Tuesday 1 January 2019

Summary of 2018 wildlife recording

Here we go with my 5th annual summary of my ongoing quest to experience, understand and enjoy the biodiversity of Britain. Previous summaries can be found at these links for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

2018 was another busy year, and in total, I recorded 2,302 species in Britain, my highest ever tally. In part, I achieved this simply by keeping better track of which species I really ought to be seeing (based on a summary of what I’d seen in the past) so I didn’t simply forget to write things down. Additionally, we didn't do much foreign travel in 2018, apart from a short trip to Spain in February and a few days in Rome in August. Finally, this was the year that I finally bit the bullet and tried to become more of a "proper" entomologist by actually pinning specimens for future reference (mostly Hymenoptera and Diptera), which again enabled somewhat better coverage. As ever though, the more deeply you look at wildlife, the more it's apparent that you're just scratching the surface and there remain many groups that I pay very little attention to at all.

10km squares with records in 2018

Mapping out my records (I love mapping with QGIS!) I see I travelled a little more widely in 2018 compared to last year. I have only just realised though that I failed to make it to Scotland or Wales this year. My East Anglian recording "footprint" was very similar to 2017, again mostly around Thetford, Shotesham and the Yare Valley. Not a single visit to Titchwell or Minsmere! One New Year's resolution is to try to visit inland mid-north-west Norfolk next year, which is hugely under-recorded for lots of groups.

1 km squares in East Anglia with records in 2018

A whistle-stop tour of the year: The start of 2018 was really dominated by the harsh weather in late Feb / early March ("the beast from the east") and it really was pretty extreme, with us unable to leave the village for about five days. The first decent day of PSL'ing was a trip to Flordon Common in March with Steve Lane, Tim Hodge and Martin Collier where I notched up a dozen new species, mostly beetles. At the start of April we had a week's family holiday in west Cornwall, one of my favourite places. I focused on rock-pooling as this is something I've done very little of, and coastal critters formed the bulk of my 39 new species here. From April onwards I started catching sawflies at every opportunity as I'd taken on the role of county recorder for this under-recorded group. In May, I spent an excellent few days in Shropshire for the NFBR annual conference and field trip; the latter, to Brown Moss, netted me 18 new species and it was particularly helpful to spend time with other experienced naturalists, notably caddisfly guru Ian Wallace. Highlights of June were an organised moth-trap event at Catfield Fen and an afternoon in the Brecks, both with John Martin. In July I helped with Chris Packham's national bioblitz week by recording at both Lakenheath Fen and Weeting Heath, and I also had a good long walk one morning around Cranberry Rough, Stowbedon Common and Thompson Common - a really good area that I need to return to more often. In August we spent a few days up in Teesdale, trying to focus on the many botanical specialities of the area but it was really a bit late (especially as the summer was particularly hot) and consequently quite difficult/frustrating. I also had an excellent few days with Mark Lawlor in Surrey, Kent, Essex and Norfolk mid-month. In September I had my biggest single-day tick-tally with 26 new species on a Wild Flower Society outing to Coalhouse Fort (not just plants either). We then returned to the inner Thames at the end of the month to make a pilgrimage to see the extraordinary Beluga off Gravesend (the first time Trudy has ever talked me into twitching something!) I spent much of the early autumn chasing down insects in a quest to reach 5,000 species and then, having done so, I took it easy for the last few months of the year to recharge the batteries.

The beast from the east hits Shotesham

Sennen, looking towards Scilly

The exclosures for rare plants on top of Cronkley Fell

During the year I made 5,555 biological records comprising 2,302 species. Of these, 444 were new for me and brought my total to 5,036 species in Britain. This exceeded my expectations for the year and reinforced the feeling that it still isn't that hard to find a lot of new species if you just look carefully. I thought I would have to attend some fungus forays in the autumn to reach the target but in the event I didn't have time as the insects didn't stop. I don't really have a good feel for how 2019 will pan out, but reaching 5,500 would be nice to aim for. I do intend to continue the focus on Hymenoptera though, which are particularly species-rich (if sometimes difficult!)

Many thanks to everyone who helped me during the year, either in the field or online - and not forgetting the unsung heroes of wildlife recording: the compilers of keys, many of which are freely available online. Big thanks also, as always, to my ever- (well, usually-) patient family.

