Monday 8 January 2018

Summary of 2017 wildlife recording

Here goes with another write-up of a year's wildlife watching. It's always interesting to look back and pull together many different observations into a single summary, often reminding myself of things I've already half-forgotten about. It's also great to re-read the equivalent summaries I wrote about previous years.

2017 was another species-packed year, although very much a year of two halves. I managed to record 1,820 species in Britain, almost exactly the same as in 2016. For the third year in a row, I recorded over 1,000 species of insects. However, I really lost drive in the second half of the year, probably caused by taking on a new role at work in combination with a post-holiday "low". The "low" was perhaps due to the holiday itself being such a high of course - my first ever trip to Australia (and hopefully not the last), which really was such an amazing experience, it took a while to get back into focusing on the smaller and subtler species of Britain which I've been looking at for the last few years.

Mapping out my records with QGIS, I see I didn't actually travel very much at all within Britain in 2017. Most of the outliers on a 10km map are from a few work trips and a few days back home in Yorkshire, but the vast majority of my time was spent in East Anglia.

Even more striking, I didn't really go many places in East Anglia; the 1km scale map below shows that almost all my recording was in my home area south of Norwich and around Thetford, with a few excursions to the Broads and the Suffolk coast, and hardly any trips to the north Norfolk coast at all. There seems to have been some sort of invisible forcefield banning me from north of the A11 in fact.

During the year, I found 234 new British species, bringing my end of year total to 4,597, but only 40 of these were post-Australia, meaning I've left myself with quite a mountain to climb if I want to push for 5,000 by the end of 2018. Nevertheless, that's a total which is still quite possible if I put in the effort. Let's see....

Species per year

Non-arthropod invertebrates

Worms (2 species, 2 ticks, list total = 12)
A short session netting the stream in Shotesham in April produced two new leeches: Alboglossiphona heteroclita and Hemiclepsis marginata.

Molluscs (16 species, 2 ticks, list total = 57)
New species were the freshwater Valvata cristata on Shotesham Common in March, and Slipper Limpet Crepidula fornicata on Skegness beach in December (I'd seen shells of this species in the past, but never found occupied ones). A variety of other common slugs and snails were also noted.

Starfish (0 species, 0 ticks, list total = 0)
Still no live starfish found, but a very striking wreck on Skegness beach on 29th Dec involved probably over 1,000 Common Starfish Asterias rubens as well as a couple of Common Sunstars Crossaster papposus. I nudged a fair few, but could find no apparent signs of life.

Starfish buddies on Skegness Beach (sadly both dead)

Non-insect arthropods

Arachnids (38 species, 13 ticks, list total = 97)
A reasonable selection by my standards, although I still haven't got into spiders in a big enough way. The breakdown was 20 spiders (5 new), 4 harvestmen (1 new), 3 pseudoscorpions (1 new) and 11 mites/ticks (6 new). I finally got round to going to Lopham Fen and seeing the legendary Fen Raft Spiders Dolomedes plantarius and also finally caught up with many other naturalists and found myself a Wasp Spider Ariope bruennichi at Minsmere. Another highlight was the pseudoscorpion Lamprochernes savignyi which proved to be abundant in a muck heap in Shotesham, when sieved by visiting coleopterists in May.

Fen Raft Spider at Lopham Fen

Wasp Spider at Minsmere

Crustaceans (12 species, 3 ticks, list total = 24)
A reasonable selection of woodlice, including my first record of Porcellionides pruinosus which proved to be abundant in a muck heap in Shotesham in May. I was pleased to finally nail Signal Crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus which I've known have been in the river Little Ouse by work for years. The other new species was the non-native barnacle Austrominius modestus which was encrusting beach groynes at Skegness in December.

Barnacle Austrominius modestus at Skegness

Myriapods (15 species, 3 ticks, list total = 34)
A little less attention paid to these this year, but I ought to do more as there's clearly lots still to be found; Melogona scutellaris in the garden was a potential new species for Norfolk. Also in the garden, Geophilus truncorum was new for me, whilst I also sorted out Cylindroiulus britannicus from Thetford.

