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White Admiral Newsletter 86

Autumn 2013

Suffolk Naturalists’ Society


Contents Editorial & Snippets

Ben Heather

Members’ Evening & SNS Conference 2014

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Dolichopus laticola; the first recent record of this species outside

Peter Vincent

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Richard Stewart

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John Baker and Eve Simnett

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Gen Broad

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Colin Hawes

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Caroline Markham

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The day an Emperor came knocking

Hawk Honey

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Shanks’s Pony or the Bicycling Botanist

Adam Stuart

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Tom Langton

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Joan Hardingham

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Tim Bagworth

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Update on the Purple Hairstreaks Grass Snakes at Sea Juvenile Cuttlefish at Shingle Street Response of Stag Beetle larvae to water-logged soils and flooding Vegetation Stripes at Knettishall Heath CGS 29th June 2013

More on Newton and Wrigley Percy the Macaw Long-tailed Blue Lampides boeticus at Landguard Bird Observatory ISSN 0959-8537

Published by the Suffolk Naturalists’ Society c/o Ipswich Museum, High Street, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 3QH Registered Charity No. 206084

Front Cover: Fly Agaric - Amanita Muscaria by Jonathan J Wright http://flic.kr/p/gCkn19


Newsletter 86 - Autumn 2013 In the last newsletter I started to introduce a technical theme to the Suffolk Naturalists’ Society and in this issue I would like to follow this up by introducing the title and theme for next year’s conference. The conference, which will take place on the 15th February 2014 at Wherstead Park, will be called ‘Nature’s New Scientists’ and aims to address, through presentations and talks, the ways in which technology is aiding the progression of natural history studies and biological recording into the future. Can I also draw your attention to the next members’ evening on the 21st November at the Cedars Hotel in Stowmarket, which is detailed on page 3. I hope you will join us to hear talks on a variety of subjects, including a summary of the two very successful ‘Recording Taster Days’ held, during the summer, at Knettishall Heath and Carlton Marshes. We hope to host more such events in the future but if you would like a sample of what happened please visit our website www.sns.org.uk where you can find a video of Toby Abrehart searching for aquatic inverts at Carlton Marshes. Despite taking a long time to get going, it has been an excellent summer for recording. If you have not yet visited the Suffolk Biological Records Centre online recording page, it is not too late to record your wildlife sightings from the summer. Over 700 records have been submitted directly from the SBRC site and many more through the host site www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/. Thank you to all those who have contributed to this edition of White Admiral, please keep it coming! Editor: Ben Heather Suffolk Biological Records Centre , c/o Ipswich Museum, High Street, Ipswich, IP1 3QH ben.heather@suffolk.gov.uk White Admiral 86

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Snippets 

Garden wildlife: what species fared well in 2013? Telegraph In a year of climatic extremes, we look at the winners and losers among our garden wildlife. http://fw.to/mD6bCXS

Invasion of the false widow spider media stories! Guardian Mark Riley Cardwell: Spider sightings may be up, but experts say it’s due to a reaction to the media frenzy, not an explosion in their population. http://gu.com/p/3jzb9/tf

Slug Watch: A new website to discover just how far and wide the Spanish slug has spread in the UK. The website also features a slug version of top trumps, ‘Slug Trumps’. Players can learn the vital statistics of various slug species, whilst they try and out trump their competitor. http://www.slugwatch.co.uk

Suffolk Biological Records Centre is now on Pinterest. Pinterest is a site that allows users to create and browse pin boards of information. The SBRC has a pin board that features photos of all the Suffolk biodiversity action plan (BAP) species & habitats. These boards can be found at the follow address http://www.pinterest.com/ biologicalrecor/

St Jude storm causes minimal tree loss. Guardian Naturalists assessing the ecological damage say woodland and ancient trees survived much better than expected http://t.co/puMbcsRXeb

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Follow @SuffolkBRC on twitter for more snippets

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Members’ Evening Date: 21st November Time: 7.00pm for 7.30pm start. Finish 9.30pm Place: Cedars Hotel, Needham Road, Stowmarket, Suffolk, IP14 2AJ Drinks from the bar on arrival and half-time refreshment break (tea & coffee). Presentations: 

Rob Parker—Update on the Blaxhall Common Silver-studded Blue translocation

Tony Prichard—Crypsis in moths

Steve Piotrowski—Progress on the Foraging Farmland Bird Project

Gen Broad—Recording Taster Days with Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Colin Hawes—Response of stag beetle larvae to water-logged soils and flooding

SNS Conference 2014—Save the date

Nature’s New Scientists The Future of Wildlife Recording 15th February 2014 Wherstead Park Talks and presentations focused on the expanding role of technology in natural history and wildlife recording. Including a presentation by Phil Atkinson (Head of BTO’s International Research Team) talking about BTO’s cuckoo tracking project.

Full details will be available soon on the SNS website White Admiral 86

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Dolichopus laticola (Verrall) (Diptera, Dolichopodidae) a UK BAP Priority Fly found at Walberswick NNR; the first recent record of this species outside Norfolk Since the original description of Dolichopus laticola, (Verrall, 1904) from specimens collected at Ormesby Broad, Norfolk in 1888 (Verrall 1904), all records of D. laticola have been confined to the Broads area of Norfolk, leading to its English sobriquet of Broads Long-legged Fly. This association was anticipated by Verrall in his selection of the specific name (from latus = broad and -cola = dweller). Following Verrall’s records, D. laticola has been subsequently recorded from Bure Nature Reserve by d’Assis-Fonseca (1978) and from Woodbastwick, Mills Marsh in the Bure valley and Catfield in the Ant valley (Laurence 1995). These records are included in the English Nature Research Report no. 477 (Lott et al. 2002). During 2010, Martin Drake (pers. comm.) found D. laticola at three sites in the Ant valley (Catfield, Sutton and Barton) and three in the Bure valley (Woodbastwick, Ebb and Flow and Horning Marsh Farm). All the above named sites form part of the River Bure catchment of the Norfolk Broads National Park. In Europe D. laticola appears to be similarly uncommon 4

