory just outside the square boundary for a while. I may have encouraged it to cross the line slightly. Annoyingly, a Brambling sat near it did not follow suit and remained stubbonly outside the square.

Empoasca vitis - tiny green leafhoppers beaten from Yew. I happened to have bought a key to the subfamily Typhlocybinae of the family Cicadellidae several years ago, a bit by mistake to be honest, and I've never found an opportunity to use it until today. Surprisingly easy really (although the 45 x microscope helped a tad...)

Eristalis tenax - dronefly on the wing, albeit sluggishly, today. Most hopeful sign of spring so far.

Allajulus nitidus - a slightly less common millipede but I think it looks OK.

Polydesmus angustus - a mating pair - male ID on gonopod shape.

Silpha atrata - beetle found under a log today

Phytoptus avellanae - thanks to Seth's tip, found some larger hazel buds and the teeny weeny mites inside - thanks Seth.

Large White Pieris brassicae - an unusual first butterfly of the year, but I finally got round to looking carefully at a pupa on the wall of the house.

Springy Turf-moss and Pointed Spear-moss on the lawn

Intermediate Screw-moss. (I hate mosses.)

Barren Strawberry

Bits n Bobs

Looks like things are starting to warm up. The garden pond now defrosts through the day, still no frogs though. Got myself up to 226...Viewed the first 2 from the car on someones garden bird feeder.

201 Garrulus glandarius - Jay
202 Sciurus carolinensis - Squirrel

Another quick nose about behind the local fuel station edgeland. Hoping for Ghost slug which can be found fairly easily here. This cold is probably keeping them underground as i've yet to find any this year. Checked the small water filled ditch for signs of Frog, not a sniff. Did find a few aquatic plants...

203 Plantago major - (Plantain) Found on the "footpath" in.

204 Lemna minor - Duckweed
205 Mentha aquatica - Mint
206 Typha latifolia - Reedmace
207 Iris pseudacorus - Iris
208 Daldinia concentrica - Fungus

209 Ardea cinerea - (Heron) Sitting on a low branch over the river that acts as a boundary for site.

210 Daedaleopsis confragosa - (Fungus) One very slug damaged specimen on decaying Willow.

211 Potentilla sterilis - (Barren Strawberry) Growing in the cracks of the steps of the old building that's still standing.

212 Polypodium interjectum - Fern
213 Conocephalum conicum - Liverwort
214 Heracleum sphondylium - Hogweed

215 Tinea pellionella - (Moth) First moth of the year, found in my mates kitchen...he wasn't to happy when i told him what it was.

216 Periparus ater - (Coal Tit) Several hunting about in the garden hedge.

 A quick visit today to one of the small quarries in the area, regularly nested by Kestrels. Hopefully the rock climbers that has recently rigged this place won't disturb them from nesting this year.


217 Sabacon viscayanum ramblaianum - (Harvestman) This harvestman has to be one of my favorites with those quirky Pedipalps. They seem to favour the more shadier spots. I usually find them under stone or board that's got good contact with bare earth...(photo taken last year)

218 Rubus idaeus - Raspberry
219 Piptoporus betulinus - Fungus

220 Neuroterus quercusbaccarum - (Spangle Gall) Plenty blown under some of the larger stones. First time for me to open one up, contained withing was an adult wasp which did not survive the ordeal.

221 Ribes uva-crispa - Gooseberry
222 Rumex acetosa - Sorrel

223 Cladonia coniocraea - (Lichen) Farily abundant on the fence posts around the perimeter of  quarry.

224 Hypoxylon fuscum - Hazel Woundwort

225 Polydesmus angustus - (Millipede) Adult male found...
226 Melogona scutellaris - (Millipede) Adult female found...

Broadholme, Lincolnshire

One hour walk around my square yesterday, Tufted Duck added as a group seen on the only pond. 
The Holly Leaf-miner Phyotmyza ilicis was seen from a single bush, I,m claiming it as it looks recent to me.