Species per year

Records per year

Non-arthropod invertebrates

Worms (1 species, 1 new, list total = 13)

I didn't put any effort into looking at worms this year, except for finding this kelp strand on the beach at Marazion covered in the shells of Spirorbis inornatus, some of which were still occupied by the worms.

Spirorbis inornatus, Marazion

Bryozoans (1 species, 1 new, list total = 1)

This is a substantial group of about 300 aquatic species; I'd previously only seen the remains of Flustra foliacea (Hornwrack) along beaches but never ticked it. However, I found a colony of Membranipora membranacea on a kelp strand at Marazion beach which, under the microscope, did appear to have a little more life about it. Hard to be sure really, but good enough.

Cnidarians (4 species, 3 new, list total = 5)

We found four species of sea-anemones in the rock-pools in Cornwall, three of which were new to me: Actinia fragacea (Strawberry Anemone), Anemonia viridis (Snakelocks Anemone) and Aulactinia verrucosa (Gem Anemone).

Anemonia viridis (Snakelocks Anemone), Cape Cornwall

Echinoderms (4 species, 4 new, list total = 4)

We identified two starfish and two brittlestars from the Cornish rock-pools. I've previously only seen dead starfish washed up on the beach, so these were great.

Asterina gibbosa (Cushion Star), Cape Cornwall

Molluscs (10 species, 4 new, list total = 60)

Most of those identified were rock-pool species in Cornwall, including the splendidly colourful Gibbula umbilicalis. I was also shown two new freshwater snails in Shropshire (Galba truncatula and Omphiscola glabra), and Mark and I stumbled into the enormous Helix pomatia (Roman Snail) in Surrey. Still not a group I get excited about though generally (I see I didn't get round to identifying a single slug this year).

Gibbula umbicalis

Helix pomatia (Roman Snail)

Tunicates (1 species, 1 new, list total = 1)

An entirely new group to me, I found this strange thing in a rock-pool at Cape Cornwall which completely stumped me. Other kind folk helped me name it as Botryllus schlosseri (Star Ascidian). Despite its jelly-like appearance, this is more closely related to the vertebrates than to other invertebrates.

Botryllus schlosseri (Star Ascidian)

Non-insect arthropods

Arachnids (44 species, 20 new, list total = 118)

A mixed year. I mostly ignored harvestmen (no new ones) and added just a couple of new gall-mites. I had a few short bursts of spider-enthusiasm, but am still not really making sufficient headway with this important group. However, it was nice to clinch three of the big beasts: Dolomedes fimbriatus at Thursley Common, Segestria florentina at Sheerness docks and Steatoda nobilis (Noble False Widow) inside a school in Norwich (for the latter, I declined to notify the staff for fear of propagating the continuing ridiculous panic). I had a new pseudoscorpion, Lamprochernes chyzeri, brought to me by a colleague accidentally as she'd potted a fly in her office for me to identify and it was attached to the fly's leg! The fly also proved to be a rare one. Finally, one of the highlights of the year was Mark and I making a night-time pilgrimage to Sheerness docks to see the long-established population of Euscorpius flavicaudis (Yellow-tailed Scorpions), helped enormously by the loan of a colleague's UV torch. Highly recommended!

Dolomedes fimbriatus, Thursley Common

Lamprochernes chyzeri, attached to leg of Chrysopilus laetus, Thetford.

Euscorpis flavicaudis (Yellow-tailed Scorpion), Sheerness

Sea-spiders (1 species, 1 new, list total = 1)

One of the species I was most pleased to encounter this year was my first ever sea-spider, an obscure group that are distantly related to the other arachnids. We'd crashed an organised rock-pooling event at Marazion and someone else found a sea-spider; it would have been left unidentified to species but I deftly snuck it away and was later able to name it as Nymphon gracile.

Nymphon gracile, Marazion

Crustaceans (24 species, 10 new, list total = 34)

A good haul of these in 2018, mostly whilst rock-pooling (in addition to the usual common woodlouse species). I managed to sort out four new crabs and three new barnacles, as well as Palaemon serratus (Common Prawn) at Marazion and the tiny but colourful marine isopod Eurydice pulchra in sandy pools at Sennen beach.