Springtails, proturans and 2-tailed bristetails (1 species, 1 tick, list total = 5)
I finally got round to identifying the common globular springtail Dicyrtomina saundersi from the garden.


Mayflies (2 species, 0 ticks, list total = 7)
Ephemera danica recorded several times around Shotesham, with Ephemera vulgata in Thetford.

Dragonflies (20 species, 0 ticks, list total = 36)
First of the year was typically Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula on the early date of 9th Apr at Whitlingham. Further evidence of a slight range expansion of Norfolk Hawker Aeshna isosceles with records within Shotesham parish on 27th-28th May and 10th Jun, but still not quite into the home 1 km square (2018 surely!) I recorded Willow Emerald Damselfly Chalcolestes viridis in the garden again on 27th Aug (and saw again at Minsmere the following week). Most other common species were noted although unaccountably, I failed to record Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum all year - I presume this was down to incompetence as opposed to a catastrophic population crash.

Earwigs (2 species, 0 ticks, list total = 3)
Pleasing to see Lesser Earwig Labia minor again, after my only previous record in 2000; lots were seen in a muck heap in Shotesham, thanks to the sieving skills of visiting coleopterists!

When I say we sieved a muck-heap....this is home to a squillion invertebrates

Grasshoppers and crickets (11 species, 0 ticks, list total = 21)
Started with my earliest ever nymph of Dark Bush-cricket Pholidoptera griseoaptera in the garden on 15th April. Roesel's Bush-crickets Metrioptera roseselii started "calling" from 1st July in Shotesham (hooray, can still hear them). Otherwise, most regular species noted.

Stoneflies (2 species, 2 ticks, list total = 8)
Both species recorded were new to me, with Nemoura avicularis from Thetford in April being a common species, but Nemoura dubitans from Surlingham and Whitlingham (also in April) much more localised nationally (although it appears that East Anglia is a stronghold).

Bugs (84 species, 19 ticks, list total = 215)
Not a bad selection of bugs, although a little lower than last year. I did pass the 200 mark as hoped for though. Some of the nicest new ones were Gastrodes grossipes at the Nunnery Lakes, Ulopa reticulata in Sherwood Forest, Forget-me-not Shieldbug Sehirus luctuosus in the garden (how have I overlooked this so far, the garden is over-run with forget-me-nots?), Halticus luteicollis in Thetford and the splendid Kalama tricornis also at The Nunnery. Most other common species were noted, although I was lazy and didn't get round to identifying any Psocoptera (barkflies) this year.

Gastrodes grossipes at the Nunnery Lakes

Beetles (216 species, 80 ticks, list total = 514)
Although I didn't set out with the intention of particularly focusing on beetles this year, I seem to have seen quite a lot of new ones; in fact, about a third of my new species in 2017 were beetles and I smashed through the 500 barrier. The 80 new species were from 23 different families. I found 23 new rove beetles (Staphylinidae) during the year, including an incredible 11 new ones on 23rd May when Steve Lane, Martin Collier and Tim Hodge came to visit Shotesham; one day, I'll learn to sieve a muck-heap like that! I have learned to look in a variety of places for rove beetles though, finding them under dead pheasants and moles, in henhouse bedding/shit and in sieved flood debris, as well as catching Philonthus cognatus in flight. I suspect the staphs will be my most species-rich beetle family by the end of next year (currently in third place). The next most tick-rich group were the Chrysomelidae with 12 new ones, mostly unremarkable common species although it was interesting to identify the Viburnum Leaf Beetle Pyrrhalta viburni from its larvae feeding on Guelder-rose at Woodbastwick Fen. In third place were the nine new weevils (Curculionidae), a feeble number really given the available targets out there and the fact there's plenty of information on how to find them. I ought to be much more focused on chasing some weevils down in 2018! The ground beetles (Carabidae) remain my most species-rich beetle family (79 species now), although just four additions in 2017: Bembidion illigeri (Barnhamcross Common), Harpalus latus (Winterton Dunes), Acupalpus meridianus and Stenolophus mixtus (both Shotesham). Away from these larger groups, highlights of a hotchpotch of other families included Hylecoetus dermestoides, Nalassus laevioctostriatus and Orchesia undulata (Sherwood Forest), Diaperis boleti at the Nunnery Lakes, the longhorns Phytoecia cylindrica (Nunnery) and Alosterna tabacicolor (Harling Woods), the histerids Atholus bimaculatus (Shotesham) and Saprinus aeneus (under dead mole on Barnhamcross Common) and the large black Prionychus ater (in the garden moth-trap). Lots more to look for in 2018 though - will I make it to 600?

