Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Punishment for twitching birds

In mid-October there was a Dipterists Forum meeting in Surrey and I managed to join them for a day. Autumn is a good time for craneflies and I hoped to see a good selection in the company of some of the top experts. The weather wasn't great but that doesn't account for the almost total absence of craneflies at all the sites we visited. This is even more surprising given the huge numbers of craneflies that were around in September but these were mainly two species - Tipula paludosa and T. oleracea - which are tolerant of dry conditions and it seems likely that the hot, dry weather in late summer was responsible for the dearth of other species.

The experts concentrated on fungus gnats - and one person got a new species to Britain that day - but these are way beyond me so I just bumbled around looking at all sorts of bits and pieces. The best new species for me was in fact a moth; Diurnea lipsiella. I've tried to find this species in previous autumns without any success but one flew past me at Nower Wood. Sod's law dictates that I then saw several more a few days later!

A few days later I had a trespass around some arable fields near Emsworth. At this time of year, arable fields can be one of the most interesting places to looking for plants that are still in flower and I'd seen reports of a couple of species that I'd never seen, with directions that seemed good enough to track them down.

In the end I got three new species;

Sun Spurge
Dwarf Spurge
Field Woundwort
A few days previously, a Semipalmated Plover had been found on Hayling Island. I'd seen one previously in Britain and the thought of the crowds that it would attract was enough to put me off going. But after I'd finished looking for the arable plants, news came through that it was back on the beach and it started to rain which I thought would thin the crowds out a bit so I decided to go and have a look. It was raining quite heavily when I got to the car park but by the time I reached the bird it had become a downpour of biblical proportions. Despite full waterproofs I quickly started to feel wet patches appearing - someone was clearly trying to tell me something; time to leave.

I headed off to Sussex to look for White Horehound but West Sussex County Council had helpfully mown the whole site so no joy there. I did find an interesting 'fungus' as I walked back to the car. It turned out to be Leocarpus fragilis which is actually a slime mould but not at all what you expect a slime mould to look like.

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