Tag Archives: Pan-species listing

Probably… some interesting spiders (Part II)

Before I get going, a cautionary note on getting over excited about interesting looking spiders… In my previous blog post, I shared a picture of an ‘almost’ mature male Araniella sp which was orangey-red coloured and looked like a credible candidate for the scarce Araniella displicata. My friend, and local spider expert, David Carr, found a similar one on Wanstead Flats a couple of weeks before mine, took it home to let it mature/moult and examined it. It turns out it was ‘just’ a reddish Araniella opisthographa (one of the common ‘Cucumber spiders’).

So, with that warning as a caveat… read on (no detailed genital spider identification here so everything below is simply the art of the possible; probable at best).

David also told me about a small colony of the nationally scarce jumping spider, Salticus zebraneus that he had found and confirmed from one of the copses on Wanstead Flats. On my fourth attempt to find one, and when a rare beam of sun lit up a tall tree stump I found a small Salticus moving in and out of the woody crevices. From the size, markings, and habitat, it is likely (but not definite) that this is Salticus zebraneus. Note that their bigger bolder cousins, like Salticus scenicus are commonly found on houses etc (Salticus sp is common in my garden).

Possible Salticus zebraneus – male

In my last post, I shared a strong candidate for Philodromus rufus – a spider we know is present on Wanstead Flats. Well, here is another very strong candidate but this time for the even rarer Philodromus buxi. This was beaten from Oak. The colouration, the markings on the legs, the fact that this species has been found here before all make this is possible, but obviously not confirmable without Get Det, so I have dutifully submitted it on iRecord as Philodromus sp and added the cheeky ‘candidate for P. buxi‘ in the comments.

Philodromus sp (likely P. buxi) – f

A first fly for London… nearly

Look at this lovely fly!

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You could almost dive into that swimming pool of aquamarine/turquoise, its colour is so deep and inviting. Long legs, great markings. Just all round stunner!

And, I found it on my garden shed.

As flies go, it wasn’t too tricky to identify. It is a pretty big member of the Dolichopodidae family as a start and I believe the biggest in the UK.

An expert informed me that it can be found inland near “algal dominated leaks”. I’m kind of hoping there are no algal dominated leaks near my house and shed, but hey.

I checked NBN Atlas and there were a lot of records, mostly around the coast, but none in London. I love the idea of finding a London first record on my shed. In reality, it probably isn’t a first for London and iRecord shows that there are a couple of other records, but it clearly isn’t really a common find locally.

Apparently this poor fly species came close to losing its name due to some scientific mix-up. I hope it gets to keep it as I think Liancalus virens is pretty cool and suits it.

A turquoise metallic jewel and another highlight for my lockdown list.

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Liancalus virens

Nature diary of a nascent pan-species lister: 8 May 2020

A hot day in lockdown and my daily exercise took me on a quick circuit of some of Wanstead Flats. I only paused for any length of time around the Brick Pit Copse where I listened to, and eventually saw, a singing Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) which had been found earlier in the day by N. Croft; our first locally for the year.

On the rest of my walk, I only stopped briefly to photograph a few invertebrates with my phone. The list below is snapshot of the things I took time to observe; species I specifically identified and recorded. I didn’t make too many attempts with flies (although I did iRecord Lucilia sp – a greenbottle) or one or two other invertebrate groupings, and there are no plants recorded here (although I did spend a bit of time checking the leaves of Quercus (oak), Acer (maples), Prunus (blackthorn, cherry etc). So, 81 species identified and recorded – not too shabby for a relatively brisk walk.

Selected birds: 40
I recorded 40 species of bird on my walk. The Garden Warbler was the obvious highlight, followed by an unusually showy Lesser Whitethroat.

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Blurry shot of Garden Warbler

Accipiter nisus (Eurasian Sparrowhawk) – Only raptor seen on walk.

Alauda arvensis (Skylark) – only heard a couple of males singing.