Flies (135 species, 30 ticks, list total = 365)
A good selection, albeit fewer than last year and only half the number of new ones; no excuse as there are still thousands (in fact, almost all of them) still to look for. Nine of the new ones were craneflies, and I still feel like there's lots more easy ones to work out here; four of these were in the garden for example. I saw two new hoverflies (Meliscaeva cinctella at The Nunnery and Eumerus strigatus in Shotesham) bringing my total to 97 species; I clearly need to find some targets for 2018. I also added my 21st soldierfly (Beris geniculatus at Wheatfen), five more of the leaf-mining Agromyzidae, three more of the picture-winged Tephritidae and two more Bibio species (anglicus at Whitlingham and reticulatus at Sherwood bringing my total to 11 out of the 16 species). I also came across two recently colonising non-native species at the Nunnery: the leaf-miner Obolodiplosis robiniae on a False-acacia and Drosophila suzukii in the office. I will be disappointed if I don't make it to 400 flies by the end of 2018.

Lipara lucens reared from reed gall at Minsmere

Tipula vittata at Whitlingham Great Broad

Hymenoptera (97 species, 35 ticks, list total = 225)
Although I'm clearly remaining very much a pan-species recorder, I've been trying to work out where to specialise a bit more. During the year, a vacancy arose for the position of Norfolk sawfly recorder, and despite not being particularly knowledgeable about the group, I decided to put myself forward - and was accepted! Gulp. Anyway, I do find the Hymenoptera a really interesting group, and there's no shortage of new discoveries to be made, so I will try to focus a little more on these in 2018. But as for 2017:
Symphyta (sawflies): I recorded 33 species during the year, 20 of which were new to me. This brings my total to 65 sawflies, out of a British total of 537. Clearly I need to learn a great deal more to be able to undertake my new role effectively! My new ones included some which are very common and obvious (such as the Alder Sawfly Eriocampa ovata and Figwort Sawfly Tenthredo scrophulariae) as well as others that are a little more obscure. I was pleased to discover the Skullcap Sawfly Athalia scutellariae around a patch of Skullcap in wet woods at the Nunnery Lakes. Another interesting discovery was of some sawfly larvae reported by Mike Dawson on a birch sapling in his garden which proved to be Pristiphora testacea, apparently new to Norfolk. As I said, lots to discover still and I really look forward to getting stuck in this year. Perhaps a target of 100 sawflies by the end of the year is a good aim.
Aculeata (aculeates: bees, ants, some wasps): as well as a new focus on sawflies, I still also really like aculeates. I recorded 54 species during the year, of which ten were new for me. Three new bees were Andrena minutula (High Ash Farm), Heriades truncorum (The Nunnery) and Lasioglossum leucopus (Nunnery Lakes). Five splendid solitary wasps were Argogorytes fargeii, Nysson spinosus and Trypoxylon attenuatum (Shotesham), Astata boops (Barnhamcross) and Ammophila sabulosa (Dunwich Heath). I found the ruby-tailed wasp Chrysis angustula in the garden. Finally, and particularly interesting, I noted the spider-hunting wasp Auplopus carbonarius in Shotesham on 17th June, again on 26th August and finally again in Thetford on 27th October; this species was not known in Norfolk until very recently and is clearly spreading rapidly.
Parasitica (parastic wasps): although by far the most species-rich group, it remains difficult (although not impossible) to break into this group. I recorded five new species, three of which were gall-wasps in the family Cynipidae: Trigonaspis megaptera galls around the base of the Medusa Oak in Sherwood Forest, Biorhiza pallida 'oak-apple' galls in Shotesham (seen many times previously but never confirmed as occupied) and Phanacis hypochoeridis galls on Cat's-ear on Great Yarmouth North Denes. Some additional oak galls were found but the wasps were not actually seen and I don't currently count these towards my totals - Cynips quercusfolii, Andricus curvator, A. lignicola, A. fecundator and A. quercuscalicis. However, one of my favourite finds of the year was the blue wasp Ormyrus nitidulus (Ormyridae) which emerged from galls of A. quercuscalicis that I'd kept. Finally, I only identified one new Ichneumon all year, a female of Virgichneumon monostagon from the garden moth-trap.