with records only from Denmark and Belgium (Fauna Europea 2011) where it is known only from a single site, de l’étang de Virelles (Grootaert et al. 1988). It is likely, therefore, that a significant proportion of the world population is to be found in Britain. This restricted distribution and comparative rarity and vulnerability lead Falk and Crossley (2005) to regard D. laticola as endangered and an RDB1 species, and this resulted in it being included on the list of UK BAP Priority Species (Natural England 2011). In 2010 at Walberswick NNR, as part of a study of the habitat preferences of Dolichopodidae, specimens of D. laticola were collected from two habitat types, fen (NVC, M22a Juncus subnodulosus-Cirsium palustre fen meadow, typical sub-community)

and wet woodland (NVC, W2a Salix cinerea-Betula pubescensPhragmites australis woodland, Alnu s glu tino sa- Fil i pendul a ulmaria sub-community). No D. laticola were collected from the adjacent reedbed or any of the other habitats sampled. Between 22 May 2010 and 7 August 2010 a total of 134 specimens (62 males White Admiral 86


and 72 females) of D. laticola were collected using water traps (Vincent 2011). The UK BAP species D. laticola hitherto has only been recorded from the Bure catchment of the Norfolk Broads. However, these records from Walberswick NNR on the Suffolk coast during 2010 have added a second area to the known distribution of D. laticola. An earlier Suffolk record of D. laticola by Morley from Tuddenham Fen in 1904 is mentioned by Aston (1954). Two specimens labelled as D. laticola from Tuddenham Fen from the Morley collection at Ipswich References: Assis-Fonseca,

E.C.M.

d’.

1978.

Museum were examined; unfortunately they were in poor condition and therefore the records could not be verified. River dredging and water abstraction at Tuddenham Fen has changed the ecology of the area and the fen probably does not continue to support D. laticola at present. However, these Suffolk records may suggest that D. laticola was once a more widespread wetland species and further East Anglian populations may yet be discovered. Peter Vincent

Diptera Orthorrhapha Brachycera.

Dolichopodidae.

Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects 9, 1-90. Royal Entomological Society, London. Aston, A. 1954. The Diptera of Suffolk. The Transactions of the Suffolk Naturalists’ Society 9, 21-31. Falk, S.J. and Crossley, R. 2005. A review of the scarce and threatened flies of Great Britain. Part 3: Empidoidea. Species Status 3, 1-134. Peterborough, Joint Nature Conservation Committee. Fauna Europea. 2011. Dolichopus laticola distribution [online] http://www.faunaeur.org/ distribution [Accessed 22 August 2011]. Grootaert, P., Verlinden, L., Meuffels, H., Haghebaert, G., Pollet, M., Leclercq, M., De Meyer, M. and Magis, N. 1988. Diptères de la réserve naturelle de l’étang de Virelles en Belgique. Bulletin et Annales de la Société royale belge d’Entomologie 124, 320-324. Laurence, B.R. 1995. Abundance and rarity of Dolichopodidae (Diptera) in East Anglian wetlands, with an addition to the British list. Entomologist’s monthly Magazine 131, 95-105. Lott, D.A., Procter, D.A. and Foster, A.P. 2002. East Anglian Fen Invertebrate Survey English Nature Research Reports No 477. Peterborough, English Nature. Natural England. 2011. Priority habitats and species [online] http://www.ukbap.org.uk/ library/NewPriorityList / UK_list_of_Priority_habitats_and_ species_for_download_v1.3% 2020081022.xls [Accessed 22 March 2011]. Verrall, G.H. 1904. List of British Dolichopodidae, with tables and notes. Entomologist’s monthly Magazine 16, 167-172. Vincent, P.J. 2011. Some notes on Dolichopus laticola (Verrall) (Diptera, Dolichopodidae) a UK BAP Priority Fly; the first recent record of this species outside Norfolk. Dipterists Digest 18, 199- 203. White Admiral 86

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Photo by: Allan King

Update On The Purple Hairstreaks As a follow up to the article on Purple Hairstreaks along Westerfield Road in edition 84 (Spring 2013), I surveyed the northern part of Christchurch Park, Ipswich, roughly from Snow Hill upwards. I wasn’t aware how many oaks there were, some clumps of trees being almost exclusively of this species, three other factors also came into play. The first was that although the Purple Hairstreaks flight period coincided with the heatwave, few evenings were calm, with a noticeable breeze that from my experience limits movement. I also suspect honeydew was limited by the weather conditions and Rob Parker has received several reports of this species nectaring at low levels. Courting couples were the third problem, often under an 6

oak and not exactly welcoming someone close by, with binoculars. Nevertheless, I found purple hairstreaks in a further seven oaks, bringing the park total so far to nine. These are being marked on a large-scale map. In our garden at Westerfield Road, the species was again noted high up in a sycamore just beyond our garden. However, the flight period was unusually short. I suspect magpies, nesting nearby, as two were seen searching through the top branches. Magpies have a catholic diet and I suspect this included, in summer 2013, adult purple hairstreaks. Richard Stewart

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Grass Snake at Walberswick Habour

Grass Snakes at Sea On 5th September this year one of us (Eve Simnett) saw a grass snake swimming in the sea about 2 metres off shore at Walberswick Harbour. The snake swam parallel to the shore for a short distance before climbing out of the water onto the sea defences and taking refuge among the gaps within them. The snake was a large adult (estimated as approximately 1 m in length) and appeared to be in good health. Grass snakes swim well and often frequent freshwater in search of prey (primarily amphibians, but also fish); there have been several observations of them in seawater. Three early records (from 1897 to 1930) report grass snakes being found some way out at sea, between one and 46 km from shore (De Canto and Busack, 2011). Postings on the online forum

Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK (RAUK) (www.herpetofauna.co.uk) contain a more recent observation of a grass snake in the sea, photographed off the coast of southwest Wales, possibly swimming between offshore islands. The RAUK forum also includes two observations of unidentified snakes swimming off the coast of Norfolk, at Scratby and White Admiral 86

Winterton. These could be either grass snakes or adders. A more specific sighting, reported by the late Peter Stafford, relays a colleague’s account of a young grass snake moving across the beach, towards (but not entering) the sea, at Minsmere in the summer of 2005. Suffolk seems to be the place to spot grass snakes on the beach. A description fitting that of a grass snake moving along the water’s edge on a shingle beach, then swimming out to sea at Dunwich in September 2007 was sent to New Scientist magazine’s The Last Word question and answer column (Parker, 2008). This prompted an email of another observation of a young grass snake also entering the sea from Dunwich Beach in July 2008 www.newscientist.com/ blog /lastwo rd /2008/01/sn ake s alive.html. Then, in June 2010, 7


Sue Thompson saw a grass snake crossing the shingle at Sizewell and swimming out to sea (Oka Last, pers. comm.). A notable aspect of the observations of the grass snakes from Suffolk is that in three of the five cases the snakes were seen moving across the beach, and entering the water. This shows that grass snakes, sometimes at least, actively enter the sea rather than being transported by some other means (for example stowing away on a boat or being dropped by a bird during a failed predation attempt) or due to being washed out to sea by flooding. Grass snakes are relatively mobile reptiles, often moving several

kilometres during the course of an active season. It is possible that crossing beaches and entering the sea is a consequence of their natural wandering behaviour. Although it seems likely that not all of these marine ventures end well, they could also enable grass snakes to colonise islands and maintain population movements between these and the mainland. We are grateful to Sarah Colnet and Oka Last (Suffolk Wildlife Trust) and Caroline Robinson (The Wildlife Trusts) for relaying information. John Baker and Eve Simnett

References: Del Canto, R. and Busack, S.D. (2011). Natrix maura (Viperine Snake). Non-accidental salt water activity. Herpetological Review 42(2): 295-296. Parker, D. (2008). Last Word: Snakes alive. New Scientist 2666.

Juvenile cuttlefish at Shingle Street Titouan Hippolyte Sens-Hochart, a young Frenchman, spent most of his May 2013 holiday in Shingle Street playing computer games. However, after two days he made a trip to the beach and made an exciting discovery in a shallow pool on a shingle bank – a juvenile cuttlefish. The individual was too young for the species to be identified with 8

certainty and not all of the identifying body parts are visible on the photo. However, after discussion with colleagues, I believe it to be either Common Cuttlefish Sepia officinalis or Stout Bobtail Rossia macrosoma. Both species are found off the Suffolk coastline as our sandy muddy substrate is an ideal habitat for them. Cuttlefish are sometimes even found in brackish water, White Admiral 86


particularly juveniles, which are more tolerant of a low salinity. Juveniles tend to remain in shallow water before the cuttlebone is fully formed and when they are vulnerable to predation. The two species are quite different when adult; R. macrosoma is a small cephalopod with a mantle length of only 4 to 6 cm, while S. officinalis is much larger with a mantle length of up to 45 cm and a body weight of 2 kg. The smallest cuttlefish known, Idiosepius pygmaeus, measures just 2.5 cm and the largest, Sepia apama, grows up to 90 cm. Cuttlefish belong to the Mollusca in the class Cephalopoda, which also includes nautilus, octopus and squid. Cuttlefish differ from other cephalopods in possessing a ‘cuttlebone’, a thick, internal, calcified shell used for buoyancy regulation. These are often found washed up onto beaches. Cuttlefish generally live for one or two years, breeding once a year and then dying after mating. They have eight arms and two tentacles with suckers which are used to capture prey such as crustaceans, small fish, snails, clams, and other cuttlefish. They lie buried in sand during the day and ambush their prey. Modern White Admiral 86

cuttlefish are descended from a belemnite-like ancestor and first appeared in their current form in t h e M i o c e n e E p o ch a b o u t 21,000,000 years ago. Studies by Prof Jean Boal, at Millersville University, Pennsylvania, have demonstrated that cuttlefish have large and complex brains and have highly developed problem solving abilities (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ nature/spineless-smarts.html). Cephalopods have the ability to change colour and pattern within seconds, blending seamlessly with almost any background, natural or artificial. They use this ability not only as camouflage when escaping from predators such as dolphins, seals and sharks, but also for communication. For example, males often signal their desire to mate using a vivid zebra pattern. This is achieved using

Cuttlefish Don Woolnough 9


chromatophores, small sacs of red, yellow or brown pigment made visible (or invisible) by muscles controlled by the motor centres of the brain. They can also change the texture of their skin using papillae. This can be useful for posing as, for example, a barnaclecovered rock. Their colourchanging abilities are also enhanced by light reflecting plates set underneath the chromatophores: leucophores which reflect whatever light is available and iridophores which produce iridescent reflections.

S. officinalis is fairly common and classified on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as ‘of Least Concern’. Less is known about R. macrosoma populations and the species is classified as ‘Data Deficient’. Both species are known to have wide geographic distributions that range from Scandinavia to the north of Africa,

including the Mediterranean. One potential threat to cuttlefish is ocean acidification. Research has shown that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere result in cuttlefish laying down a much denser cuttlebone which is likely to affect buoyancy regulation. However, further research is needed to understand the response of cuttlefish and other calcifying marine invertebrates to this phenomenon. Thank you to Don Woolnough who was holidaying with the French family in Shingle Street and sent this photograph for identification. He reports that two years ago he was concerned at the absence of Hermit crabs (Bernard l’Hermite in French) at Shingle Street, but was pleased to find they were present in large numbers this year. Gen Broad

Barratt, I. & Allcock, L. 2012. Rossia macrosoma. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 29 October 2013. Barratt, I. & Allcock, L. 2012. Sepia officinalis. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 29 October 2013. Emily Wilson 2008. Rossia macrosoma. Stout bobtail. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 29/10/2013] Emily Wilson and Jaret Bilewitch 2009. Sepia officinalis. Common cuttlefish. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 29/10/2013]. Gutowska, MA et al. (2010): Seawater carbonate chemistry and biological processes during experiments with common cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, 2010. doi:10.1594/PANGAEA.737457, In Supplement to: Gutowska, Magdalena A; Pörtner, Hans-Otto; Melzner, Frank (2008): Growth and calcification in the cephalopod Sepia officinalis under elevated seawater pCO2. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 373, 303-309, doi:10.3354/meps07782 10

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Stag Beetle larva

Response of Stag Beetle larvae (Lucanus cervus L.) (Coleoptera: Lucanidae) to water-logged soils and flooding A b s t r a c t a n d c o m m e n t f r o m t h e 4 th m e e t i n g o f t h e European Stag Beetle Group: Alf (Germany) 1 4 th a n d 1 5 th S e p t e m b e r 2 0 1 3 Stag Beetle larvae live and feed underground, mainly on decaying broad-leaved wood. Key physical factors governing larval occupation of this habitat are temperature, water availability, oxygen and soil structure. In soils with good drainage, air penetrates easily and oxygen concentrations are normally relatively high. However, soil pore-space is lost along with air penetration when soils become water-logged, and the only oxygen available is that dissolved in soil White Admiral 86

water. It has been suggested that stag beetle larvae drown in waterlogged soils after prolonged rainfall or as a result of flooding. As far as we are aware, the response of Lucanus cervus larvae to these physical factors has not been tested. Response to water-logging and flooding was investigated in 2012 and 2013 using third instar larvae. Larvae were collected from the 11


same site together with a suitable amount of larval ‘habitat’ (decaying wood-chip/co mpo st and soil mixture). They were housed individually in lidded microwave boxes, previously 2/3 filled with the collected larval ‘habitat’ and kept at 20˚C. Rainwater was used to increase the water content of the larval ‘habitat’ until it became w a t e r - l o g g e d . L a rv ae w e r e removed at 24 hour intervals, blotted dry and their recovery time recorded. Controls were set up in the same way but no water was added to the larval ‘habitat’. All larvae subjected to experimental conditions became inert showing no movement of the body or its appendages, even when stimulated. However, they recovered quickly from this treatment (mean: 15 minutes). Flooded conditions were produced by adding more water to reach a level three centimetres above the larval ‘habitat’. Larvae were kept in the ‘habitat’ below the water surface for three days. These larvae became similarly inert but took longer to recover (mean: 33 minutes). Larvae kept for ten days in these conditions showed similar behaviour but took considerably

longer to recover (mean: 2 hours 20 minutes). Control larvae showed no change in behaviour. It is clear from these results that L.cervus larvae have the ability to withstand flooding for at least ten days, recover fully from this experience and continue development to eclosure. Three possible processes are suggested that might help explain this behaviour: (i) use of residual air from the tracheal network, (ii) slowing the metabolism, (iii) sw itch in g fro m ae ro bic to anaerobic respiration. All experimental larvae were returned to boxes containing their untreated ‘habitat’. The larvae used in 2012 continued to develop, pupated, and eclosed this year. The larvae used in 2013 are continuing to develop. Further work is needed to determine (i) the response of first and second instar larvae to flooding and (ii) the effect of temperature on tolerance to flooding. Colin Hawes Royal Holloway University of London

Erratum: Discovery of a mycangium and associated yeasts in the stag beetle Lucanus cervus (Coleoptera: Lucanidae) White Admiral 85, p23, the words 'but not glucose' should be deleted. 12

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Vegetation Stripes at Knettishall Heath CGS 29th June 2013 The enclosure at the western end of Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Knettishall Heath Nature Reserve displays classic vegetation stripes developed on periglacial patterned ground. These are relic landforms from the Devensian, the last cold phase of the Ice Age, about 1418,000 years ago. The stripes are 2-4m wide and run sub-parallel for about 500m in a north-easterly direction down the (very gentle) slope of the River Ouse valley side. The ‘acid’ stripes are dominated by Silver Hair Grass, Aira caryophyllea, with Heath Bedstraw, Galium saxatile. The ‘calcareous’ stripes have a much greater variety of species, including a wide range of grasses, Lady’s Bedstraw, Galium verum an d D ro p w o rt , Fi li pendu l a vulgaris. The British Geological Survey map (Sheet 174 Thetford) shows Chalk at the surface here, but it is clear that it alternates with a noncalcareous deposit in the area of the vegetation stripes. On the SNS ‘Taster Day’, June 29th, with permission from Natural England and the SWT, GeoSuffolk dug a trench at TL 945804 to investigate the sub-strata. The trench was White Admiral 86

2.7m long, extending from the centre of a ‘calcareous’ stripe to the centre of an ‘acid’ stripe. It was hand dug; the turf stripped off first and left on site and the talus removed by wheelbarrow. Across the entire section, the top 45 cm of material was fine-grained, wind blown ‘cover sand’, and hard brecciated chalk was encountered immediately beneath this under the ‘calcareous’ stripe. The brecciated surface, indicating intense frost action, sloped steeply under the ‘acid’ stripe, forming a channel 50+cm deep (we did not reach the base of this) filled with coarser grained orange sand. This sand contained small rounded pebbles of white vein quartz, and also larger brown quartzite pebbles. Both are characteristic of the ‘Ingham’ sand and gravel deposits, which are shown on the BGS map, a few hundred metres away up the valley side to the south. The orange sand also contained broken, angular flints from the Chalk, indicating frost shattering under severe periglacial conditions. The origin of these shallow, subparallel channels led to much discussion - the nature of the frost13


14

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shattered chalk needs further investigation, possibly requiring a deeper excavation. However, the presence of reworked material from the Ingham deposits further up the valley side would suggest solifluxion as one of the periglacial processes acting here in the Devensian. Under permafrost conditions drainage is poor because permanent freezing renders the sub-strata impermeable. Thawing of the top few metres in summer creates a highly mobile, supersaturated layer of (frost shattered) material. It is possible for solifluxion to move material over several hundreds of metres down quite gentle slopes as in the Little Ouse valley.

Post Script: When the site was revisited on July 25th, rain had softened the ‘chalk’ and samples revealed that it is actually a mélange of chalk, sand and small pebbles – much altered from its original state. This suggests the possibility that frost heaving may have played a part in the formation of the sub-surface ridge and furrow topography. In the highly mobile layer above the permafrost this acts more readily on fine-grained deposits, thus mounds of chalk rubble would be heaved up leaving the soliflucted ‘Ingham’ sand in the hollows. Caroline Markham

The day an Emperor came knocking I run a 125W Mercury Vapour moth trap on most weekends, weather permitting. My wife and I are always amazed at the quantity and variety of moths that fly over our garden and are drawn into the trap. Yet, one morning in the middle of May whilst I was at work, I recieved a photo message from my wife saying that the neighbour just knocked saying that she found this moth (photo 1) on her patio door. Even though I had never seen one before, I knew straight away what 16

it was, a female Emperor moth Saturnia pavonia. Wanting to get a better look at the moth, I told my wife to place it in a tupperware container and then into the fridge to keep it calm till I got home. The working day, as expected, dragged on and when I eventually got home, I rushed to the fridge to see this wonderful specimen only to be greeted with another surprise, she had laid eggs (photo 2). She had laid about 100 in total, yet there was a problem. I was about to fly out to Kos for 2 weeks in a White Admiral 86


Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4 White Admiral 86

couple of days time and the eggs would hatch in a week, what was I going to do? After a bit of phoning/emailing around, county moth recorder, Tony Prichard agreed to hatch them for me as long as he could keep some, deal I said. So off I went to sunny climes happy in the knowledge that my new charges were in safe hands. Upon my return, I got in touch with Tony and we agreed to meet at the Suffolk Moth night at Purdis Heath. He gave me my small tub with some bramble in and lots of little black caterpillars about 4mm in length (photo 3). They were not going to stay at this length for long though and leaves were being replaced everyday and the tub was cleaned out regularly too as a lot of caterpillars munching produces a lot of frass. After a few days I moved them to a small 25 litre glass tank with a cracked lid, something my wife had tried to get me to throw away, but I knew Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d find a use for it eventually and that use had come. This 17


gave the little ones more room to move around and, with the insertion of a couple of cheap oasis bricks soaked in a bit of water, the leaves remained fresher for much longer. On the second week, their colours began to change from just plain black to having orange stripes and they were definitely getting much bigger (photo 4). It was about the end of the second week when I placed some apple leaves in the tank to see if they would take to them. They did thankfully, as I had a bushy apple tree in the garden so I wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to travel far for supplies. However, they were getting bigger by the day and they would need more room soon. Luckily, I used to rehabilitate injured bats and kept

them in a 100 gallon nylon flexarium. The flexarium was sprung out again for action. This stands nearly a metre high so I was able to put larger twigs/mini branches in there allowing much more movement of what were now called my mini munchers. The nylon mesh covered flexarium allowed me to hear every single bite of leaf and every single bit of frass land on the newspaper below whilst I sat at my computer in the evenings. I was only glad they were not in my bedroom, as we would have definitely got no sleep with all the noise. By the end of June, they had gone through several instars and had put on a lot more weight, so were looking quite chunky (photo 5).

Photo 5 18

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Towards the middle of the second week in July, I began to notice a couple of them were not interested in eating any more and were wandering around the flexarium. One had even started spinning its cocoon between a twig and the side of the flexarium. So it was then I introduced some heather at the bottom. This seemed to do the trick and by the start of the third week of July, cocoons were beginning to become visible amongst the heather (photo 6). However, there were still some runts that had catching up to do and they were more than happy to continue eating the heather as well as some pear leaves (after all, the apple tree wasn’t looking too bushy any more). Thankfully, the runts were a blessing as I was asked by the teachers at my niece’s school (Trimley St Mary Primary) to give a talk on minibeasts (as they now call them). Along with a collection of some my pinned insects and some from Ipswich Museum’s educational dept, I took the remaining caterpillars and some cocoons to show the children (all about 6-7 years old). They loved seeing these creatures and finding out all about their lifecycle and why they look the way they do. About 3 days after their school trip, the last of my mini munchers White Admiral 86

Photo 6 decided they were full up and sat down to make their winter bed. So with all the emperors safely snuggled up for winter, I got an old rubber foot mat that had large holes in it (through design, not wear) and wrapped all the cocoons within it, tying it up with cable ties. I have now hung the rubber mat on the outside of my shed where it gets a little setting sun and is shrouded from rain by the cherry tree at the bottom of the garden. Now I just have to wait for spring next year, or maybe the year after that, as they are known to overwinter for 1-2 years. 19


It’s been a great experience for me (and Trousers, the cat, who would sit for ages just watching and never touching) watching these develop from little 4mm long, black wriggling caterpillars to 5cm long, noisy munching leaf disposal machines and, although they were safely out the way, the munching still went on. At the start of July, a Poplar Hawkmoth Lathoe populi laid eight eggs in my moth trap, only 4 of these went on to pupate along with a Privet Hawkmoth Sphinx ligustri which I found on the lilac

tree above the moth trap. It’s been a good year for me mothwise and I look forward to next year when I can see these wonderful creatures continue their lifecycle and change in to their final instar. Don’t forget, you can read more of my experiences on my blog www.suffolknaturalist.com or follow me on Twitter: @SuffolkN ature Thanks for reading. Hawk Honey

Shanks’s Pony or the Bicycling Botanist This article is a plea for an increased use of leg muscle in natural history excursions and for anybody interested in the subject to get to know our lovely county better. It deals mainly with things botanical, but could apply to any other field of study. Living in Ipswich during these economically straitened times I must say I have noticed no appreciable diminution in traffic flow. Whatever the state of their pockets, people still seem to use their cars to the maximum and not all of this traffic is work-related by any means. This phenomenon is also seen in the world of natural 20

history observation in which all too readily, though understandably, they tend to bomb off up the A12 or A14. This however has a cost both to pocket and environment. I, of course, am sometimes guilty of it as a passenger in friends’ cars. Little is likely to change unless the cost of petrol becomes prohibitively expensive, something which may happen eventually but has not as yet, despite cries of woe from motorists. A further cost is also important and this is unevenness of say botanical or ornithological recording. True, much of our county is something of a dead zone in terms of biodiversity, but there White Admiral 86


Adam Stuart and his bike is still stuff there to see and record. Martin Sanford tells me that the excellent roadside nature reserves (henceforth RNRs) although wardened for the most part are not covered every year in terms of recording. This seems to me to be a ridiculous state of affairs, if you wish to conserve things. To conserve plants, or whatever, you must know if they are still there and unfortunately species are still probably being lost, for example possibly spotted catâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s-ear at Risby Black Ditches (M. Sanford pers. comm.). This is not an RNR, but the point still stands. Such places need regular visits. Another case in point is the Woolverstone RNR which was originally established for the presence of the sedum White Admiral 86

orpine. The plant appears to have gone though I have found, in recent years, that Shotley peninsula speciality, common calamint there. Thus it has proved its value, but surely such sites need fairly regular re-evaluation. Could not the regrettably few botanical observers, of the sort who regularly submit records, organise themselves to make sure that every RNR is covered each year? And ideally visit on foot or bicycle? Perhaps not a very practicable idea, alas car fumes, as is well known, are not good for our more delicate plants and encourage the growth of coarse grasses and suchlike, devaluing the site. Having settled in Ipswich in 2001 21


after a previous existence to the south, friends gifted me with an excellent touring bicycle, though getting on in years, as myself. I rode it from 2003 till 2007 when its frame broke and it gave up the ghost. I used it initially for exploring the countryside of southeast Suffolk in a search mainly for plants, but also for ornithological scarcities such as turtle dove, spotted flycatcher, hobby and common buzzard (now not so scarce). In 2007, I purchased a brand new beast and it soon occurred to me that I could set my sights further afield through a judicious use of the train service. Bicycles on trains are carried free, rather surprisingly. The main problem, when availing yourself of the service, is to discover which carriage is the destined recipient of your machine, as the train pulls in. This can entail a frantic dash up the platform towards a gesturing guard. The carriage may be fore, mid or aft, to mix a metaphor. Beware of this. My first few trips were to the Devilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Dyke which is strictly speaking extralimital, being in Cambridgeshire of course; I went there to see the astonishing Pasque flower and the weird lizard orchid. Having made this happy beginning, two things occurred to 22

me, one that there was great scope for further exploration and two, that I had developed a great yen to see the whole of my adopted county, that is to visit every parish in it and of course every town. There are 421 parishes and town councils in the modern county of Suffolk. I have now seen them all. Visiting on and off since the early 1970s, I had seen perhaps as much as 40% by 2011 though mostly by car. In 2012, I resolved to go for broke and during that summer made 11 bike and train trips with destinations ranging from Kennett railway station to Thurston (twice), Brampton, Saxmundham, Beccles and Sudbury and also Elmswell. I believe I recorded some 110 new parishes on these trips and covered about 300 miles in three months. Despite past prolific experience, I only suffered one puncture, out in the wilds of Thorpe Morieux and not having a repair kit was constrained to a long, slow ride back to Elmswell station, passing en route the beautiful Gedding Hall, residence of the ex- Rolling Stone Bill Wyman. I omitted to pay a visit. My style of cycling is perforce a relatively sedate one but there is no need to be a Wiggins! You can pick and choose your route, explore any byway you please. On several occasions I have accidentally come White Admiral 86


