Sunday 1 January 2017

Summary of 2016 wildlife recording

Another busy year, and despite pressures of work and family commitments (the latter admittedly declining as the boys get older), looking back I see that I did indeed get about a fair bit. I again focused on increasing my pan-species list wherever I happened to be in the UK, but this was mostly in my local area in south-east Norfolk. In addition, we had some great family trips to both Israel and Iceland, and I had an enjoyable short trip with the BUBO lads to Poland in the spring.

The final tally was 473 new British species during the year, with my overall pan-species total smashing through the 4,000 barrier in March and reaching 4,364 by the end of the year. I reckon this puts me on target for 5K some time during 2018 – too much of a push to manage in 2017 (unless I work out how to retire).

Life-list progression to end of each year

Overall, I appear to have recorded 1,829 species in Britain during 2016, my highest ever. [Although I aimed to hit 2,000 in the year 2000, and at the time felt I’d done so, I’m rather stricter with my rules these days!] In reality I will have seen a fair few more than this as looking back, I can see a number of common species (especially flowering plants) that I never got round to writing down during the year. But still, a pleasing total.

Annual species totals for birds, Lepidoptera and "others"

The 4,329 individual records I jotted down during the year were a modest total, due to much lower bird and moth totals than in the past. However, they took my cumulative total of British records over 180,000, which seems quite respectable; it seems to be over 10 per day for my life to date (and I didn’t do any recording for the first eight years!)

Biological records per year, split by birds, Lepidoptera and "others"

Although I wasn’t particularly targeting them, my home 1 km square list (TM2499) continued to creep up during the year and now stands at 1,911 species, whilst my garden list has now reached 1,257 species without any particular focus. I'd be surprised if I didn't push the square list over the 2K barrier in 2017...

Anyway, here's a summary of some of the highlights. For each group I've listed the number of species recorded in 2016, the number of those which were new to me, and the resulting all-time total for that group.

Non-arthropod invertebrates

Worms (1 species, 1 ticks, list total = 10) 
I only identified the common species Lumbricus terrestris during the year, because I thought it was about time I did so.

Molluscs (24 species, 7 ticks, list total = 55)
I still don’t find myself warming to snails and slugs, but a reasonable range of species was noted. The new ones included the tiny but very rare Truncatellina cylindrica, dug out of a rabbit hole by Mark Telfer at Lakenheath, and two freshwater species with Dan Hoare at Wheatfen - Bithynia leachii and Radix auricularia.

Non-insect arthropods

Arachnids (34 species, 15 ticks, list total = 84)
I still haven’t got into spiders in any significant way, although I’m looking forward to the new book due in 2017 to give me new impetus. I failed to jot down at least Araneus diadematus which I must surely have seen. My 13 new spiders were mostly widespread species, plus a handful of coastal species from the PSL weekend in June. Away from the spiders, one of the highlights of the year was seeing the harvestman Megabunus diadema in the Forest of Bowland, whilst I also managed to see three pseudoscorpions, including my first Marram Grass Chelifer Dactylochelifer latreillii at Holkham.

Mega-spiky Megabunus diadema in Forest of Bowland, great find by Paula Lightfoot

Myriapods (22 species, 9 ticks, list total = 31)
Quite a respectable total this year, made up of nine centipedes and 13 millipedes. One of my favourite species of the year was the Bristly Millipede Polyxenus lagurus seen on a barn at Holkham, whilst I was also pleased to find what may prove to be Norfolk’s first record of Chordeuma proximum by sieving moss at Buxton Heath in December. Otherwise, most other additions were widespread species, with the exception of Craspedosoma rawlinsii at Wheatfen which does seem to be more confined to wetlands.

Bristly Millipede at Holkham, thanks to eagle eyes of Nicola Bacciu

Crustaceans (9 species, 2 ticks, list total = 21)
With the exception of the sandhopper Orchestia gammarellus found on the edge of the Burnham Overy saltmarsh, I only recorded woodlice; most of these were widespread species but it was good to add the coastal Armadillidium album from under driftwood on Holkham beach.

Springtails (1 species, 1 ticks, list total = 4)
I’m still failing to get into springtails, adding just Ceratophysella denticulata to my measly list.


Silverfish (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 1)
I recorded Lepsima saccharina as usual, including in the house (behind skirting boards!) but also out at Holkham.