Birch Sawfly Cimbex femoratus in Sherwood Forest

Ormyrus nitidulus reared from gall of Andricus quercuscalicis in Shotesham

Moths and butterflies (423 species, 13 ticks, list total = 1,101)
As ever, Lepidoptera were my most diverse insect group during the year, due to long familiarity and regular moth-trapping (at least once per week for most of the year in the garden). However, due to the number of other things I'm recording, I have got very lazy regarding butterfly recording; I only made 44 records of 24 species during the year, with no new ones again and no records of Grayling, Wall, Dark Green Fritillary, Green Hairstreak, etc. I did record 13 new moths in the year, and for a change, the majority of these were macro-moths. Apart from a splendid Tree-lichen Beauty Cryphia algae at the Nunnery, however, all of the other new macros were pheromone-attracted clearwings. I tried clearwing pheromones years ago and failed, but persevered this year (backed up with better info and, perhaps, better pheromones) I succeeded in recording my first six species, all in June: Hornet (Nun's Bridges), Yellow-legged (Barnhamcross), Currant and Red-tipped (Surlingham Church Marsh), Red-belted (The Nunnery) and Six-belted (Minsmere). All stunning creatures, and I hope to find some of the others in 2018. A few other less regular macro-moths noted in the garden trap included Chamomile Shark, Muslin Footman and The Coronet, whilst significant absences were Shaded Broad-bar, The Lychnis, Rosy Rustic, Lesser Swallow Prominent and Angle Shades; whilst some of these were doubtless not helped by the timing of our trip to Australia, the latter was particularly surprising and was its first blank year following an unbroken run since 1993. The six new micro-moths were Coleophora follicularis (occupied cases on fleabane in the garden), Phyllonorycter cerasicolella (occupied mines on cherry in garden), Ectoedemia argyropeza (occupied mines on Aspen at Fewston Reservoir), Stigmella obliquella (occupied mine on willow in Thetford), Marasmarcha lunaedactyla (Dunwich beach toilets) and Ancylis upupana (Sherwood Forest). Other noteworthy micros included Bucculatrix nigricomella (garden trap), Duponchelia fovealis (inside house on 20th Sep and 14th Oct, my 2nd & 3rd records after finding the 4th for Britain back in 1999), Synaphe punctalis (Dunwich beach toilets), Stathmopoda pedella (Wheatfen) and Pammene regiana (Earlham Park). Conversely, a few suprising omissions were Elophila nymphaeata, Acleris holmiana, Acleris rhombana and Pandemis corylana.

Red-tipped Clearwing at Surlingham Church Marsh

Scorpionflies (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 2)
Only Panorpa germanica was identified to species this year.

Alderflies (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 1)
Sialis lutaria was confirmed to species from both Whitlingham and Upton Marshes.

