Monday, 12 March 2012

Highgate Common 28th February 2012

I had a stroke of luck a couple of weeks ago as I was leaving a work party on Highgate Common. I spotted a bug crawling on the trainee warden's bag (Phillip Playford) and managed to grab a few photos. I was excited because I recognised the bug as something I had seen recently on iSpot but I also thought that it probably wasn't that rare.

Coreus marginatus

The bug in question was a Dock bug (Coreus marginatus) and British bugs describes it as "common and widespread in southern Britain, including Ireland, where it may be found in a variety of dry and damp habitats". The big clue here is that it is widespread in "southern Britain". As far as Staffordshire is concerned the county is on the far NW edge of the Dock bug's normal range here in the UK, with only sporadic reports further north and west.

My sighting turned out to be a first for Highgate Common and only the second ever county record, the other being from Penn Common which is only just down the road from me.

This just goes to prove that if you keep looking you will eventually be rewarded with something exciting. Also if I hadn't taken the trouble to report my sighting to the county recorder it would not have been nearly as interesting to me as I wouldn't have found out how uncommon these things are in Staffordshire.

There is tremendous value in reporting sightings to your county recorder because without them we would have a poorer understanding of what flora and fauna are located in the county and we cannot hope to protect something if we don't know where it lives.

For many things you don't have to be an expert either. Simply take a photo of a specimen and then put it on somewhere like iSpot where a community of knowledgeable people may be able to help you identify what it is. Once you have a firm idea of what it is you have photographed you can then contact your county recording centre with your sighting.

The county recording centre for Staffordshire is the "Staffordshire Ecological Record".

Some things will be unidentifiable from a photograph, either because there are similar species which look the same and can only be identified through dissection or because you didn't capture all of the identifying features in the photograph.

When recording plants it is a good idea to take a notebook and ruler/tape measure with you. Some plants look very similar to each other in colour and shape but one species might be very tall and the other very short so a sense of scale can be a useful identification aid. A selection of photos can also help, especially with plants. Remember to take photos of not just the flower but also the leaves, stem and a photo of the whole plant.

Other sightings that day included Turkeytail bracket fungi (Trametes versicolor) and an Angle Shades caterpillar (Phologophora meticulosa).

Trametes versicolor

Phologophora meticulosa

Phologophora meticulosa
Angle shades caterpillars are interesting in that as well as this brown form they can also be bright green.

For what ever reason the insects seemed particularly interested in bags that day as this caterpillar was found on my bag as I got to the car, hence the metallic grey background in the photos.

This gives me an idea for an experiment with rucksacks :-)

In other news the Redpoll have finally found my nyjer seed feeder so hopefully I will be able to get some better photos in due course.