Wednesday 31 December 2014

Summary of 2014 wildlife sightings

After putting in an intensive effort in 2013 to find as many species as possible in my home 1-km square, in 2014 I branched out again, hoping to continue to expand my taxonomic knowledge but without necessarily confining myself quite so drastically. It was a good year, with 329 new species for me in Britain bringing my total to 3,374 by the end of the year. Over the course of the year I noted 1,406 species, although I didn’t make a particular effort to write down everything and as a result failed to note some common species I certainly saw (Roe Deer, Red Deer, Common Blue Damselfly, Marsh Marigold, etc). As a result on the concentration on all-taxa recording, my bird year-list was very low again, the 180 species not including things like Woodcock, Little Tern, Little Ringed Plover and Brambling. I did see my second Great Knot and third Collared Pratincole however.

In addition, I went abroad a few times, mostly short trips for work. Two days in February in Austria produced great views of Imperial Eagle and Great Bustard. A quick day-trip to Brussels in June produced Ring-necked Parakeet. A hectic work trip in October covered Switzerland and the Netherlands but there was little time for birding; Hawfinch and Goshawk were the highlights. We also had a short family trip to Estonia at the end of October, not really a wildlife holiday but nice to see White-tailed Eagles, Goshawk and some Bewick’s Swans flying in from Russia. I also had a one-day trip to Ireland but don’t recall seeing anything apart from a single Buzzard.

Our main foreign trip though was a two-week family holiday to California where we saw some fantastic wildlife. Heading the list, and probably top wildlife moment of the year for me, was Tom’s finding of a stunning Great Grey Owl on our very first morning there, at Wawona Meadow in Yosemite Park. Other particularly notable highlights were California Condors at Big Sur and exceptional views of Killer Whales from the boat in Monterey Bay, alongside many Humpbacks at both of these locations. We also saw American Dipper, Canyon and Rock Wrens, a very lucky Williamson’s Sapsucker, Giant Redwoods, Pika, masses of seabirds plus Bottle-nosed Dolphins at Carmel, Rhinoceros Auklet, Black-footed Albatross (my first albatross!), Northern Elephant Seals, Raccoons, a Striped Skunk and the usual stunning New World Warblers. The 35 new birds brought my IOC world list to 1,493 species.

Humpback Tail, Monterey

Great Grey Owl, Wawona

New British species in 2014

Vertebrates (3 ticks)

Birds (1)
Just one British bird tick this year; a quick dash from work to the coast for a female Black-headed Bunting at West Runton in May. Not the most exciting bird ever but nice to refind it after it had gone missing all day.

Black-headed Bunting, West Runton

Mammals (1)
After missing it last year, a return appearance by (surely the same) Humpback Whale off the Norfolk coast in November was too much to resist, and we had a family twitch to pay homage to it off Cart Gap.

Fish (1)
Long-overdue, Tom and I finally confirmed several Brown Trout at RSPB Fowlmere in April.

Insects (191 ticks)

Mayflies (1)
The common mayfly Ephemera danica confirmed from the Thames at Hartslock in May.

Dragonflies (2)
After no new ones in 2013, nice to get two ticks this year; Club-tailed Dragonflies emerging from the Thames at Goring railway viaduct in May and then some splendid Brilliant Emeralds at Old Lodge in July.

Club-tailed Dragonfly, Goring

Cockroaches (1)
A mystery insect picked up at Buxton Heath in July proved to be Ectobius lapponicus, the Dusky Cockroach, my first species in this order.

Booklice (2)
Despite getting the book on these, didn’t make much progress, with Valenzuela flavidus and Ectopsocus petersi , both in Shotesham, bringing my life tally to a measly three species.

True bugs (31)
I like the bugs, and made decent progress this year, adding about 50% to my total to reach 90 species overall. Plenty more to look for though. Particular highlights were Acericerus heydenii on the house window in Shotesham  in January which appears to be a new species for Norfolk, the extremely flat Aradus depressus at the Nunnery in April, the lacebug Tingis ampliata at Woodbastwick Fen in May, the chunky Issus coleoptratus inside the Sussex Wildlife Trust HQ at Woods Mill in July (helpfully named on the spot by Graeme Lyons), the tortoise bug Eurygaster testudinaria at Southrepps Common  in July, the spiky Denticulate Leatherbug Coriomeris denticularis at Santon Downham in July, Juniper Shieldbug Cyphostethus tristriatus at the same place in September and finishing with the smart yellowish leafhopper Mocydia crocea swept at Waxham in December.