Lacewings (4 species, 0 ticks, list total = 13)
Just four common species were noted: Chrysoperla carnea, Hemerobius lutescens, H. micans and H. humulinus.

Snakeflies (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 2)
Phaeostigma notata was found dead in a cobweb on the wall of the Nunnery in June.

Fleas (1 species, 1 tick, list total = 5)
Numerous small black fleas were sieved from henhouse bedding in December and looked right for the expected species Ceratophyllus gallinae, although I failed to key them perfectly due to size.

Caddisflies (15 species, 3 ticks, list total = 33)
A reasonable year, with new species being Limnephilus rhombicus from Tasburgh, Leptocerus tineiformis from the garden trap (abundant on a few nights in June) and Oecetis ocharacea also in the garden trap. Of some of the more recognisable species, Limnephilus lunatus was recorded in the garden moth trap between 1st Sep and 4th Nov, Phryganea grandis was noted from Minsmere and the garden moth trap, Anabolia nervosa was noted along riverbanks between 4th and 16th Oct and Chaetopteryx villosa was seen by torchlight after dark on a bridge over the stream in Shotesham on 6th Nov and 22nd Dec. Still feels like I could record much more about these reasonably easily.

Anabolia nervosa at the Nunnery Lakes


Amphibians (3 species, 0 ticks, list total = 6)
A count of 12 Smooth Newts at a pond by Shotesham Little Wood was notable, alongside a small number of records of Common Frog and Common Toad.

Birds (191 species, 2 ticks, list total = 432)
An unimpressive year-list albeit my highest since 2012. My two new species were on the same day -  Dusky Thrush (Beeley, Derbyshire) and White-billed Diver (R Witham, Lincolnshire) on 29th Jan, both very enjoyable indeed, particularly the diver which I'd wanted to see for years. Other avian highlights of the year included the Great Reed Warbler at the Nunnery Lakes, Parrot Crossbills at Santon Downham, a combination of Iceland, Glaucous, Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls in Thetford, a great selection of birds around the new Potter Heigham Marshes including Spoonbills, breeding Black-winged Stilts and a Caspian Tern, and finally the autumn influx of Hawfinches, of which I found four individuals/records around Shotesham (including one over the garden). Inevitably with my focus away from birds these days there were many missing common species, notably many seabirds but I also didn't find Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Sparrow, Redstart, Tree Pipit, Raven, Corn Bunting, Common Crossbill, etc etc.

Spoonbill squadron at Potter Heigham

White-billed Diver, R Witham

Fish (4 species, 1 tick, list total = 10)
One of my favourite sightings of the year was a Flounder in a shallow tidal pool at Winterton in November (followed by another at Skegness); my first ever live flatfish. The only other species noted were Minnow, Three-spined Stickleback and Perch, the latter my first for the Little Ouse in Thetford. I remain a desperately poor fish-lister!

Flounder at Winterton

Mammals (17 species, 0 ticks, list total = 41)
No new species this year, but nice to see Badger (Menstrie in Scotland) and Otter (Minsmere). The ever-increasing hordes of Grey Seals are making Horsey a bit less of a favoured destination now, given the number of people going to see them (and the fact that they rule out the beach for walking the dog). Chinese Water Deer were recorded in the Shotesham area twice but still not quite into the home 1 km square; surely in 2018? No Weasel or Porpoise this year. Still not come across Pygmy Shrew, Water Shrew and Yellow-necked Mouse - must try harder!

Reptiles (2 species, 0 ticks, list total = 6)
Grass Snakes were regularly counted under felt sheeting at Stubbs Green with a max count of 9 on 2nd April. This species was also seen at the Nunnery Lakes, along with Slow Worm, 10 of which were under sheets on 10th May. Unusually, I didn't come across Common Lizard during the year.


Bryophytes (7 species, 1 tick, list total = 65)
A completely feeble effort this year with just a handful of common mosses and one liverwort (Lunularia cruciata). The new one was Smaller White-moss Leucobryum juniperoideum in Sherwood Forest in May.

