Sunday 30 October 2022

Beetles and Bugs.

 I'm always keen to find new creatures to see and photograph.

Beetles make up a huge group and are somewhat neglected by myself, although when one is found that I don't recognise I do try to find out if it could be a species that is perhaps scarce or even rare.

This happened in this past week when I went out to check the moth trap and spotted a strange beetle on the patio windows. I potted it up to investigate it further in the daylight the following day. Once I had photographed it I could get down to trying to work out what it was, but scrolling through several sites on the net with no luck I resorted to sending the photo to Bob Foreman from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, and as it happened he was halfway through writing an email to Graeme Lyons who records and monitors beetles among many other things. Graeme immediately knew that it was an Oedemera femoralis, which is a Nationally scarce species with around 50 Sussex records and not many more than 200 in the whole of the UK.

Oedemera femoralis.

Earlier in the year, May 26th to be exact, I came across the Drilus flavescens a very strange beetle that enjoys snails for dinner. This species seems to have become more numerous in recent years. The first one that I saw was actually in the garden of my childhood home when the neighbour spotted it in his garden and caught it to show me when I was visiting Mum several years ago. Since then I have found a few including more in the garden in Lewes.

This one photographed in May was on my patch at the back of Seaford.

Drilus flavescens.

In the past few weeks I have seen 3 Western Conifer Seed Bug. This is actually a member of the Squashbug family, rather than being a beetle. Native to the USA it made it to Europe in 1999 and then migrated from Europe to Britain around 2008. A very attractive bug that is found in the Autumn and is gradually increasing in number. I think the first one I saw was in 2018 when I saw two at home and one in Eastbourne. A very attractive insect, if you like those kind of things, like I do!!

Western Conifer Seed Bug.

Thursday 27 October 2022

Crimson Speckled.

 Back in 2011, October 4th to be exact, I stumbled across a moth that I hadn't seen before. Unfortunately, I didn't realise the significance of the find until later or I would have taken many more photos of it.

The moth in question was the spectacular looking Crimson Speckled.

The 2011 Crimson Speckled.

Ever since then I have wanted to see another of these beauties. Every time I walk past the spot where I found the moth I remember that day and hope for another sighting.

Well, this year due to weather patterns and a healthy population on the continent there seems to be a massive influx of them. Bearing in mind that this moth had its best year in 2011 since Victorian times according to Colin Pratt, the Sussex Moth Recorder, and during 2011 only 5 of these moths were found in Sussex that year, there have probably been double that number already this year.

On Saturday night a good friend actually caught 2 of these beauties in his moth trap, and my chance of seeing Crimson Speckled again came to fruition. Needless to say, I have put my moth trap out a bit more this week as well as walking in areas where I hope to find one but so far no luck on that front.

Crimson Speckled.

One of the two 2022 specimens I was invited to see.

Thursday 20 October 2022

Octopus's Garden.

 With Autumn now giving us that beautiful colour show which we enjoy each year it's time to go out looking for some great fungi, and there are few that are as intriguing as the Octopus Stinkhorn. 

Also known as the Devil's Fingers, this species was first seen in the UK around 1914 and originated from New Zealand or Australia although it is also found in South Africa. 

It is still quite a scarce fungi in the UK and is found in a small number of sites with some being in Sussex. The first one I saw this year was just over 2 weeks ago when around 7 were seen with this one being the best example.

Octopus Stinkhorn (Clathrus archeri).

Another visit to the site this week produced many more and in different stages. The first sign is the 'egg stage' which is easy to miss and can be easily trodden on. The main reason that sites for this species is kept pretty quiet and secret!!

The egg stage then starts to open as the tentacles start to push out but just before that happens the colour of the tentacles can be seen through the top of the egg.

Three different Octopus Stinkhorn stages.

Eventually the tentacles come right out of the shell and after a while separate and spread out. These are often eaten by slugs very quickly, but they also smell putrid enough to encourage many flies to feed on them.

Octopus Stinkhorn being enjoyed by 3 flies.

In all there were about 30 of these incredible fungi in the area. Not quite what Ringo Starr was thinking about when he wrote Octopus's Garden, his song that appeared on the Abbey Road album by The Beatles!!

Also in the area were a small number of Dog Stinkhorn. Another strange and fascinating fungi.

Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus caninus).

At another nearby site more autumnal delights were seen with several Fly Agaric and Grey Spotted Amanita.

Grey Spotted Amanita (Amanita excelsa).


Monday 17 October 2022

What. No Camera!!

 With the weather being pretty dull and me feeling very unenthusiastic I had 2 walks this past weekend leaving the cameras behind. I was just not in the mood for lugging it all about when I was unlikely to see anything.

The Saturday walk of around 7 miles was as expected, not a lot to shout about, although a dozen or so Wall Brown were nice along with several Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Small White and singles of Common Blue, Peacock and Comma before the rain hit me a mile from home. The Comma did pose very nicely and a photo from the phone of that was just about worthwhile. Not a bad quantity of butterflies for a mid October day.


The following day it was a slightly different route, although still walking from home. Once again a bit of rain hit me during the walk but at least this time I had a waterproof coat!!

I was just over a mile from home when I had one of those magical moments. I saw a Rabbit not far away, but something seemed slightly odd. Looking through the binoculars I could see there was a Stoat with the Rabbit and the Rabbit was no longer alive. I do not know if the Stoat came across the Rabbit or whether it had caught it itself. However, the Stoat is well up there with my favourite mammals but I have never managed to photograph one and here I am watching a Stoat trying to move the dead Rabbit into cover and I have no camera with me!! I did however have the phone but that would mean getting close to get any kind of image. Fortunately there was some cover between us in the form of some nettles and I crept up behind these. The Stoat did actually see me several times but the temptation of the tasty Rabbit was too much for it and it kept coming back to try to move it to cover. If I had the camera I wouldn't have seen so much action as it would have heard the shutter going off. Eventually I tried a movie sequence on the phone and managed just over a minute of action that once again I wouldn't have got with the camera. However, it was a shame the quality with the phone photos wasn't that good, but better than nothing!!

Stoat with Rabbit.

I must confess I never thought I would be loading phone photos onto my blog!!


Sunday 2 October 2022


 During the year I have neglected posting much about my moth finds, except of course the Lace Border. However, there are other moths out there amazingly, and during 2022 I discovered 2 more notable moths on my patch and they were so similar I thought it was just one species until I was corrected by the Sussex micro expert, Tim Wilton.

On the 10th of June I was wandering lonely as a cloud over the patch when I spotted a very small, thin moth in the grass. I set about getting some photographs which were far from easy to get. Tim kindly identified this moth as Coleophora pennella or Bugloss Case-bearer which is actually a National A rarity.

Bugloss Case-bearer.

11 days later I was in the same area when I spotted another one which didn't seem quite so flighty. This one I managed to get better photographs but it wasn't until I had posted some pictures on the Sussex Moth Group sightings page that Tim sent me an email to tell me this was actually a different species. This one was a Coleophora lixella or Downland Case-bearer. Not quite such a rarity but still a National B rarity.

Downland Case-bearer.

Both fascinating looking moths which get their name from the larvae that have a hard case that they live in to protect them as they feed.

On this 2nd session I also came across a Bordered Straw, a scarce moth that is a migrant moth. This year far more than usual have crossed the English Channel and I have also had a handful in the moth trap. However, it is always far more rewarding finding moths out in the open countryside.

Bordered Straw.