Probably need clarification on claiming moth leaf-miners that are now emerging from being bred indoors including Phyllonorycter dubitella a first for me. 
I also add a few more lichens that I have not a clue on their identification.

Total species now 99.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The North calling again.

Waldridge Co. Durham

One month on since last update and County Durham like elsewhere has had it's snow and for most of the month it's meant me checking bryophytes and looking under frozen logs and stones for any old invertebrate to be found... and there wasn't many. There were only two days where it was worth putting the moth trap out and 6 species I reckon was good considering the weather even though I should expect 13-16 by now if the last few years is anything to go by.

Only the birds are performing reasonable with a few common species still to get before the summer migrants arrive (June at this rate). A Long-eared Owl was the best. It breeds within a good stone's throw of the square and has visited the garden in the past but the bird I flushed was from a winter roost that hasn't been used for 3 years. The other 10 new birds since last month were all the usual fare but Tree Sparrow wasn't bad either, as they too tend to lurk just outside the square's boundary.

I am going to try and be good and like everyone else not count hybrids or aggregates but I don't think I will get the 400 sp. of flowering plants as my estimate included these, time will tell.

The total for NZ2549 so far is 190, all fairly common stuff, no county records or anything like that but a Chestnut worm (Lumbricus castaneus) was new for me and 1 of 3 earthworms recorded this month. Easter tomorrow and off all next week. If only it would stop snowing.

 To date    Anticipated
Birds   54 70
Vascular Plants   76 400
Mosses & Liverworts  25 50
Lichens   8 12
Fungi & Slime Moulds   6 20
Terrestrial Mammals   4 8
Butterflies   0 20
Moths   6 350
Dragonflies   0 9
Hoverflies   0 25
Other inverts   11 50
Amphibians & Reptiles   0 5

TOTAL 190 1019   

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Frustrated by the lack of insects I've been reduced to ticking vermin, in between dipping on waxwings. First was Pediculus humanus capitatus the human head louse, introduced by a person who shall remain anonymous - we have got two junior schools in the square, so not a surprise. At least it wasn't Pthirus pubis. Secondly, and equally inevitably, the first Tinea pelloniella, case-bearing clothes moth has appeared. They've caused us considerable damage in the past, but we don't get any other clothes moths in the house. Sadly missed a friend's rubbish-feeding brown rat, but remain optimistic on this one.

Surprisingly, not least to me, the list is now up to 314. Mostly plants (158 vascular, 58 lichens and 28 bryophytes so far), and looking forward to some insects. The number of odd looks I've had, a hazard for the urban naturalist, is approaching 100 but nobody has asked me what I'm doing, still less invited me to view the unimproved grassland they hide in their back garden, or threatened me with the police and/or violence.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TG2507: Quality over quantity...

My reluctance to go hunting around for small invertebrates has resulted in my list grinding to a standstill, with just flowering Red Dead Nettle added from my past few visits. However I can now add a fungus from earlier on in the year, as the spores of my Gloeophyllum sp. have now been checked. It turns out it is Conifer Mazegill (Gloeophyllum sepiarum), which as well as being a first record for Whitlingham CP, is the first record in Norfolk for 35 years (and third ever).

103. Red Dead Nettle
104. Conifer Mazegill 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Killer Pink Blobs!

I resolutely ignored the blasting coldness and headed out to find some more goodies. Still no sign of those muddied female wrestlers but I did find the next best thing, kinda - Procumbent Pearlwort in amongst paving slabs. Coolness, lol. The only other new plant was the liverwort Calypogeia fissa in amongst mosses on an earthen bank.

I remembered being puzzled by tiny pink blobs on lichen-clad aspen branches so had done a bit of research and narrowed it down to a few suspects. Heading back to the aspens I was delighted to find more pink blobs with some different orangey-pink blobs nearby. Turns out to be two species of fungus which parasitise Physcia (and sometimesXanthoria) lichens - namely Marchandiomyces aurantiacus and Illosporiopsis christiansenii. And they've done some serious damage to the poor old Physcia in places!

Sticking with small stuff I noticed some swollen, partly open Hazel buds on a few bushes. Taking a few home I found them to be full of the mite Phytoptus avellanae, pretty darn swanky wee things under the microscope. With enough squinting and perseverence I managed to see them with my naked eye, so they're properly on my list now! There's a second mite in hazel buds a little later in the year so I'll be watching out for that one too.

I've got the Centipede Key but have been strangely reluctant to use it so far. That changed today, apart from the usual Variegated Centipede I added Strigamia acuminata, Geophilus flavus and Cryptops hortensis too which doubled my centipede list just like that!

Finally, for today at least, a harvestman beneath a log had me puzzled since it already seemed to be fully grown. More looking through a key led me quite directly to Platybunus triangularis, unusual in maturing in the early spring rather than summertime.

So that's a pleasing jump of nine species in near-subarctic conditions.

Today's additions are:

347 - Procumbent Pearlwort - commonplace in paving cracks
348 - Marchandiomyces aurantiacus - Webbs Folly aspen patch, Epsom Common
349 - Illosporiopsis christiansenii - Webbs Folly aspen patch, Epsom Common
350 - Hazel Big-Bud Mite Phytoptus avellanae - on young hazel near Highest Point
351 - Strigamia acuminata - centipede under a log, Epsom Common
352 - Geophilus flavus - centipede under a log, Epsom Common
353 - Cryptops hortensis - centipede under a log, Epsom Common
354 - Platybunus triangularis - harvestman under a log, Epsom Common
355 - Common Pouchwort Calypogeia fissa - growing on mossy earth, Epsom Common

That's me done for a few more days though - back to work again, boooooo. 


Not done much since about the 18th, wife went into hospital for a small op. Now bedridden for 2wks, so most of my spare time is focused here. Doesn't look like I'm missing much with this weather though?

I came across my first orange Common shiny woodlouse as well, smart looking beast.

There was this Dilta sp that turned up.  Not sure which as this was a female, D. hibernica and D. chateri are both found at this particular site. D. chateri being the most common. Not seen those markings on any of the ones i'm familiar with. I also got stung by what looked to be an Ichneumon insidiosus before finding this. Not painful but it did make me jump, making me spill and loose some of my catch as i had the lid open on my pot lol.

In no particular order...

175 Polyporus leptocephalus - (Fungus) Plenty about in this particular area at the moment, found most while sieving through some of the usual ground litter.

176 Lithobius microps - Centipede
177 Cylindroiulus punctatus - Millipede
178 Olophrum piceum - Staph

179 Senecio jacobaea - (Ragwort) Dug out from the garden veg patch.

180 Tremella mesenterica - (Fungus) Growing from gorse, along with its host a Peniophora sp. From what i can make of it from the various literature i've checked its P. incarnata if its on gorse. Further up on same branch was Byssomerulius corium...thanks to Chris Yeates for id, saved me crashing back through the heavy brambles to collect a sample.

181 Metzgeria furcata - Veilwort
182 Parmotrema chinense - Lichen
183 Dryopteris dilatata - Fern
184 Byssomerulius corium - Fungus
185 Peniophora incarnata - Rosy crust

186 Amaurobius fenestralis - (Spider) Found under Willow bark where the Veilwort was growing.

187 Lithobius forficatus - Centipede
188 Stellaria media - Chickweed
189 Carduelis chloris - Greenfinch
190 Cerastium fontanum - Mouse-ear

191 Tetrix undulata - (Hopper) Managed a quick view of this before it sprung into action and disappeared down a scree slope.

192 Formica lemani - Ant

193 Anas platyrhynchos - (Mallard) A overhead pair that flew up from the river below.

194 Campylopus introflexus - Moss
195 Veronica persica - Speedwell
196 Tussilago farfara - Colt's-foot

197 Sarcoscypha coccinea - (Fungus) Been finding these in a few areas this past couple of weeks. All attempts from me in the past have shown them to be S. coccinea in my area (tips gleaned from experts on WAB), these where no different. Perhaps i should send some off to the local recorder to be doubly sure...will report back on this one.

