10 Feb 2016

Duelling “Super- Pooters”

Eardington Quarry, Wednesday 20 January 2016

The first outing of the year was to Eardington Quarry, a former sand and gravel quarry, later used as a concrete mixing plant. It was acquired by Shropshire County Council and has is now managed as a nature reserve in partnership with the Friends of Eardington Nature Reserve. More details about the site can be found on the Shropshire's Great Outdoors website and the Friends website.

It was -1.5°C (29°F) when we set off from Telford it was still very cold when we arrived on site so we donned many layers of clothing as we prepared to set out.

But the sun was shining, there was not a cloud in  the sky and there was no wind.

Then came a surprise as the County Moth Recorder arrived, beckoned me over to his car and handed over the Shropshire Moth Group’s “super-pooter” to use on our outings. Thank you, it will be extremely useful, albeit slightly annoying for those who have to listen to it.

So we had two super-pooters on the day – the long trusted “spider-vac” and the new arrival, “moth-vac”. These will be referred to as “S-vac” and “M-vac” in future. Having two machines brought into mind “Duelling Banjos” and the possibility of a similarly orchestrated use of the vacs.

Togged and tooled we moved about 10 yards out of the car park and found a well placed concrete slab that we could use as a table while we searched the tray for invertebrates. An early success was finding a pair of Eupelix cuspidata nymphs that looked a little like arrow heads. This is a new species to me, although there are a handful of records for the county. These were too small for my photographic equipment, so if you wish to see them please look on the British Bugs website.

One of our target groups this year is Collembola (Springtails) to support the effort led by Pete Boardman and FSC Tomorrow's Biodiversity team to produce a county atlas. See the tombio website for more information and how you can help. 

Looking for and capturing springtails is not for the faint-hearted. Apart from a few small species most are tiny (2mm and less), so you need persistence to search for them, good eyes to see them and quick reactions to collect them. We tried and were successful with some but many got away.

The sun stayed out, the wind stayed away, and, dare I say it, it was quite pleasant, the temperature reaching a stifling 6°C (43°F). But very few layers were removed!

S-vac and M-vac were used throughout the day and were able to keep us supplied with specimens as the more traditional methods of observation, sweeping and beating produced very little. Any sensible invertebrate was well out the way and out of the cold.

One vacuum sample included a female Ant damsel bug Himacerus mirmicoides

Photograph: © Bob Kemp

Finally, much later than I had anticipated when we set off, we called it a day and made our way home.

Keith Fowler