Aradus depressus, Thetford

Denticulate Leatherbug, Santon Downham

Lacewings (2)
Finally made the effort and glimpsed the fearsome Antlion Euroleon nostras larvae around the visitor centre at Minsmere in June; would like to see an adult though. The small brown Hemerobius nitidulus at Old Lodge in July was the only other new one.

Caddisflies (1)
I was a little lazy with these again, given the ease of picking them out of the moth-trap. However, one in May looked sufficiently different for me to identify it as Micropterna sequax.

Lepidoptera (13)
Despite not really focussing much on these during the year, I reached a couple of milestones. A special effort to see Duke of Burgundy in May at Ivinghoe Beacon resulted in my 50th butterfly species, whilst my moth list exceeded the magic 1,000 during the year; I finished on a combined total of 1,058 species of Lepidoptera. Amongst the moths, the only new macro was an unexpected but welcome Small Purple-barred at Hartslock in May.  Pick of the micros has to be the single Lampronia luzella I netted at Ashwellthorpe Wood in May which was the first Norfolk record since at least 1900. Some other smarter micros were Pancalia leuwenhoekella at Ivinghoeand Nemophora metallicaon Salisbury Plain in June. The other new micros were Dichrorampha sequana near Holt in May, Dichrorampha simpliciana on Salisbury Plain in June, Glyphipterix thrasonella at Old Lodge in July, Metzneria lappella trapped in the garden in August (gen. det.) with Scrobipalpa costella there in September, the occupied larval cases of Coleophora limosipennella on elm in Shotesham in August, Argyresthia semitestacella netted at Two Mile Bottom in September, and on the same visit, occupied mines (never previously confirmed this) of Stigmella hemargyrella in beech leaves. Plenty more species to find, including lots of easy leaf-miners that I’ve noted before but never jotted down whether I saw them occupied or not.

The Duke, Ivinghoe Beacon

Beetles (73)
Beetles were the group providing the highest number of new species for me this year, but with my life list still on a measly 194 out of ca 4,000 in Britain, I’m hardly pushing the boundaries very hard here; sort of equivalent to a British bird list of about 30. Anyway, I’m enjoying many of the groups, although others are a struggle. Amongst the 73 new species this year, highlights were the fairly scarce carabid Paradromius longiceps at Wheatfen in March, the gorse weevil Exapion ulicis, the churchyard beetle Blaps mucronata at the Nunnery in March, the distinctive silphid Aclypea opaca on the beach at Seahouses in April, the carabid Asaphidion flavipes at Overstrand cliffs in April, the scarce weevil Cossonus linearis spotted by Graeme Lyons on a dead tree by the Nun’s Bridges in April along with the cracking carabid Elaphrus cupreus scooped up by Brian Eversham’s nimble fingers a few minutes earlier, the funky weevil Platystomos albinus on a dead tree at the Nunnery in May, the metallic Sermylassa halensis from Cranwich Camp in July, the Asparagus Beetle Crioceris asparagi at Maidscross Hill (and a few days later at the Nunnery Lakes) in July, the longhorn Stictoleptura rubra found in my office in Thetford and finally, a tiny beetle found underneath a dead mouse in the house by Trudy that proved to be Leptinus testaceus, one of very few records for Norfolk; even better she found another a few days later.

Exapion ulicis, Barhamcross Common

Asparagus Beetle, Nunnery Lakes

Hymenoptera (27)
Another good crop of new species here, but still a difficult group that I’m barely scratching the surface of. Most of the new species were common and widespread species that I’ve clearly overlooked before. I saw nine new bees, including the distinctive and attractive Andrena cineraria at Hartslock in May, and a double bee-tick  at the Nunnery one July lunchtime with both Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum and Hylaeus signatus, the latter seen several more times around Wild Mignonette. The eight new solitary wasps were all stunning, but I particularly enjoyed finding Bee-wolf Philanthus triangulum at Maidscross Hill (and again at Minsmere). I only managed another two ant species: Myrmica rubra at the Nunnery Lakes and Formica rufa at Old Lodge. In addition I picked out another seven sawflies and the gall of the cynipid wasp Liposthenus glechomae in Ground-ivy; a white grub was seen in one, and the following day a small wasp had emerged from another.

Bee-wolf, Maidscross Hill

Wool Carder Bee, The Nunnery

True flies (38)
A good haul bringing my total to 182 species, albeit a tiny fraction of the available total. My new species were across a wide range of families. The largest group as usual were the 11 new hoverflies (bringing my total to 81); particularly nice to find Portevinia maculata in Ashwellthorpe Wood during a targeted search for the species, and Riponnensia splendens on Shotesham Common was also a striking late October find. No new soldierflies but four new robberflies and three new horseflies, the latter including the rather localised Hybomitra ciureai at Minsmere in July. Other notables were Norellia spinipes on daffodils at Smockmill Common in March, my first conopid fly Sicus ferrugineus at the Nunnery several times, the flat-fly Hippobosca equina that landed on me in the New Forest in July, and finally the scarce migrant calliphorid fly Stomorhina lunata at Surlingham in October.

Other invertebrates (33 ticks)

Spiders (7)
I made very little effort this year, continuing to find these difficult to break into. Nice to see a couple at Ditchling Beacon in July - Hypsosinga albovittata, Mangora acalypha – identified by Graeme Lyons by eye, which gives a bit of hope that it might be possible to progress here. Heliophanus flavipes was quite a straightforward one from Santon Downham in September. The others were Hypsosinga pygmaea, Hypomma bituberculatum, Arctosa perita and Xysticus cristatus.

Heliophanus flavipes, Santon Downham

Harvestmen (5)
I enjoyed working on these this year, doubling my list from five to ten. None of the new species were particularly rare: Platybunus triangularis, Opilio saxatilis, Phalangium opilio, Mitopus morio and Oligolophus tridens.

Mites (3)
Three more species found within galls this year, all in July: Aceria erinea on walnut, Vasates quadripedes on silver maple and Phyllocoptes annulata on buckthorn.

Centipedes (1)
Didn’t make much effort with these this year but did find Lithobius melanops under a plant pot in the garden.

Millipedes (1)
Added the distinctive Ommatoiulus sabulosus in Trowse Woods in April (and found it a couple more times later in the year also).
Ommatoiulus sabulosus, Trowse

Woodlice/isopods (3)
Three more species added in April. First was the marine isopod Idotea granulosa found at Seahouses at the base of a frond of sugar kelp in a rock pool, followed a day later by a fabulous Sea-slater Ligia oceanica in a small cave at Rumbling Kern (Howick). Finally, I found the Rosy Woodlouse Androniscus dentiger on the cliffs at Overstrand.

Decapods (1)
One of the highlights of rock-pooling at Seahouses in April was finding lots of hermit crabs, which we identified as Pagurus bernhardus.

Barnacles (1)
During rock-pooling at Seahouses in April I tried to look closely at barnacles but found them quite difficult; the only species I named with any degree of certainty was Semibalanus balanoides although felt there were probably other species present.

Molluscs (8)
Rock-pooling at Seahouses in April produced at least four new marine molluscs: Common Periwinkle Littorina littorea, Dog Whelk Nucella lapillus, Grey Top Shell Gibbula cineraria and Flat Periwinkle Littorina obtusata. Others were probably overlooked. In addition, I added Helicella itala on chalk grassland at Therfield Heath in April, Succinea putris at the Nunnery in April, Cochlodina laminata at Ashwellthorpe Wood in May and Physella acuta on Salisbury Plain in June.

Worms (3)
Three new species, all from different taxonomic classes. Eisenia fetida was a stripy earthworm I found in the garden under a plant pot in March. In April, after much digging on the beaches I finally found a Lugworm Arenicola marina in a rock pool at Seahouses. Finally, the leech Theromyzon tessulatum was found from pond-dipping at Mannington Hall in May during the Norfolk Bird Fair.

