Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Back on the Wight (Day 2)

Day 2 back on the Isle of Wight: after breakfast I drove to the chalk downs above Mottistone to meet up with an old (young) friend, George Greiff. Over the last few years George has been exploring the Bryophyte world of mosses & liverworts on the Island.

We spent most of our time exploring this chalk pit.

Entodon concinnis: This is quite a scarce species and, in this habitat, it was doing exactly what the book says, being ‘most often encountered as scattered shoots several centimetres long.’ Other mosses included the tiny – and special – Pottiopsis caespitosa, and Fissidens dubius.

My favourite Liverwort of the day was the chalk specialist, Leiocolea turbinata.

The real highlight of the day was the discovery of 6 lichenicolous fungi, that is, fungi that are parasitic on lichens. This is not a great photo but illustrates 2 species on the lichen, Physcia tenella. The small pink balls on the right are Illosporiopsis christiansenii and the pinkish colouring on the left is caused by Laetisaria lichenicola.

We found several species on Xanthoria parietina. This is Alan Outen's photo of the lobe I brought back with Didymocyrtis slaptoniensis. We also found Opegrapha physciaria on some lobes....which George found new to the Isle of Wight just a few days previously! We also found the more common Xanthoricola physciae discolouring the ‘jam tart’ fruits of the same lichen species.

George found this interesting-looking dark fungus on some Collema auriforme and took it home to have a look at it under the compound microscope. [George’s photo]

This is George’s photo of one of the spores which has a fascinating structure with 3 long spikes protruding from each end.
After seeking the help of a European expert the species was confirmed as Myxophora leptogiophila which has been found in Scotland but not previously confirmed in England as far as we are aware.

Thanks so much to George for a great morning!

After saying goodbye to George I drove to Freshwater Bay to view a photo exhibition at Dimbola Lodge. Coming out the sun was shining and so I looked for – and found – my first hoverfly of the year: a female Eristalis tenax.

Inspired by this I made my way down the road to Afton Marsh, my favourite hoverfly-hunting spot over several years. Sure enough: species no.2, one of several Episyrphus balteatus hoverflies. My 2018 hoverfly season is underway at last!!

Back on the Wight (Day 1)

I enjoyed 2 brilliant days back on the West Wight last week taking the opportunity to meet up with (not so) old friends and to enjoy the fresh sea air again.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed Freshwater Bay. Unfortunately Low Tides at 6 am and 6 pm meant that rockpooling was out of the question (it was really cold, too!), but I’ve always been happy to just sit and take in the view!

On Tuesday afternoon I visited Ventnor Botanical Garden. It was good to catch up with a few special millipedes:

Cylindroiulus appeninorum, a Millipede that was discovered new to the UK at this location in 2015.

Haplopodoiulus spathifer, the ‘Kew Spine-tailed Millipede’, so-called because it was first found at Kew Gardens in 1976, though the species wasn’t in fact identified until 1986! It hails originally from the Pyrenees region of France and Spain. It hasn’t been recorded from many places in the UK but it is very common in certain parts of the garden with good numbers being found under upturned stones.

I also found a new spider species for me:

Platnickina tincta – a little beauty! This species was found on Fern fronds. It’s quite widespread and has been reported stealing food from the webs of other spiders, and even consuming the residents! This is Alan Outen’s photo of my specimen.

Sunset over Compton Bay

Friday, February 23, 2018

Cricket Tub Spider!!

A few days ago I contacted my good friend, Alan Outen, following a post on the British Spider Identification Facebook page about the spider, Thanatus vulgaris, which regularly arrives on our shores in the tubs of live Crickets purchased by those who keep reptiles and the like. Because I was on my way to the Isle of Wight for a few days I wasn't able to follow this up myself, and so Alan made his way to the local Koi Carp Company at the first opportunity and, almost straightaway, found a spider in a tub which he subsequently bought. Alan's brilliant photos are below. I finally caught up with the spider this afternoon.

Isn't it a beauty!

Being at Alan's home, I wasn't surprised to find 2 new fungi waiting for me:

Gnomoniella rubicola on a Bramble stem

Clypeosphaeria notarisii on a Raspberry cane

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Liking them lichens!

I’d really been looking to Sunday's excursion to Whipsnade Zoo with Alan Outen and our two County lichenologists, Martin Butler & Mark Powell and knew that it was a great opportunity to find some very special species. The day got off to a great start when Alan showed me some locally-found Crowned Earthstar (Geastrum coronatum), and the Woodlouse, Cylisticus convexus, that he had found under a stone in Kent.

At first glance, this species looks like an Armadillidium of some kind as it tries to roll into a ball, but it’s not quite as neat and convincing.

Alan, Martin and I arrived at the Zoo car park to pick up Mark and found him next to one of the surrounding trees where he had already located a new County record, Melanohalea laciniatula with its tiny, deep-green lobes (not a great photo, I'm afraid).

We had an amazing day and I was really inspired by Martin & Mark as they pointed out various lichens on all kinds of substrate. It was only later in the day, when I looked up from examining a fence rail and suddenly noticed two Sea-lions swimming around a pool right in front of me, that I realised that I had hardly noticed the ‘big stuff’ all around me!

Mark found another new County species, too: Leptoraphis atomaria, which was located on what we think was an aspen trunk.

Through the day I picked up over 40 new species of Lichen, together with a determination to continue to get to know this difficult, but fascinating group.

Here are a few more photographs from the day:

Peltigera didactyla on a sandstone block:

Punctelia jeckeri:

And the moth bagworm, Luffia ferchaultella, a dozen or so of which were located underneath a hawthorn branch by the Hippo Pools: