With 2014 being thoroughly vanquished most blogs seem to be wrap-ups of the year. I could talk about the exciting things that happened like when all the bees made nutella instead of honey and some beetles ate the royal baby but there are plenty of other places you can read about those events.
Instead we should finally write about about our last big trip. During early September we planned and executed a trip to some Southern counties to get big handfalls of late season species. Having visited Dorset in May we focused on the east, basing most of our visits around Kent and Sussex, both counties I’ve never visited.
James’ place of business had plenty of stuff I’d never seen before, so after a brief train journey or 3 we met and investigated The Lodge for it’s many treasures. One of the big aims for the trip was to see as many of the orthoptera species the south had to offer. A small clump of bramble help the first new species for me, long winged conehead, proving themselves relatively easy to photograph in cool morning.
Nearby we also found a charming Bishop Mitres shieldbug, wasp spider (I have a picture of that but there is nothing new to gleamed from that) and another new orthopteran; mottled grasshopper. They are wee and charming with distinctive clubbed antennae and a rather charming blush of red. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any pictures of it not squeezed uncomfortable between James’ fingers.
On a nearby quadrant of the reserve we found yet another new species for me in the form of dark bush crickets. They are a hearty sized species and could be easily heard singing amongst the foliage. Their song was nearly constant throughout the trip and we found them at nearly every site on our travels. After finding speckled bush cricket on the building’s windows we felt it was time to start the journey properly.
With a car full of dreadful food we set of to another site consisting of chalk grassland surround a steep pit, the name of which completely escapes me. I believe it was on the southern most border of Bedfordshire. James had an orchid in mind and I heard there was records of great green bush cricket. While I was predictably disappointed by the lack of crickets (I think they had 2 records over several years) the orchid was quickly located. I think it could be the daintiest orchid I’ve seen in my travels. The real treat was a wonderous blue shieldbug. I can’t even remember how it was found, just it’s tiny majesty. It’s dark blue sheen was as if staring into an eternal twilight, both inspiring and disquieting, overwhelming and comforting. Sadly the pictures of it look like a speck of pepsi can so you’ll have to take my word for it. It made me cry solid gold tears.
As we made our way back to the car, James pulled a plum out of a rabbit hole and we watched a boy play a piano. Neither of them are euphemisms.
Our next site, according to James, was in Tring, Oxfordshire. It was a woodland of an unknown size next to a small village. We arrived as it was getting dusky, and rather predictably, it got duskier until dusk was all we knew. James welcomed Darkness, his old friend. Some other cars arrived and after talking briefly with their occupants we headed up a slight hill. We pointed very bright torches at holes in trees and waited in the darkness. After some time we began to hear scrambling in the branches. Occasional glimpses of small animals were seen flitting between twigs and branches. At a point the beasts revealed themselves.
Edible Dormice. These are a species which have been on our agenda for many years being both utterly adorable and a well storied introduced species. They could be seen running on branches and trunks for several hours, often vocalising in sweet, tiny voices. A tawny owl spent the night hooting nearby, taunting its prey. The smarmy bastard.
With a night’s uncomfortable sleep in a car we wended our way to that most city-like of cities, the smokey apple, London. Pacing up and down regents canal, scanning the walls and hedges for our quarry, Aesculapian snake, Britain’s only introduced snake. We were for a second time in our lives, completely unlucky. The canal proved to be rather rich for plenty of other interesting species, as are most places when you are forced to keep yourself occupied for 8 hours of pacing. Volucella zonaria was a new hoverfly for me which I had been eager to see for while, being massive and a hornet mimic. Within the canal itself we found river nerite and the introduced zebra mussel and red swamp crayfish were also noted. The highlight was a cricket which we had not expected to see given it’s arboreal lifestyle. I found the southern oak bush cricket on James’ back. I’m sure I’ve found several other new species this way in the past, such as jungle leeches and assassin bugs.
After pushing ice cream and cake into our mouths, we found our Kent based hotel room. After charming the staff into talking to us, we dumped our items and found ourselves waiting for dusk again. We like dusk. Sheerness was typed satisfyingly into the satnav and we paid a visit to a panspecies classic.
Nothing beats searching for inverts in the dark whilst trying to appear innocuous with a UV torch near a pub. The scorpions also share their wall with another imported arachnid.
After being jubilant in the evening’s results we returned back to our hotel and ate pizza while a London riot happened.
Tomorrow you will be able to read about the exciting events that happened in the past, like you were right there.