Mayflies (5 species, 2 ticks, list total = 7)
Still not finding I’m getting particularly familiar with these. The two new ones were Baetis vernus from the Forest of Bowland and Procloeon bifidum from Cranwich.

Dragonflies (20 species, 0 ticks, list total = 36)
Most of the common species were noted during the year, although I didn’t jot down Red-eyed Damselfly anywhere. Nice to see more Willow Emeralds making it to Thetford. No new species, and I still have a number of relatively easy ones to get, both localised residents and  new colonists (notably Red-veined Darter and I should be looking out for Southern Migrant Hawker now).

Willow Emerald Damselfly by the river in Thetford

Earwigs (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 3)
Just Common Earwigs noted this year.

Cockroaches (1 species, 1 tick, list total = 3)
We chanced upon a Tawny Cockroach Ectobius pallidus at Lakenheath, one of only a handful of sites for the species north of London. I’ve now seen all three native species, but still not haven’t got any of the “pest” cockroaches on my list.

Grasshoppers and crickets (10 species, 0 ticks, list total = 21)
Few observations of particular note this year, although nice to encounter Great Green Bush-crickets at Minsmere. I was lazy in recording this group and failed to jot down Common Green and Meadow Grasshoppers, both of which I must have come across. About time I found a Southern Oak Bush-cricket.

Stoneflies (5 species, 4 ticks, list total = 6)
All four of the new species (Leuctra inermis, Nemoura cambrica, Nemurella pictetii, Brachyptera risi) were picked up during a walk in the Forest of Bowland – clearly much richer in the uplands of the north-west than in lowland Norfolk. I also found my second Leuctra geniculata at the Nunnery; this does seem to be a species found in Norfolk only in the west of the county.

Bugs (114 species, 44 ticks, list total = 184)
A good haul of bugs this year and I still really enjoy tackling these, although some of the leafhoppers can be hard work. Some really nice new ones included Ledra aurita in the house (attracted to the moth-trap), Alydus calcaratus on Barnhamcross and Tuponia brevirostris from tamarisks at Minsmere. I’ve still not made much progress with aphids but great to come across the (relatively) huge Tuberolachnus salignus in Thetford. Lots more potential in 2017 – should easily pass 200 species.

Ledra aurita, flew into Tom's bedroom

Giant Willow Aphid (Tuberolachnus salignus) in Thetford

Barklice (10 species, 5 ticks, list total = 11)
Although these are tiny things, they’re very easy to come across whilst using a sweep-net and a number of them aren’t too hard to identify (although I draw the line at those that need detailed examination of their mouthparts). I suspect they’re never going to be my favourite group.

Lice (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 1)
A family member gave me a wonderful opportunity to reacquaint myself with Pediculus humanus.

Beetles (287 species, 142 ticks, list total = 435)
As with last year, this was the group that provided the largest number of new species for me during the year. I’m still clearly only scratching the surface, but the fact that I’ve now recorded more beetles than birds in the UK feels like a mini-milestone at least. Inevitably, I’m focusing more on some families and less on others. A feature of the year was me taking the plunge and getting stuck into the Staphylinidae, which were more accessible than I’d expected; I identified 37 new ‘staphs’ (on top of my previous three!), which sounds impressive until you realise that there are over 1,000 of them; good start though. Not sure if any of them were particularly noteworthy but I particularly liked Paederus riparius and Staphylinus erythropterus. I also significantly increased my carabid beetle total, with 23 new ones including the coastal specialists Broscus cephalotes, Dicheirotrichus gustavii and Dicheirotrichus obsoletus, the latter particularly notable as I found it inland in my garden moth-trap. Another 20 new chrysomelids were identified, including two twitched species: Tansy Beetle Chrysolina graminis in York and Galeruca laticollis at its only known site of Wheatfen. Outside these three big groups, other notable new ones included Pseudaplemonus limonii and Orthocerus clavicornis at Burnham Overy, Clanoptilus barnevillei at Holkham and Oedemera femoralis at the Nunnery. I’d hope I should be able to pass 500 in 2017 without too much difficulty, maybe even reach 600?

Galeruca laticollis at Wheatfen, thanks to Mark Telfer for gen and Duncan for finding them for me on the day!
Paederus riparius, found on Shotesham Common

Orthocerus clavicornis from Burnham Overy Dunes

Flies (164 species, 60 ticks, list total = 335)
A similar number of species to last year. I continued to make an effort with craneflies this year, finding 18 new species and I hope to get increasingly familiar with these in 2017. Pleasing to continue to find new hoverflies without any targeted effort, with this year’s six additions bringing my total to 95 species – maybe I can pass 100 in 2017? I was particularly pleased with finally finding Volucella inflata at Tasburgh, as well as Criorhina berberina in the garden, although there were a few common species I never got round to writing down (including Rhingia campestris). The only new soldierfly was a good one – Silver Colonel Odontomyia argentata found on Shotesham Common in response to a request to go out and look for the species. This is my 20th soldierfly, of which I’ve found 18 in my home 1 km square. I didn’t make much progress with calypterates this year, although nice to add three more Pollenia species, both of the blowfly-lookalike muscids Eudasyphora and two new tachinids. Huge potential with the flies though if I put in the effort; might I be able to reach 400 in 2017?

The hoverfly Criorhina berberina, found in the garden

Silver Colonel (Odontomyia argentata) from Shotesham Common

Hymenoptera (85 species, 38 ticks, list total = 189)
A similar number of species to to last year and I continue to find these a fascinating group, although identification difficulty varies hugely between OK and impossible. Steve Falk’s new book inspired me to keep working on bees, although I’d like to have managed even more. Highlights were Bilberry Bumblebee Bombus monticola in the Forest of Bowland, Pantaloon Bee Dasypoda hirtipes at Minsmere, Willughby's Leafcutter Bee Megachile willughbiella at Marston Marshes and the very rare Ashy Furrow Bee Lasioglossum sexnotatum at Mundford (during Steve Falk’s training course). Median Wasp Dolichovespula media was a nice find in Shotesham Great Wood. My two new spider-hunting wasps  - Anoplius infuscatus and Pompilus cinereus – were both at Burnham Overy on the same day. All of the six new crabronids were great, as always, with Oxybelus uniglumis at Cranwich Camp perhaps my favourite. Most of the ichneumons that I successfully identified were from the moth-trap; I tried a number of other diurnal species but generally failed with them. I also added a further two ants and seven sawflies.

Pantaloon Bee (Dasypoda hirtipes) at Minsmere

Median Wasp (Dolichovespula media) found in a rotting log in Shotesham Great Wood

The ichneumon wasp Ophion scutellaris from the garden moth-trap in March.

Moths and butterflies (381 species, 10 ticks, list total = 1,088)
A very modest effort this year. No new butterflies for the second year running, and I forgot to write down Small White or Large Skipper. My only new macro-moth was a Sand Dart Agrotis ripae found by Tim Hodge during the day at Burnham Overy. The nine new micro-moths included three leaf-miners I’d seen before but hadn’t previously confirmed I’d seen the occupants of; the best of the rest was perhaps Prolita sexpunctella netted by day in the Forest of Bowland. In the garden I ran the moth-trap 55 times. It felt like a fairly mediocre year, with just two new macros for the garden - Large Ranunculus and Gem. Other reasonable migrants were Convolvulus Hawk-moth and Small Mottled Willow, along with the exceptional invasion of Diamond-back Moths in late May/early June. Garden species that were notable by their absence in 2016 were V-Pug, Udea olivalis, Pale Mottled Willow, Bee Moth, Crambus perlella and Garden Pebble, whilst Blair’s Shoulder-knot and Latticed Heath were missing for their third consecutive year and Magpie Moth has now been missing since 2009.

The Gem (bit tatty) from the garden moth-trap

Scorpionflies (2 species, 0 ticks, list total = 2)
Just the usual two common species Panorpa communis and P. germanica seen; still no Snow Flea...

Alderflies (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 1)
The usual Sialis lutarea confirmed at Wheatfen.

Lacewings (6 species, 3 ticks, list total = 13)
New species were the small dull Hemerobius stigma at Holkham Pines and the larger green Nineta flava and Cunctochrysa albolineata in the garden moth-trap. Ant-lion pits were noted at Holkham and Minsmere but the insect itself not seen this year.

Fleas (1 species, 1 tick, list total = 4)
I identified several examples of Palaeopsylla minor off a dead mole that the cat brought in.