Eurydice pulchra, Sennen

Myriapods (9 species, 0 new, list total = 34)

I didn't pay too much attention to myriapods this year, just noting a few common species early in the year.

Springtails, proturans and 2-tailed bristetails (6 species, 5 new, list total = 10)

I'm still somewhat nervous of tackling springtails, which is silly really as often when I try to identify one it keys out reasonably easily. I did tackle a few at the start of the year, and readily doubled my list (although there are about 400 to find). Particularly pleasing was Anurida maritima on the surface of rock-pools at Porthcurno.


Ephemeroptera (Mayflies) (2 species, 0 new, list total = 7)

Not a group I paid much attention to this year.

Odonata (Dragonflies) (26 species, 1 new, list total = 37)

A reasonable selection this year, with a notable spread of Norfolk Hawker to Shotesham this year, plus further Willow Emerald sightings around the village. Mark and I dipped on Southern Migrant Hawkers in Essex (a little too late I think). I also dipped on Vagrant Emperor on a cold day at Kessingland, but in this case I was well chuffed to find my own Red-veined Darter. This is something I've been avoiding twitching for years in the expectation I'd eventually bump into one - nice when it finally happens!

Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter), Kessingland

Dermaptera (Earwigs) (1 species, 0 new, list total = 3)

Just Forficula auricularia (Common Earwig) as usual.

Orthoptera (Grasshoppers and crickets) (15 species, 1 new, list total = 22)

I came across most of the expected species during the year (no Common Groundhopper though) and it was good to belatedly identify only my second Woodland Grasshopper from photos taken by Mark at Queendown Warren. Best of all though, in November I found my first Southern Oak Bush-cricket on the roof of the car at home, after just driving back from Diss. This is still a rare insect in Norfolk, although clearly on the increase.

Meconema meridionale (Southern Oak Bush-cricket), Shotesham

Plecoptera (Stoneflies) (1 species, 0 new, list total = 8)

Just one common species noted.

Hemiptera (Bugs) (143 species, 41 new, list total = 244)

I wasn't really intending to focus on bugs particularly this year, but I do like them and by the end of the year I'd seen far more species than in previous years, including 41 new ones. They're quite a good group to look at towards the tail-end of summer when some other groups are waning a little. It's a shame they're still relatively little appreciated by many naturalists, as lots are really quite distinctive. Some of my favourite new ones this year included Capsodes gothicus, Pithanus maerkelii, Prokelisia marginata, Syromastus rhombeus, Gargara genistae and both species of Stictopleuron (which were common in the Brecks and must be increasing as I can't believe I haven't seen them before). Oddly, I didn't see Tritomegas bicolor (Pied Shield-bug) at all this year, despite it usually being a very readily noticed species. Does anyone know anything at all about population dynamics in these I wonder??

Neottiglossa pusilla (Small Grass Shieldbug), Thetford Forest

Psocoptera (Barkflies) (5 species, 1 new, list total = 12)

I was fairly lazy with psocids this year, but did manage to find the (relatively) huge Psococerastis gibbosa along the riverbank in Thetford in July.

Coleoptera (Beetles) (174 species, 43 new, list total = 555)

I stepped back from beetles somewhat this year in order to focus more on Hymenoptera (there's only so much time available and you can't do everything). This was the lowest number of species I'd recorded for four years, and there were several common species I never got round to keying to confirm, such as Cantharis rustica, Pterostichus niger, etc. However, I certainly haven't given up with beetles yet and did find a few nice things. One of the best was the first Norfolk record of Glaphyra umbellatarum (Pear Shortwing Beetle) netted in Thetford in June, whilst I was also pleased with finding Demetrias imperialis from Claxton Marshes, Trachys subglaber at Flordon, Pyrochroa coccinea at Preston Montford, Mogulones geographicus at Cranwich Camp, Aromia moschata (Musk Beetle) in Thetford and Myrrha octodecimguttata (18-spot Ladybird) from Thursley Common.