Apus apus (Common Swift) – the breeding birds have been back a few days now.

Sylvia atricapilla (Blackcap) – seemingly everywhere.

Sylvia borin (Garden Warbler) – one singing.

Sylvia communis (Common Whitethroat) – also noticeably abundant this year.

Sylvia curraca (Lesser Whitethroat) – At least one, probably two singing.

Etc – 33 species of other bird commonly recorded locally also seen.

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Lesser Whitethroat

Coleoptera – beetles: 7
I recorded seven species of beetle on my walk, three of which were lifers (remember I am a pan-species newbie) and three more were firsts for the year:

Andrion regensteinense (A broad-nosed weevil) – life first. Found on Broom.

Cantharis rustica (A soldier beetle) – first for year. Saw a couple.

Harpalus rufipes (Strawberry seed beetle) – life first (I’ve never recorded before, anyhow).

Malachius bipustulatus (Malachite beetle) – first for year.

Perapion violeceum (A weevil) – life first and possibly first record locally.

Propylea quattuordecimpunctata (14-spot ladybird) – possibly the most frequently seen ladybird at the moment locally.

Prosternon tessellatum (Chequered click beetle) – first click beetle I have seen this year. A few around.

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Perapion violeceum – a rather tiny weevil

Hemiptera – true bugs: 3
Three species recorded with one new for the year. A bit poorer than I might have hoped for the bugs, to be honest.

Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus – Seemingly common in the local area. A small yellow and black flower bug.

Palomena prasina (common green shieldbug) – first for year for this shield bug.

Trioza remota – a tiny psyllid bug which galls oak leaves – the nymph resides in a depression on the underside of the leaf.

Hymenoptera – bees and wasps etc: 5
Four of the five recorded were identified by galls they cause. Other hymenoperans were on the wing, but few long enough for me to photograph and ID.

Andrena sp (likely ovatula) – very active pollinating in Broom.

Andricus curvator f. sexual – Causes distinctive swellings and twists on oak leaves. Very common locally.

Biorhiza pallida (Oak Apples Gall) – This wasp-caused gall is very common and one of the earliest to be seen in the season.

Neuroterus numismalis f. sexual (Oak blister gall / Silk button gall) – First for the year for me of this subtle gall.

Neuroterus quercusbaccarum f. sexual – seen many currant galls on oak catkins and leaves.

Neuroterus numismalis

Blister gall on oak caused by sexual generation of Neuroterus numismalis wasp

Lepidoptera – moths and butterflies: 11
Three life-first moths for me, with the hemlock moth (Agonopterix alstroemeriana) being a particular highlight.

Aglais io (Peacock) – saw at least three.

Agonopterix alstromeriana (Hemlock moth) – a lifer for me. Found on Blackthorn.

Anthocharis cardamines (Orange Tip) – several seen.

Celastrina argiolus (Holly blue) – very common at the moment.

Erannis defoliaria (Mottled umber) – a caterpillar and second time I have seen this species in larval form in a matter of weeks.

Eupsilia transversa (Satellite moth) – a black caterpillar I’ve not recorded before.

Lycaena phlaeas (Small Copper) – abundant at the moment.

Pararge aegeria (Speckled wood) – several seen.

Pieris rapae (Small White) – several seen.

Polyommatus icarus (Common blue) – First for year for me with a specimen on Wanstead Flats and in my garden.

Syndemis musculana – another new moth for me. This tortrix was on Hawthorn.

Syndemis musculana

Syndemis musculana

Selected Acari – mites: 10
All identified through the galls they cause on plants.

Aceria cerrea – This isn’t recognised on iRecord or much literature on British gall-causing mites as it was only recently refound in the UK. Causes galls on turkey oak.

Aceria macrochela – first for year. Causer of pustule growths along veins of field maple leaves.

Eriophyes prunispinosae/similis – first for year. Causer of pustule galls along leaf margin of blackthorn.