Caddisflies (21 species, 10 ticks, list total = 30)
I continued to make progress with these during the year, with seven new species being recorded from the garden moth-trap, plus Limnephilus decipiens at Cranwich, Molanna angustata at Wheatfen and Sericostoma personatum on Barnhamcross. I’m starting to recognise a handful of these on sight now, but I’m still finding them a challenge.


Fish (0 species, 0 ticks, list total = 9)
Somewhat embarrassingly, I didn’t write down any fish at all during 2016. Presumably I saw some?

Amphibians (3 species, 0 ticks, list total = 6)
As well as Common Frog and Common Toad, a highlight was chancing upon a couple of Natterjack Toads (and hearing a load more) at Holkham and Burnham Overy in the spring. No newts were recorded; have we lost our Great Crested Newts from Stubbs Green?

Natterjack Toad (no, really) at Holkham

Reptiles (2 species, 0 ticks, list total = 6)
Only Grass Snake and Common Lizard recorded this year – I still need to go on another Sand Lizard hunt.

Birds (175 species, 5 ticks, list total = 431)
A slight increase in the number of species over recent years, probably due mostly to a few twitches in the autumn. Five new species was the most I’ve added for some years: Great Reed Warbler was a long overdue one, seen at Little Paxton on the way to a meeting; Purple Swamphen at Minsmere is dependent on a BOURC decision; Radde’s Warbler at Holkham took hours of pinning down for fairly short but gripping views, after years of missing this; Siberian Accentor at Easington was clearly THE bird of the autumn; and the Cliff Swallow at Minsmere was an entirely unexpected bonus. Other good birds were Isabelline Wheatear at Burnham Overy and Dusky and Pallas’s Warblers at Spurn. As usual in recent years, there were lots of common species I didn’t record, especially Goldeneye (for the first time ever since I ticked it in 1984), Fulmar, Shag, Guillemot, Razorbill and so on. I failed to find any Turtle Doves for the second year running. One of these days I’ll have to concentrate on some birding again. My easiest target now is apparently White-billed Diver, although the year ended with both Dusky Thrush and Blue Rock Thrush available; maybe in 2017....

Purple Swamphen at Minsmere

Siberian Accentor at Easington. Far from the best photo you'll ever see of this, but it's MY photo!

Mammals (13 species, 0 ticks, list total = 41)
A poor year, with no records of Stoat or Weasel written down, and no Porpoise (which fits with the lack of many common seabirds too). The only records of any particular note were c40 Red Deer near Wymondham and Chinese Water Deer again in Shotesham. I still haven’t recorded Pygmy Shrew, Water Shrew or Yellow-necked Mouse.


Algae (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 17)
Only Bladder Wrack noted this year.

Bryophytes (51 species, 29 ticks, list total = 64)
I seem to have added quite a lot of new species this year, but I still don’t feel comfortable with these. The four new liverworts were Lophocolea heterophylla in Shotesham, Pellia endiviifolia at Whitlingham, Pellia epiphylla at Otley Chevin and Porella platyphylla at Ashwellthorpe. Most of the 25 new mosses were found early in the year by me just flogging samples through the keys; an outing with the Norfolk Bryological Group in November netted me a few more and confirmed that I wasn’t missing any easy tips to make the group easier. Not sure I’m ever going to love mosses.

Vascular Plants (295 species, 44 ticks, list total = 975)
I was lazy in 2016 and didn’t record lots of the commoner species, thus the true total of plants I encountered would have been significantly higher. For example, I clearly observed Lady’s Bedstraw, Herb Bennett, White Clover, Black Horehound, Foxglove, Enchanter’s Nightshade, Agrimony, Blackthorn, etc. but didn’t write them down. However, I did see some good new ones. As ever, the orchids were the showier ones, and I added four new ones: Man Orchid at Barnack, Frog Orchid at Winks Meadow (and again later on Ingleborough), Dark-red Helleborine at Bishop Middleham and Violet Helleborine in Groton Woods. Other highlights were Smooth Rupturewort in Thetford, Yellow Bird’s-nest at Holkham, Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem at Wayland Wood, Purple Toothwort at Bowthorpe, Green Figwort at Wheatfen and Marsh Violet and Round-leaved Crowfoot at the Forest of Bowland. I also finally added some identified brambles to my list; I now have eight species of Rubus thanks mostly to help from Alex Prendergast (although I identified the distinctive Rubus laciniatus on Barnhamcross without any help). Surely I can reach 1,000 vascular plants during 2017? Lots of easy ones still to find.