Glaphyra umbellatarum (Pear Shortwing Beetle), Nunnery Lakes

Diptera (Flies) (165 species, 51 new, list total = 415)

I wasn't planning to focus much on flies this year, and indeed didn't pay sufficient attention to confirm a number of very common hoverflies (such as Syrphus ribesii, Melanostoma scalare, etc). However, as the sawflies declined by mid-summer, I did end up collecting a fair number of flies of which almost a third proved to be new species for me. Most of these are apparently common species, but some nice finds included Conops vesicularis, Dioctria baumhaueri, Lipoptena cervi, Chrysopilus asiliformis and the apparently rare Chrysopilus laetus all around Thetford.

Chrysopilus laetus, Thetford (with attached pseudoscorpion, see earlier)

Volucella inflata, Howe

Hymenoptera (sawflies, wasps, bees, ants) (246 species, 122 new, list total = 348)


I tried to make sawflies a real focus of the year, given that I'd taken on the role of county recorder, and given that they are really poorly known. As a result, I tried to catch every sawfly I possibly could and ended the year with 331 sawfly records. It was a late spring and I didn't find any until 14th April with two species (both new) on Shotesham Common. Records peaked in May and June but dropped sharply from July, so these really are a group to focus on from the start of summer. Overall I managed to identify 104 sawfly species of which 62 were new for me. Many of these were species that have seldom (if ever) been recorded in Norfolk previously, given the low level of recording of the group. Some particularly nice finds included the tiny Xyela julii, my first two Pamphilus species, Pachnematus calcicola (new for county), Macrophya alboannulata (technically new for county, post-split), Phylloecus xanthostoma, Arge ciliaris, Fenusa altenhoferi (mines, new for county), Allantus rufocinctus (new for county) and Fenella nigrita (mines, new for county). Finally, the event of the year was the appearance of the rapidly colonising Aproceros leucopoda (Zigzag Elm Sawfly), first recorded in the UK in 2017 but by the end of 2018 clearly present very widely indeed (pretty much every patch of elm in Shotesham). I will be continuing to investigate sawflies closely in 2019, hopefully trying to get records from some less well-recorded parts of the county.

Aproceros leucopoda (Zigzag Elm Sawfly), Shotesham

Tenthredo mesomela, Shotesham


The Parasitica comprise the majority of the Hymenoptera, about 6,500/7,700 British species. I find them fascinating but they really are the great unexplored continent of biodiversity, and can be highly daunting. However, there were some great new books published in 2018 which, coupled with me making a start with making a reference collection of pinned specimens, meant that I did make a little bit of progress. I identified 36 species during the year of which 23 were new, mostly involving larger ichneumon wasps, but I was pleased to find my first species in the family Proctotrupidae (Proctotrupes brachypterus at Claxton). It was also good to rear two species of Polemochartus (braconids) from the 'cigar' galls in reeds created by Lipara flies. The ichneumon species Apechthis compunctor gets a special mention as being species number 5,000 on my list. I intend to continue to look more closely at Parasitica in 2019.

Apechthis compunctor, Rockland Marshes


Another interesting year for aculeates, with 106 species identified. I mostly looked at them later in the season when the sawflies started declining. Amongst the new species were 16 bees (four each of Colletes and Lasioglossum and a range of others), three of the stunning jewel wasps, 14 crabronid wasps (still one of my favourite groups), one ant, one spider-hunting wasp and two social wasps. The latter were Vespula rufa (Red Wasp) from Thursley Common and Dolichovespula saxonica (Saxon Wasp) from Croxton Forest.

Nomada marshamella, Shotesham Common

Lepidoptera (Moths and butterflies) (498 species, 24 new, list total = 1125)


After many years of home-made skinner traps, I finally opened my wallet and shelled out on a Robinson trap for the garden (below), quite extravagent but very nice to use. It only resulted in three new species - Sharp-angled Peacock, Opostega salaciella, Bryotropha terrella - whilst I found two more new moths inside the house - Mompha bradleyi and Achroia grisella, the latter doubtless due to Trudy restocking her bee hives. Other new moths were found out and about in a range of places: I found Elachista albifrontella and Prays ruficeps around Shotesham; Agonopterix purpurea at the Nunnery; long-overdue Festoon in Croxton Forest; Small Ranunculus (larva) and Phalonidia affinitana at Coalhouse Fort. Two organised trap-opening sessions were attended, with Strumpshaw Fen yielding Silky Wainscot and Water Ermine, whilst a spectacular event at Catfield Fen produced vast numbers of Reed Leopard, as well as Ancylis apicella, Cosmopterix lienigiella and Scythropia crataegella. As usual, I also kept an eye out for leaf-miners and during the year added Eriocrania unimaculella (birch), Bucculatrix frangutella (buckthorn, an occupied mine at last after many years of checking), Bucculatrix cidarella (alder), Stigmella atricapitella (oak), Stigmella trimaculella (hybrid poplar) and Stigmella viscerella (elm).

