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.

Friday, 6 April 2018

The tale of the missing flatworm

Today was focused entirely on the Uig 1km square where Seth is trying to record over 1000 species in a year. There was a fairly decent low tide so we headed straight down to the bay.

Uig Bay
Seth kept to type and turned rocks on the shore while I headed out into the water with a net, hoping for more exotic fare. Almost straight away I netted a Brown Shrimp Crangon crangon which was new for the square. A number of bug-eyed shrimps were also caught but these defied identification.

Unidentified bug-eyed shrimp (Photo: Seth Gibson)
The bay was like a mill pond and visibility was superb so a quickly spotted a couple of shells walking across the sand. Shells don't walk of course but they do if they have a Hermit Crab Pagurus bernhardus inside, another new for the square.

I saw of shoal of small fish in the shallows and, displaying remarkable stalking and pouncing skillz, I managed to secure four. Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring my tray and Seth's contribution to the field equipment was a container so small that two of the fish leapt straight out and burrowed into the sand. The remaining two were clearly sandeels. I've seen sandeels before but never been able to identify them to species. This time, armed with the necessary information we were able to quickly resolve that they were Lesser Sandeel Ammodytes tobianus. Unfortunately, before I could get a photo Seth decided to poke them and the were out of the container and buried in the sand in the blink of an eye. Doh! It was an eye-opener to me that they could, and did, bury themselves like this.

Seth did manage to compensate by finding me a second new fish; Shore Rockling Gaidropsarus mediterraneus hiding under the most unlikely of rocks, with virtually no water to survive in until the tide returned.

Shore Rockling in the company of an Estuary Ragworm Hediste diversicolor 
We saw a number of sponges but these are tricky to identify and Breadcrumb Sponge Halichondria panicea was the only one that could be confidently named.

Breadcrumb Sponge
We seemed to have exhausted the possibilities in the bay and the temperature was reaching the heady heights of about 8C so I was keen to get into the wood to look for insects. Seth was becoming increasingly obsessed with finding me three species that he had failed to find; a micro-fungus on Herb Robert, a flatworm and the White Slug Mite Riccardoella oudemansi - a creature with a bizarre lifestyle which you can guess from it's name. So after looking at a few flies on some daffodils, we commenced turning over every rock within a 10 mile radius of Uig (OK, slight exaggeration). We worked our way down through most of the wood without success but finally, in a scrappy little patch at the end where a load of rubble had been dumped we scored the slug mite. I was, err, delighted, yes that's the word, delighted! We continued in the desperate search for the flatworm but instead came across this weird looking thing.

Boreal Ensign Scale Newsteadia floccosa
Respect to Seth for a) seeing it (I just saw a bit of white fluff) and b) having a pretty good idea what it was, even though he'd never seen it before. That of course doesn't get him off the hook for failing to find me the 'guaranteed' flatworm. Just to rub salt into the wound, he texted me yesterday to say he'd just found two in Uig Wood.

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