Vascular Plants (448 species, 8 ticks, list total = 983)
At the end of last year I noted I only had 25 more species to find to get to 1,000. Well, I put in a feeble botanical effort in 2017 clearly with only eight new ones. Of these, it was nice to pick up a few native species, including Spiked Water-milfoil at Horsey, Spring Speedwell at Icklingham (my last remaining speedwell in the south), Shepherd's-needle at Mendham and the somewhat embarrassing (but surprisingly difficult in my area) Common Comfrey, finally nailed in Cambridge. The other new ones were non-native: Pale Yellow-eyed Grass at the Thickthorn roundabout (Norwich), Thorn-apple in Shotesham, Soapwort at Minsmere and Peach-leaved Bellflower in Poringland. Having said that, I did spend more time making sure I jotted down the common species I was seeing, so my overall total for the year was much higher than the 295 I noted in 2016. As a result, the omissions from the list were a more genuine reflection of habitats I didn't visit; for example I didn't record Ramsons, Tormentil, Moschatel, etc all of which are present at certain sites locally. Other less regular (for me) species also noted during the year included Grape-hyacinth, White Helleborine, , Slender Thistle, Red-tipped Cudweed, Smooth Cat's-ear, Fringed Water-lily, Yellow Bartsia, Cut-leaved Dead-nettle and Hairy Violet.

The Medusa Oak in Sherwood Forest

Spring Speedwell, Icklingham

Fungi etc.

Fungi/Lichens (49 species, 15 ticks, list total = 245)
I didn't put very much effort into fungi this year, and really should try harder. The new species I recorded were a bit of a mixed bag. Most were micro-fungi on plants, including Protomyces macrosporus (on Cow Parsley), Melampsora populnea (on Dog's Mercury), Puccinia lagenophorae (on Groundsel), Taphrina populina (on Hybrid Black Poplar)Erysiphe heraclei (on Hogweed), Neoerysiphe galeopsidis (on White Dead-nettle), Arthrocladiella mougeotii (on Duke-of-Argyll's Teaplant) and Ramularia centranthi (on Red Valerian). Additional new species were Purple Jellydisc Ascocoryne sarcoides, Crystal Brain Exidia nucleata and Wrinkled Crust Phlebia radiata (all Mousehold Heath), the lichen Peltigera hymenina (High Ash Farm), Phellinus conchatus (Whitlingham Marsh), Hoof Fungus Fomes fomentarius (Sherwood Forest) and Scarlet Waxcap Hygrocybe coccinea (Buckden Pike).

Overseas records

Some great trips abroad in 2017, although short work trips to the Netherlands in January (highlight Short-toed Treecreeper) and Barcelona in November (highlight Monk Parakeets) didn't really get the pulse racing. However, team BUBO had a great few days in Corsica in April where the highlights were obviously Corsican Nuthatch and Corsican Citril, but also Lammergeier and a range of other Mediterranean birds, and a good selection of nice insects and plants; I particularly liked the Early Spider Orchids. A Caspian Tern was a good find too, five minutes from the terminal at Nice airport during a stop-over on the way out.

Oxythyrea funesta in Nice

Early Spider Orchid, Corsica

And then we had an amazing, long-planned family trip to Australia in the summer. What a fantastic place for wildlife watching, and I really want to go back to explore more. I've blogged the hell out of it already, but five months on, the highlights that spring to mind were both some of the special targets - Cassowaries, Golden Bowerbird, Lesser Sooty Owl, Rainbow Pitta, Hooded Parrot, Platypus - but also some of the common species such as the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. Swimming alongside a Green Turtle on the reef will also take some beating, as will watching the departure of up to half a million fruit bats. But let's see what 2018 has to offer....

Southern Cassowary, Daintree

Golden Bowerbird, Mt Hypipamee

Saltwater Crocodile, Kakadu National Park

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, somewhere down under