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem at Wayland Wood

Yellow Bird's-nest at Holkham Pines

Green Figwort from Wheatfen

Violet Helleborine at Groton Woods

Fungi etc.

Fungi/Lichens (82 species, 40 ticks, list total = 230)
Most of the new species I added this year I had help with the identification of. This was particularly the case with the 23 new lichens, many of which were added in a churchyard in Brandon thanks to guidance from Peter Lambley. In addition, for many of the other new species I had help with the identification from James Emerson. Until I get into looking at spores to do my own confirmations, I suspect I’m not going to progress all that much further on my own with fungi, and I’m not really getting that much of a kick from the lichens so far. However, I did suss out a few new ones on my own, including Usnea subfloridana at the Nunnery and Nail Fungus Poronia punctata on pony dung at Holt Lowes.

Nail Fungus (Poronia punctata) found on pony poo at Holt Lowes

The lichen Caloplaca flavescens on a church wall in Brandon

Slime-moulds (0 species, 0 ticks, list total = 3)
I didn’t identify any to species this year but did see Wolf’s Milk Lycogala sp. at Holkham.

Overseas Records

In March/April we went for a whistle-stop tour of (effectively) the whole of Israel and a bit of Palestine too. And arguably a bit of Syria, depending on your political view re the Golan Heights. Anyway, given that I’d spent seven weeks there in the 1990s, I didn’t have too many targets to chase, but I did have a few. My first new one was Crowned Sandgrouse at the drinking pool at Ezuz. We then drove down to Eilat, where the only new species I saw was Black Bush-Robin at Yotvata Hai-bar zoo. Heading back north, I met up with Yoav Perlman who was helping Arjan Dwarshuis with his attempt to break the world bird year-list (which he did, spectacularly) which netted me Yoav’s speciality bird – Nubian Nightjar. We then added Striated Bunting by the Dead Sea, then continued north where a teeny bit of going out of bounds from the top of the Mount Hermon ski-lift produced Crimson-winged Finch. I thought that was the lot, but had a final (less exciting) addition in the shape of Monk Parakeet in Jerusalem. Obviously, loads and loads of other great birds too including Brown Booby and tons of raptor passage. Non-bird highlights were a dead Wolf, Golden Jackals, Acacia Gazelle, Hyrax, Nubian Ibex, Egyptian Mastigure lizards, some amazing fish on the coral reef off Eilat, the cool grasshopper Poekilocerus bufonius, Mongoose, Sand Rat, etc. Such a great place for wildlife and fascinating/depressing from a historical/political viewpoint, I’d still love to go back again (especially to finally hunt down Sinai Rosefinch!)

Fan-tailed Raven on the walls of the fortress of Masada, high above the Dead Sea

Poekilocerus bufonius in the Arava valley

In mid-April, just a few days after returning from Israel, I popped over to eastern Poland with Mark Lawlor and Ian Broadbent for a quick birding trip. This was great fun, and I saw my three top target birds on the first day: White-backed Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker and Pygmy Owl. We also saw some brilliant European Bison and Moose, and stacks of other great birds including Spotted and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Tengmalm’s Owl, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Marsh Sandpiper, Rough-legged Buzzard and a superb singing Hazel Grouse. Lots of good woodland spring flowers, Camberwell Beauty, Tadpole Shrimps, etc etc.

Otherwise known as the Wisent

Singing Hazel Grouse in Bialowieza, one of the birds of the year

In July we had a family holiday to Iceland which entailed us driving around the entire perimeter of the island. I had only one bird target – Gyrfalcon – and we sorted these out on our second day in Myvatn and later on the north coast too. The overall bird list for the week was predictably small, but did include Harlequin Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Great Northern Diver, Red-necked Phalarope and some fantastic Arctic and Great Skuas. We also saw Humpback and Minke Whales, Norwegian Wasp and Oysterplant, alongside many other interesting plants.

Gyrfalcon juvs, northern Iceland

Oysterplant on an Icelandic beach