Plants/seaweeds (82 ticks)

Seaweeds (15)
A wide range of new species identified during rockpooling in Northumberland in April. Taxonomically, these cover three distinct groups. The brown seaweeds are in a separate kingdom Chromista: Egg Wrack Ascophyllum nodosum, Serrated Wrack Fucus serratus, Channel Wrack Pelvetia canaliculata, Thong Weed Himanthalia elongata, Sea Oak Halidrys siliquosa, Dabberlocks Alaria esculenta, Forest Kelp Laminaria hyperborea, Sugar Kelp Saccharina latissima and Broad Leaf Weed Petalonia fascia. Additionally, I identified two green seaweeds: Gut Weed Ulva intestinalis and Sea Lettuce Ulva lactuca; and four red seaweeds: Osmundea pinnatifida, Common Coral Weed Corallina officinalis, Irish Moss Chondrus crispus and Slender Wart Weed Gracilaria gracilis.

Mosses (10)
Although I added 10 new species I didn’t feel I progressed very far with these, and had help with most of them. I found three new species (Brachythecium albicans, Ceratodon purpureus, Syntrichia ruralis) on the lawn of the Nunnery in January although was helped with the ID at a Norfolk Bryological Group event shortly afterwards. I did self-identify Atrichum undulatum at Brooke Wood in April. The other six ticks were mosses that Graeme Lyons showed me on Ditchling Beacon in July: Ctenidium molluscum, Dicranum bonjeanii, Homalothecium lutescens, Neckera crispa, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus and Thuidium assimile. I did follow the ID at the time, although would probably struggle to recognise many of these again.

Ferns (1)
After failing to find this in the past on Shotesham Common and elsewhere, I was really pleased to finally see Adderstongue Fern on Flordon Common in May, thanks to Peter Aspinall pointing them out – we probably saw at least 50 but I could easily have overlooked them.

Clubmosses (1)
A small fenced area at Buxton Heath in July drew my attention, and within it was a small cluster of Marsh Clubmoss. This species was thought to have gone extinct here and was the subject of an attempted reintroduction which seems to have failed, with the plants I saw then rediscovered and thought to be the original population which had been overlooked.

Flowering plants (55)
A good year for new plants for me, with some missing common species finally located plus some rarer species sought out. Highlights were a lunchtime twitch for wild Grape Hyacinths in the Brecks in March, White Helleborines at Therfield Heath and elsewhere from April, Pasque Flower at Therfield Heath, Goldlilocks Buttercup at Brooke Wood in April, a great day in the Chilterns in May with four new orchids (Military, Fly, Lady, Monkey), Bird’s-nest Orchid at Holt in May, Cowbane at Woodbastwick in May, Red-tipped Cudweed at Minsmere in June, Chalk Fragrant Orchid and Tuberous Thistle on Salisbury Plain in June, Musk Orchid and Round-headed Rampion at Ditchling Beacon in July, Lizard Orchid at Newmarket in July, Purple Broomrape at Southrepps in July, Proliferous Pink, Spanish Catchfly, Sand Catchfly and Broad-leaved Helleborine in the Brecks in July, Sharp-leaved Fluellen in Shotesham in July and Frosted Orache on Horsey beach in September.

Grape-hyacinth, Brecks

Fly Orchid, Chilterns

White Helleborine, Therfield Heath

Purple Broomrape, Southrepps

Broad-leaved Helleborine, Santon Downham

Fungi and slime moulds (20 ticks)

Slime moulds (1)
The delightful Dog’s-vomit Slime Mould Fuligo septicus was pointed out during a fungus foray at Trowse Woods in September.

Dog's-vomit Slime-mould, Trowse

Fungi (19)
A range of fungi, lichens and rusts was added during the year, although as usual, help was required with many of these. The new lichens were Ramalina siliquosa on Dunstanburgh Castle in April and Evernia prunastri at Sheringham in July. The rust Puccinia violae was present on Hairy Violet at Ditchling Beacon in July. The striking Golden Scalycap Pholiota aurivella was found at the Nunnery in September. Otherwise, all new species were from the Whitlingham/Trowse area, with thanks to James Emerson and Tony Leech for help finding and identifying:  my favourites were Collared Parachute Marasmius rotula, Saffrondrop Bonnet Mycena crocata and the Eyelash Fungus Scutellinia scutellata.  

Golden Scalycap, The Nunnery