across RNRs, e.g. those at Ed w ard ston e , Be df ield an d Shimpling. Which brings us to the question of what plants I have actually found on outings. Notables include stone parsley and pepper-saxifrage in the Saints, that rather odd agricultural district south of Beccles and Bungay, crown vetch in a lovely colony nestling perversely just outside the Shimpling RNR, spiny restharrow and chicory at Sotterley, orpine at Henham RNR, the gorgeous crested cow-wheat at Dalham, grape hyacinth at Culford, the sinister monkshood along the Hadleigh Railway Walk, man orchids at Little Blakenham and Flowton RNRs and many others. Little adventures await you along the way. There are various people I encountered that I still recall: the nice woman from a Brettenham bungalow who found me sheltering from an apocalyptic electrical storm under the awning of her garden shed, the only decent cover for miles around. I suddenly noticed her peering rather uncertainly out at me from her glassed kitchen door, however she decided I was safe enough and made me a welcome cup of coffee. Or the village drunk whose dog crept up on the lady I was talking to and promptly attempted to White Admiral 86

savage her own inoffensive hound. Quite rightly she beat it off with her stick. Or the American cyclist at Dalham who helped me to try to fix my failing odometer. I put my foot in it by taking him for a Canadian. The friendly farmer at Hawkedon. Was I writing a book? But I digress. To conclude, let me repeat my plea for observers to spread their efforts about a little in whatever speciality they are interested, to avoid excessive use of the motor car and to get to know their own county better. On 20/07/2013, I visited, alas by car, Tuddenham St Mary a few miles north-west of Bury St Edmunds and this constituted the last of seven remaining parishes on my hit-list, these all accomplished by the judicious twisting of cardriving friendsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; arms, regrettably. I would be quite interested to know how many other people have done this? Presumably the late Francis Simpson and also Simon Knott who has an interesting website on Suffolk churches. Is there anyone else out there? Come on, beat that incipient cardiovascular disease and ride, ride, ride! Or leg it! Adam Stuart

23


More on Newton and Wrigley The observations made by Steve Piotrowski and others during 2009 and 2010 of a black headed gull (BHG) taking hundreds of smooth newt at the Minsmere pond (at the former car park) may be a BHG that we had watched feeding on great crested newt (GCN) and smooth newt at two locations in Thorington and Bramfield over the last five years. A BHG, possibly the same one as reported previously, was seen occasionally visiting from 2010 at these two other locations. The BHG was feeding on newts in a range of five new ponds and ditches dug in 2008 at Bramfield, as a part of a project of arable reversion to grassland, woodland and wetlands at Dews farm SSSI/SAC. This is about 6 km away from Minsmere. The bird would hover a bit like a kestrel for some time, sometimes shifting position about 5-10 metres above the water and then dive down and often fly off with a newt in its beak. We also noticed in 2010 a BHG feeding on newts in a relatively bare pond on a field next to Thorington Pit, (built in 2009 as a part of a habitat creation scheme associated with the gravel pit restoration) and then at the large ‘water table’ pond excavated in 24

2011 in the pit base. In both cases we thought it could be catching 510 or more an hour with dozens of attempts. This activity was seen at both sites on one or more occasions in 2011 and 2012 and we think one is still around this year. The impression was of one individual that was persisting in feeding on newts although the method seems to be reducing, with more pond plant vegetation cover in the pond. Such events may be a feature of ponds early in the season and in early successional stages after they are built or restored making visibility higher. Our clear-water clay Suffolk ponds without fish are clearly a feeding opportunity for this species. A few birds feed on GCN although the alkaloids in the skin glands are toxic and make them distasteful and hard to digest. Perhaps BHG can ‘stomach’ the toxins – perhaps they were feeding young. Have any BHG nest watchers seen newts being brought in? At one landfill site I worked on in the 1990s, rescuing newts from a lorry wheel-wash trap, a heron took both smooth, palmate and GCN. I used to see pyramidal piles of vomit in the landfill floor pools White Admiral 86


8 dead late-stage GCN larvae

where a heron had been feeding on smooth and palmate newts and then taken a GCN and then regurgitated the lot. Examining six piles in detail, the smaller newts were in a state of digestion while the dead GCN was usually fresh, suggesting it had been the trigger for regurgitation. At Thorington in September 2005 I also found an accumulation (see picture) of around 8 dead late-stage GCN larvae about 20 cm underwater at the edge of a pond next to an old sticking up log. I first thought that some had been bitten in half and their skin had been removed but White Admiral 86

now think this may have been the action of digestive juice and that the dent marks are handling by a bird, possibly kingfisher or heron. This perhaps suggests the glandular protection is present at the GCN late larval stage. In the past I have watched kingfishers feeding on smooth newts in rainwater trapped at the bottom of an abandoned swimming pool. Amphibians are a vital food source for some birds but there is clearly more to it than we know! Tom Langton 25


Percy the Macaw My grand daughter, Alice, aged 3, brought Percy the Macaw home from nursery, explaining that she had to look after him for a week. A diary was provided to record what he had done with the family over half-term. He was in a nicely decorated shoebox, with “Percy” on the lid and a nest of pink feathers inside. Alice proudly showed me the other contents of the box – a baby’s bottle and a plastic fish and explained that this was to feed Percy. Having started off thinking what a nice idea this was, I became horrified at the thought that nursery had sent Percy off with such inappropriate sustenance, apparently not having even tried to establish what a macaw might eat. I then thought what a lost opportunity this was to get the children to think about what a creature might need to live. I set about trying to put this right and suggested that perhaps macaws don’t like fish, nor would they be able to drink easily from a bottle. I suggested some nuts (fruit, which he might have preferred, would have been a bit messy to keep). This was greeted with great scepticism by Alice, 26

highlighting the importance children attach to what they are told at school. I finally came up with the argument that if he didn’t have hard nuts to chew on, his beak would grow and grow until he could not open his mouth. This seemed to clinch it and the nuts were put in the box, but I haven’t checked if they are still there. I felt this incident throws up the interesting question about how to engage young children with natural history – of any kind – at school. That is obviously a big project, but we could at least start with our own grandchildren or nieces and nephews. I am preparing a card to go in the box with a splendid picture of two blue macaws and on the back I thought I would put the proper name, where they really live, what they like to eat, the company they keep and the dangers they might face. I hope this might spark some interest in the other parents and children who have to look after Percy. The question I would like to put to you is could you suggest how you could engage the young people in your family with your particular natural history interest. I strongly feel that this does not need to be dumbed down and a 3 year old can White Admiral 86


understand that all creatures are not “bugs”.