Etc – seven more mite-caused galls were identified, but all were galls I have recorded frequently elsewhere this year.

Aceria cerrea

Erinea patch on underside of Quercus cerris caused by Aceria cerrea

Aranae – spiders: 4
Four species actively recorded.

Mangora acalypha (A cricket bat spider) – First for year for me.

Pardosa sp. (A wolf spider) – Found on bramble.

Pisaura mirabilis (Nursery web spider) – Found on buttercup.

Xysticus sp. (A crab spider) – Found on buttercup.

Pisaura mirabilis

Pisaura mirabilis – the nursery web spider

Aceria ilicis: same, same, but different

Sometimes I am too accepting of things which should be challenged and investigated.

I regularly look at Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) leaves and notice the felt galls caused by the mite, Aceria ilicis. But someone on a social media gall group made me question more deeply what I have noticed before: we use the name Aceria ilicis to cover two quite different types of galls.

Type 1: the pimple gall

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Distinct raised bumps showing on upper side of leaf

The upperside of the leaf shows distinct raised bumps or pimples with corresponding cavities on the underside filled with rusty brown erinea (hairy patches or felt).

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Underside showing the rusty brown patches corresponding to the bumps on the upperside

When put under the microscope, these patches show themselves to be very dense patches of rusty brown, mostly tightly curled ‘hairs’.

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Two patches filling cavities either side of central leaf vein

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Under greater magnification

Type 2: the felty patch gall

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No distinct pimples on upperside

In ‘type 2’, the upperside of the afflicted leaf may show some general bulging, but there are no distinct ‘pimples’ as with ‘type 1’.

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The underside is comprehensively covered by darker brown erinea patches

Unlike in ‘type 1’, ‘type 2’ galls appear to be have darker brown erinea and to be quite extensively covered by felt patches.

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Sometimes extensively filling the sections between veins

When looked at under greater magnification, the erineum itself appears slightly different.

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Under greater magnification

The erineum is not only a different colour, but it appears to be growing less densely than in ‘type 1’ examples and the ‘hairs’ are less likely to be tightly curled.

Conclusions?

Without detailed study of the mites themselves – beyond my powers and powers of my microscope, I doubt a conclusion can be made.

However, I am not convinced by the argument that ‘type 2’ merely displays more mature and extensive galling. Even discounting differences in colour of the erinea patches, the lack of pimples in ‘type 2’ seems odd.

Could ‘type 1’ and ‘type 2’ be caused by different species of mite? Possibly.

One final interesting observation is that all the photos above, of ‘type 1’ and ‘type 2’ galls were taken from two leaves growing on the same tree host.

“The irrepressible joy and lightness of being a*”… pan-species lister

I wrote about my rather low bird lists for 2019 in another post. But in 2019, I also took the first baby steps on a new journey. The journey really has only just begun, but I have so far found it to be rather delighting; becoming a ‘pan-species lister’.

Simply put, pan species listing is recording all species of wild life forms (above bacteria – it generally begins with fungi and slime moulds). You can read more about the rules and practitioners here and an excellent blog by a “big lister” here. There are apparently two people in the UK with lists of over 10,000 species (to get to that kind of level you would effectively need to become a master of all ‘trades’, jack of none, if you get what I mean).

For me, the motivation is roughly three pronged:

  1. It is useful on days/weeks/months (read June/July) when there aren’t many exciting new birds to record
  2. Similar to the point above, it means that there is almost always something to see/identify/record to help build a list (a passion of mine) and help contribute to scientific knowledge by submitting records
  3. To fill some embarrassing gaps in my knowledge about certain groups; herbaceous plants for example (as I have a position of responsibility with a small wildlife charity and occasionally lead walks etc, this has been brought into sharp focus).

One day, I may attempt to go back through old photos and lists and add in things I have seen or identified before, but from the summer of 2019 I simply attempted to record new things that I saw. I got close to 600 species, of which 519 were recorded in the UK. This is not a big number by any means as the scope of things that could be added is vast, but… it was a start, and it was completed in a year when I had a few other… er… distractions.

It has also enabled me to create the mother of all spreadsheets. I am really rather childishly and boastfully proud of it: it has tabs for the different ‘orders’ of life form (e.g., Coleoptera (beetles), Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), birds etc) and then macros (formulae I have built into the sheets) link through to a totals page that adds everything up automatically by date, location, order etc. I think it is work of art, but not one I am willing to share publicly so I see it as the oiled machinery operating out of public sight and beneath the surface of my records and submissions.

To give a flavour of some of the things I recorded…

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I added European Hare (Lepus europaeus) to my French patch mammal list. And those blurry purple flowers are Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis) a species I couldn’t name until this year.

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Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi) was another French patch tick, but also a world life tick for me – and what a stunner – I could watch these all day

Trochosa terricola

This wolf spider (Trochosa terricola) was one of many ‘lifers’ for me this year, found on my local patch on Wanstead Flat by David Carr: an amateur but expert arachnologist

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Imagine if I led a nature walk around my local patch and couldn’t tell people that this was Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

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Potentially one of my most important finds of 2019: I believe these galls on Holm Oak (Quercus ilicis) in Dorset are caused by the fly, Dryomyia lichtensteini. If I am correct, this may be a first formal record for the UK.

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Spotted Longhorn (Rutpela maculata) was a lifer for me and found in my local churchyard in Leytonstone

 

The ‘irrepressible joy and lightness of being… a communist’ was taken from the radical book, Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. It followed a description of the radical nature of St Francis of Assisi. As the patron saint of animals, this phrase seemed appropriate.

October spider walk: Wanstead Flats

On 13 October David Carr led the way with another spider field trip/survey on Wanstead Flats. This followed the very wet but successful trip on 27 July and a couple of solo visits he has made since. There were about nine of us: members of the Wren Wildlife & Conservation Group and the London Natural History Society.

Unfortunately, the day was another wet one as with the July visit, although it was luckily mainly just overcast and drizzly with one heavy shower. The focus of the visit was on the copses on the Flats (on this occasion, Long Wood and Coronation Copse) with a few spiders found nearby in the grassland, broom and scrub, and single specialist found on the margins of Angel/Bandstand Pond. David employed the methods of bush/tree beating, some sweep-netting, and some leaf-litter sorting. A number of the species mentioned below required microscopic examination for confirmation to species level.

The July visit had been tantalising with a find of an immature spider suspected to be Anyphaena numida, a nationally rare buzzing spider. Whilst we were not able to confirm that find, David had a confirmed adult male on a solo visit a few weeks later. And so we were delighted to find another on the October trip by beating the same oaks where he found a specimen before on his own. There are only three species of the Anyphaena genus found in the UK, with two of them being very rare and recent finds for the UK, and all three having been found locally by David. Whilst A. numida was undoubtedly the rarest find of the day (only a handful of specimens have been confirmed nationally), David also found a number of other scarce and interesting spiders.

After meeting and gathering in Centre Road car-park, we began the spider-search in Long Wood, aptly named as a long and narrow bisected copse running from east to west along the northerly part of the largest section of Wanstead Flats and dividing the Brick Pit fields to the north from the broom field grasslands to the south.

In the first round of tree-tappings and undergrowth sorting, David quickly picked up Harpactea hombergi, a small stripey-legged woodlouse hunting spider. With the exception of the very rare, H. rubicunda, H. hombergi is the only species in its genus likely to be found in the UK.

We also found the very common Amaurobius similis in this location, the lace-webbed spider. I learned that ‘similis’ part of its binomial refers to its similarity to the closely related A. fenestralis. The latter is more likely than the former to be found outside of buildings, but on this occasion we clearly happened across a ‘wild’ outdoor specimen.

Another common ‘domestic’ species found in this bit of woodland was the large house spider, Eratigena gigantea. A pale specimen was hiding in a crevice surrounded by leaf litter. We also found the false widow spider now almost ubiquitous in built-up areas in the South East; Steatoda nobilis.

In this environment we also came across one of the two species of pinkish goblin spiders, from the Oonops genus. David later confirmed that this was Oonops pulcher, a spider he had not previously recorded on Wanstead Flats.

It was no surprise to find the orbweb spider, Araneus diadematus (commonly called Garden Spider), on a web with its distinctive white cross-like shape on the abdomen. However, Anke Marsh, who had joined us for the day with her daughter, was particularly thrilled to find a lifer, Agalanatea redii, another orbweb spider on Broom just south of Long Wood (it was a also a lifer for me, but as a arachno-newbie, that is not a great surprise).

Agalenatea redii

Agalenatea redii (an orb weaver spider)

Just outside of the wooded areas we also found a chunky wolf spider that David identified for us as Trochosa terricola and the commonly-found nursery web spider, Pisaura mirabilis.

Trochosa terricola

Trochosa terricola (a wolf spider)

As the rain started again we went back into a wooded area to the east of the gap in Long Wood. This was where David had found Anyphaena numida a few weeks earlier and on the first few taps of the oak, we had an adult male. It is worth noting that there have still been fewer than 20 confirmed finds of this species in the UK.

Anyphaena numida

Anyphaena numida (a rare buzzing spider)

David also got a likely immature Philodromus praedatus (one of the tricky running crab spiders) from the oak in the same location (Philodromus dispar was also recorded on the day, although I appear not to have been paying attention at that point as I have no photos of it). We also got to study one of the larger money spiders (Linyphiidae), which seems somewhat misnamed as Lepthyphantes minutus considering it is at least two or three times the size of an average expected money spider.

Another interesting find nearby, and another new species for the local area, was Megalepthyphantes sp. near collinus. This species has still to be fully studied and properly named in science (hence it is just a species similar to/“near” M. collinus) and has just a double digit set of records in the UK, all in the South East. David actually found and confirmed male and female specimens of this enigmatic species.

Heavy rain then temporarily stopped play and the small party of spider hunters adjourned to a nearby cafe for a spot of lunch. A little later when the rain was slightly less of an impediment to arachno-detecting, we went back to a different copse; known locally as Coronation Copse. David focused on sorting through the top layers of loose leaf litter. It was a productive method in a productive location.

Another linyphid appeared almost straight away: Microneta viaria, and things just got better from there. A chunky looking ground spider turned out to be Haplodrassus silvestris, a woodland native that is not often recorded and has apparently been in decline, so lovely to find in a semi-urban site. This was another first for our location.

Haplodrassus sylvestris

Haplodrassus silvestris (a ground spider)

Next out of the leaf-litter was one of the ant-mimic spiders, Phrurolithus festivus. And then something truly extraordinary came fell out of the plastic soil sieve. Another linyphid/money spider, a male with extraordinary boxing-glove-like pedipalps, and an even more extraordinary thin stalk-like protuberance on its head which is where the male’s eyes are situated. The spider’s name is Walckenaeria acuminata. There are a range of species in this genus, but surely none are quite as strange as this particular species.

Walckenaeria acuminata

Walckenaeria acuminata (a money spider)

We also found another wolf spider, but did not identify it to species level, so it remains Pardosa sp. in our records.

David and I then bid farewell to the last of our spider-finding team, Anke and her daughter, and made our way down to the swampy circle that used to be a small lake, called Angel. Sifting through the litter there did not seem to prove very productive until one small spider fell through the sieve. It was the last spider David found for the day and was not only new for the local area, but also a nationally scarce spider: a member of the Theridiidae (or ‘tangle web’) spiders, called Robertus arundineti.

Overall, it proved to be another great day of spider finds, yet again showing Wanstead Flats to be a fantastic location. I am sure we will organise further surveys/field trips in the future, so please do keep an eye out.

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