198 Dendrocopos major - (Woodpecker) This made my morning, a garden first. Nearly missed it as i was scanning the valley for various birds etc with my bins.

199 Mustela nivalis - (Weasel) Can't believe i forgot this one, nearly run it over as well. It was seen crossing over a bridge heading up the river bank. Great find for me, the last one i've seen here has to be over 10 years ago (memory is crap, so i may be lying).

200 Nuctenea umbratica - (Spider) Another one i forgot to add...Tucked in behind a fence panel in the garden.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Springtime? Pah!!

Under several warm layers of clothing I braved the elements and gave TQ1960 a couple of hours worth of attention. Waterer's Cotoneaster, Hazel Wood Wart and Crescent-cup Liverwort were new for the year. I found a couple of leafhoppers shivering away on the underside of Cherry Laurel leaves (quite wise seeing as the uppersides to those leaves were dusted in snow) which I'm hoping will be identifiable. I'm still waiting for life to burst into being overnight but won't hold my breath...c'mon springtime, we're all fed up of this cr*p!!!

Today's meagre additions:

342 - Crescent-cup Liverwort Lunularia cruciata - alleyway by Lewins Road
343 - Waterer's Cotoneaster Cotoneaster x watereri - presumably birdsown, near Bramble Heath
344 - Hedge Woundwort - small leaves coming through, very whiffy! - Epsom Common
345 - Hazel Wood Wart Hypoxylon fuscum - no sign of Nemapogon clematella damage - yet
346 - Pyracantha Scab Venturia inaequalis f. sp. pyracanthae - on Firethorn near Lewins Road

I need to generate some proper enthusiasm tomorrow, see if I can get past the 350 barrier. The mud issue really is quite outrageous here, it is tricky to move around in some parts! I keep looking out for near-naked female wrestlers, but I guess they must be loitering in an adjacent 1KSQ? Am very definitely looking forward to overhead hirundines, warblers in the scrub and flowers with inverts in profusion. And no more mud/wind/snow.

TQ6410: Siberia ....

In danger of 'Square envy' after reading of Mark L's blue skies, swallows and martins on Guernsey! This morning's brief circuit of TQ6410 was possibly the bleakest and coldest I've experienced all winter although that didn't stop me being lured (via text) a couple of squares southwestwards for an hour or two with the prospect of two new species for my Pevensey Levels birds' list. Alas, I had to settle for just the Med Gull overhead and flying in totally the wrong direction to get across to TQ6410. This morning's other wetland stuff just 3km southwest of here would have added another 12 species but I can only dream about Little Gull, Little Ringed Plover and Dunlin heading for the Castle's moat and southerly ditch. Anyway, just to put Seth out of his misery, here's a handful of new species which is all I've been able to muster over the past couple of days - all seen yesterday morning.

In the water meadows south of the Castle yesterday: 

337 - Lesser Spearwort  Ranunculus flammula (left) Expected to find this plant way back but must have walked straight past a decent patch of it many times over the past few weeks.

338 - Marsh Bedstraw  Galium palustre in amongst the Soft and  .....

339 - Hard Rush Juncus inflexus 

340 - Dust Lichen  Lepraria  incana   I found this a week or two back and have also seen it recently elsewhere around the square but only just ID'd it. Doesn't like sun or rain apparently .... this one was hiding under an overhang in the bank near the workshop but I also saw it around the base of a smallish tree growing out of the same sheltered, shaded bank. 

341 - Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum .... now pushing up through the parking area and wild flower banks at my plot, despite the winter chill.

Up to 341 species ...... but I'd better deduct the Ivy-leaved or Round-leaved Water Crowfoot from last time - at least until the flowers appear. So back to 340 species. Doh!