sm all

I recently read a piece about Leonard Susskind, 75, a physicist and founder of String Theory, not the sort of person, you would think, to be interested in engaging the general public in physics. However he is running classes on the subject for lay people at Stanford University. He has written a book on understanding physics, influenced by his experience explaining why he wanted to study physics to his plumber father. He makes a couple of interesting points: one is that to engage in any subject you need to learn the language: English to read literature and mathematics to understand physics. We need to start teaching children the language of natural history, as soon they can un derstand anything. Secondly, to understand

a subject you do need all the information – a ‘theoretical minimum’, which is the title of the book – the bare minimum you need to know in order to understand a subject. We need to start building this bare minimum of information as early as we can – because there is so much. What a project for educators. So my second question to you is: “what is the language of your chosen interest and how could you convey this to youngsters – or adults for that matter?”. What is the bare minimum you need to be able to study your subject and how could you work towards building this vocabulary for children? So if you have youngsters in your family start now – remember the old adage – the best way to learn is to teach. Joan Hardingham

Long-tailed Blue Lampides boeticus at Landguard Bird Observatory On 6th October 2013 at about noon whilst sitting on the bench at the observatory, along with Eric Patrick, after the morning bird ringing session, we noticed a small butterfly, on the Viper’s Bugloss Echium vulgare, in front of us. The upperwing was blue and the White Admiral 86

underside of the hindwing was generally brownish-grey with an obvious white line almost parallel with the trailing edge. It also had two obvious spots and a protruding bit on the trailing edge. We both said Long-tailed Blue but before we could get a net to catch it, it 27


flew off. The next day I was called back to the observatory whilst closing the mist-nets, about the same time as the previous day, only to find that another Longtailed Blue had been found in front of the observatory. This time the individual had a more orangeybrown underside to the hindwing and therefore indicated it was a female. Unbelievably, on the 8th October I was heading along the top path by a fenced off area that still had a few Viperâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bugloss in f lo w e r an d fo un d an o th e r individual, a male, and this time I managed to get several photos, two of which are reproduced in this article.

These are the first records for the recording area and, as far as I am aware, the second to fourth most recent records for Suffolk. There has been an influx in the southern counties of England this year with the nearest being in North Kent, where they have been noted mating. It is feasible that the records at Landguard may be dispersing individuals from these North Kent colonies, or alternatively, progeny of one that arrived earlier in the summer unnoticed. Tim Bagworth

Long-tailed Blue 28

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1897 2013 2013 2013 2013 2013

– – – – – –

All Suffolk records: August – Bath Hotel, Felixstowe 1 5 th A u g u s t – m a l e - D u n w i c h H e a t h N T . 6 th O c t o b e r – m a l e - L a n d g u a r d 7 th O c t o b e r – f e m a l e - L a n d g u a r d 8 th O c t o b e r – m a l e - L a n d g u a r d 8 th O c t o b e r – f e m a l e – B a w d s e y E a s t L a n e

Long-tailed Blue References: Mendel H. and Piotrowski S. H., 1986, The Butterflies of Suffolk, an Atlas & History. Suffolk Naturalist’s Society.

www.suffolkbutterflies.org.uk/sightings.html Contributions to White Admiral Deadlines for copy are 1st February (spring edition), 1st June (summer edition) and 1st October (autumn edition).

The opinions expressed in White Admiral are not necessarily those of the Editor or of the Suffolk Naturalists’ Society.


w w w. s n s . o r g . u k

FOUNDED IN 1929 by Claude Morley (1874 -1951), The Suffolk Naturalists’ Society pioneered the study and recording of the County’s flora, fauna and geology, to promote a wider interest in natural history. Recording the natural history of Suffolk is still one of the Society’s primary objects, and members’ observations are fed to a network of specialist recorders for possible publication before being deposited in the Suffolk Biological Records Centre, which is based in Ipswich Museum.

Suffolk Natural History, a review of the County’s wildlife, and Suffolk Birds, the County bird report, are two high quality annual publications issued free to members. The Society also publishes a newsletter, White Admiral, and organises two members’ evenings a year plus a conference every two years .

Subscriptions: Individual members £15.00; Family membership £17.00; Corporate membership £17.00. Joint membership with the Suffolk Ornithologists’ Group: Individual members £28.00; Family membership £32.00. As defined by the Constitution of this Society its objects shall be: 2.1 To study and record the fauna, flora and geology of the County 2.2 To publish a Transactions and Proceedings and a Bird Report. These shall be free to members except those whose annual subscriptions are in arrears 2.3 To liaise with other natural history societies and conservation bodies in the County 2.4 To promote interest in natural history and the activities of the Society. For more details about the Suffolk Naturalists’ Society contact:

Hon. Secretary, Suffolk Naturalists’ Society, c/o Ipswich Museum, High Street, IPSWICH, IP1 3QH. Telephone 01473 433547

Profile for Suffolk Naturalists' Society

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Autumn 2013

White Admiral 86  

Autumn 2013

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