Spotted one of the Exmoor ponies yawning this morning and took this short video. Very tiring work it must be for them as I also caught 2 of them looking like they were fast asleep yesterday!
A search in tussocks of grass growing on the sandstone bluff in the middle of the quarry has found an interesting Springtail or Collembola. Anurophorus laricis is a new species for the Country Park, and also a new species for Sussex. Springtails are so called because they have a forked appendage (a furca) under their back end that acts like a spring enabling them to flip away when danger approaches. The species found yesterday has no furca, and hence the question arises as to whether it ought be called a springtail, perhaps better to use the preferred term Collembola.
This week the parking ticket machines at the Country Park that have been locked up since one was broken into in November have been brought back into use. A Ranger also informed us that as from 1st April there will be an increase in the charges. £2.50 for 2 hours, £3.50 for all day and £50.00 for a season ticket. We also know of at least one enforcement ticket being issued today.
Wildlife in the Country Park takes many and varied forms, some are easier to see than others. The most challenging thus far is a wasp. It was found in long grass at the helipad and is a parasitoid of a species of weevil and a cranefly. At just under 0.5mm long it is difficult to be certain of the identification, but Anaphes regulus of the Mymaridae is the most likely. The Mymaridae family of wasps are commonly known as Fairyflies owing to their tiny size and remarkable fringed wings. They are the only family of parasitoid wasps to have a common name.
Bare patches in the former hedgeline on the Firehills provide a relatively sheltered warm microclimate that is a degree or two higher than the surrounding area. Consequently these bare areas are always worth a close look when seeking insects as so many are more active at higher temperatures since they live at the northern edge of their range in this country. A recent visit found a Turtle Shieldbug Podops inuncta. This species is not uncommon, yet it is infrequently found since its colouration blends so well with the soil and it is a ground dwelling species. It has not been previously recorded in the Country Park, nor in the local area. It has another common name, the Knobbed Shieldbug referencing those peculiar protuberances at the shoulder.
Ghostly goings on in the Quarry? Well actually no. These webs are created by Tetranycus lintearius the Gorse Spider Mite. The adults are half a millimetre long and bright red. A native to Europe, it has been introduced to other countries as a biological control measure, although it does not actually kill gorse it can reduce flowering and stunt the development of branches. The mites pierce the tissues of the plant whilst feeding.
Hunting through parched grass in the quarry in the hope of finding interesting insects, a wasp of a new family was found. The family is Bethylidae, and the wasp is Epyris niger. It was entirely black, approximately 4mm long, and had a prognathous head. Microscope examination proved it to be a most interesting insect that is evidently quite a serious predator. It has a powerful sting to disable larvae of lepidoptera and coleoptera which are then dragged away – eggs are laid on the prey. This is another new species to add to the ever-growing list for the Country Park.
I must apologise to anyone who has tried to download the full Country Park leaflet recently. I was not aware that the link was broken. All restored now (until the next time!) and the updated map is now on the map page.