Significant omissions this year were Garden Carpet (again, continued evidence of a crash I haven't really heard anyone else talking about), Double-striped Pug, Purple Bar, Plain Golden Y, Pale Mottled Willow, July Highflyer and Small Phoenix.


Mark and I had great views of our first ever Silver-spotted Skippers at Queendown Warren in Kent (after dipping at Box Hill the previous evening). Other nice butterflies this year included Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue and White-letter Hairstreak, whilst particularly noteworthy was the arrival of Silver-washed Fritillary in Shotesham. I didn't record Grayling or Green Hairstreak in 2018.

New moth trap, Shotesham

Phragmataecia castaneae (Reed Leopard), Catfield Fen

Hesperia comma (Silver-spotted Skipper), Queendown Warren

Mecoptera (Scorpionflies) (1 species, 0 new, list total = 2)

I failed to find Snow Flea on a hunt around Roydon Common in February. I should get out in the Brecks now, come to think of it....

Neuroptera (Lacewings) (2 species, 1 new, list total = 14)

Little attention paid to these; I don't find them particularly memorable, and get a bit bored keying yet again what usually turn out to be the same species. However, Chrysopa perla from Catfield Fen proved to be a new one.

Trichoptera (Caddisflies) (29 species, 11 new, list total = 44)

Another reasonable selection this year, with the new species coming from the garden moth-trap, the riverbank in Thetford and outings to Catfield Fen and Brown Moss (where it was great to have Ian Wallace helping).


Fish (8 species, 5 new, list total = 15)

Not a bad year for fish, by my very meagre standards. Rock-pooling in Cornwall produced my first records of Lipophrys pholis (Shanny), Coryphoblennius galerita (Montagu's Blenny) and Nerophis lumbriciformis (Worm Pipefish). Additionally, two very common species were added: Scardinius erythrophthalmus (Rudd) from Strumpshaw and Muck Fleet, and Cottus gobio (Bullhead) from Teesdale. I'm never going to be a world-class angler...

Lipophrys pholis (Shanny), Porthgwarra

Amphibians (4 species, 1 new, list total = 7)

As well as the three common species, the highlight was tracking down Pool Frog at a semi-secret site in the Brecks with John.

Pelophylax lessonae (Pool Frog), Brecks

Reptiles (3 species, 0 new, list total = 6)

After one of the hottest summers on record, Mark and I tried to find Sand Lizard on the Surrey heathlands on the first subsequent rainy day, with predictable lack of success. Best sighting was nearly stepping on an Adder at Thetford Warren in September.

Birds (182 species, 2 new, list total = 434)

Birding was again fairly low-key this year. The two new species weren't brilliant - the American Bittern in Suffolk could have been, but I only had very brief flight view, whereas the Stejneger's Stonechat at Salthouse was OK, but I don't really follow the ID niceties sufficiently to have really appreciated it. Plenty of other nice things though, with some other highlights being increasing numbers of Great White Egrets, a distant King Eider, a nice (no, really) Caspian Gull, Black-winged Stilt, etc. As usual in recent years, without actually making an effort with birds it's easy to miss some common species, the most notable gaps in 2018 being Guillemot, Razorbill, Bewick's Swan, Eider, Common Scoter, Greenshank, etc.

Fieldfare in the garden during the heavy snows

Larus cachinnans (Caspian Gull), Sheringham

Mammals (20 species, 1 new, list total = 42)

The majority of the mammals seen were unexceptional, although included four encounters with Otters (Santon Downham and Shotesham) which are always fun. However, the undoubted highlight was the very lost Beluga in the Thames at Gravesend in September, particularly notable as being the first time Trudy has talked me into twitching something. We had good views (well, it was mostly underwater of course) for an extended period from Gravesend sea-front, along with ice-creams - very civilised. The main mammal gap this year was Porpoise, which I guess I'm less likely to see these days as I do little sea-watching.

