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Monthly Archives: January 2012

20 years of beetling

Twenty years ago to the day, on Sunday 26th January 1992, I became a coleopterist! I was birding at Dungeness but turned over a stone and collected my first beetle. I was steeling myself for hours at the microscope, poring over victorian textbooks and baffling anatomical diagrams. But actually I just took it into work and showed it to Brian Eversham, my boss at the time, who instantly identified it as Agonum albipes with just a glance! Until then, I really admired the sort of birders who could call a flyover Richard’s Pipit, and I hadn’t realised that the sort of field ID skills that birders have could be applied to beetles. Keying things out at the microscope and working with museum collections is a big part of getting to know the beetles but a lot of species can be identified in the field. Some can even be identified in flight! My beetling career took off straight away and I have never stopped.

I’ve got all my beetle records from the first twenty years in a MapMate database: I suspect very few other coleopterists have been in that position. So I’ve taken the opportunity to look back at the records and do a bit of analysis. I’ll be giving a talk about the results at Coleopterists’ Day next weekend so I won’t spoil the talk by revealing them here now. But for a taster, here’s a map of all the 10-km squares where I’ve recorded beetles in the last 20 years.

My beetle records - 1992 to 2012.

Barbies in Beds

Natural history takes you to some strange places. I spent several hours underground on Saturday, carrying out licenced monitoring of bats in various hibernacula in Bedfordshire with Bob Cornes and members of the Beds Bat Group. Our first site, an old icehouse, had no bats on this occasion but two Buttoned Snouts were hibernating on the walls – a new moth for me and the first hibernation record of this species for Beds (VC30).

Buttoned Snout hibernating in an icehouse

We saw a few hibernating Heralds during the day too.

Herald in hibernation

We found five species of bat, a typical result for these sites. Two Pipistrelle sp. which I didn’t photograph, numerous Natterer’s Bats, several Daubenton’s Bats and Brown Long-eared Bats and, best of all, Barbastelle. I think there were 6 Barbies in total, a new bat for me. About 90 individual bats in total!

Daubenton's Bat, typically well-concealed.

Natterer's Bat, sleeping hammock-fashion!

Brown Long-eared Bat: my favourite photo of the day.

Barbastelle: it's unusual for them to hang free on the ceiling like this. Which is a shame as they look really cool - I like the shadow too.

Barbastelle: note the ears touching in the middle of the head, a diagnostic feature of this species.

Barbastelle, showing the peculiar and distinctive semicircular flap of skin protruding from just behind the outer margin of the ear.

Many thanks to Bob for the opportunity to see these bats, and to Andy and Melissa Banthorpe for identifying Buttoned Snout from the photo.