Delphinapterus leucas (Beluga), Gravesend


Algae (9 species, 1 new, list total = 18)

I managed to name nine species from Cornish rock-pools, with only Sargassum muticum (Wireweed) new to me. There were clearly dozens more species present, but I think I really need to learn these alongside an expert to progress much further.

Sargassum muticum (Wireweed), Penzance

Bryophytes (21 species, 5 new, list total = 70)

I made a few attempts with these during the year, but they just don't really float my boat to be honest. I've only got so much attention span and they don't measure up to insects for me. So the new species were OK, but not exciting. Except - Goblin Gold! What a cool thing this is, glowing in the dark of caves, we saw it in an ancient stone tunnel at Carn Euny in west Cornwall, thanks to gen from Calum Urquhart's blog. So there is one bryophyte I like!

Schistostega pennata (Goblin's Gold), Carn Euny

Vascular Plants (599 species, 67 new, list total = 1047)

I notched up quite a tally of plants in 2018, partly through making sure I wasn't forgetting to write down obvious ones, but also by taking advantage of experts like John Martin and Alex Prendergast, and attending a Wild Flower Society event at Coalhouse Fort. I also made efforts to hunt down some of the Teesdale specialities, with fairly limited success, plus made a few targeted visits for certain key species. All this helped push me over the 1,000 mark at last. Some of my favourite new plants species included Marsh Cinquefoil, Holly-leaved Naiad (at Hickling from the Weaver's Way without having to get a boat or go swimming), 8 new umbellifers including Hog's Fennel and Sickle-leaved Hare's-ear, Sea Daffodil, Greater Bladderwort, Toothwort and Shrubby Cinqeufoil. Hoping to get up Ben Lawers in 2019, so lots more to come...

Comarum palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil), Strumpshaw Fen

Peucedanum officinale (Hog's Fennel), Hamford Water

Holly-leaved Naiad, Hickling Broad

Fungi etc.

Fungi other than lichens (34 species, 12 new, list total = 204)

I largely ignored fungi in 2018, except from a few very obvious species and a selection of plant-specific rusts and mildews. The latter - whilst useful list-fodder - aren't especially exciting things to look at, at least until I get a higher-powered microscope to check them out properly. Potentially the most interesting find was the "rust" spots shown below on Sea Daffodil on Marazion beach. I haven't yet been able to find out which species occurs of Sea Daffodil, but as the plant itself is a fairly new British species, then it's not impossible that this is a new British species of fungus. Hopefully someone more qualified will sort it out in due course.

Unidentified rust on Pancratium maritimum (Sea Daffodil), Marazion

Lichens (8 species, 3 new, list total = 56)

As often seems to be the case, I took quite a lot of photos of lichens but this didn't really translate into sufficient enthusiasm to pursue them more seriously. My excuse is that I'm going to work on them properly when I retire to Cornwall one day! Perhaps the most notable was Pyrenocollema halodytes on barnacles within the Penzance rockpools.

Pyrenocollema halodytes on the barnacle Chthamalus montagui, Penzance

Ramalina siliquosa, Sennen

Slime-moulds (1 species, 1 new, list total = 4)

A delightful clump of Mucilago crustacea (Dog Sick Slime-mould) was found on Shotesham Common in December.

Mucilago crustacea, Shotesham



Duncan and I joined my parents for a few days based at Calpe in February. A little too early for many plants, insects or reptiles, but a nice selection of birds included some very obliging Alpine Accentors, a far-less obliging Moustached Warbler, a huge flock of Glossy Ibis, plus Black Wheatear, Greater Flamingo, Crag Martin, Thekla Lark, Booted Eagle, Penduline Tit and Common Waxbill.

Alpine Accentor, Bernier Ridge


We spent a few days as a family exploring Rome in August with minimal wildlife watching (I didn't even take my bins). I did manage to find Scarce Swallowtail, Monk Parakeet and Italian Sparrow, and notched up a Vatican City list of seven species.

Look no bins!