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Carabid twitching

Yesterday I went to look for a rare carabid Pogonus luridipennis at a site near Skegness where it was discovered earlier this year. The site was visited again on 10th September when at least 6 were seen under a piece of discarded carpet within the first 5 minutes, followed by four hours of fruitless searching. On 17th September I also found a piece of carpet within the first 5 minutes but there were only Pogonus chalceus, Dicheirotrichus gustavi and D. obsoletus under it. Two hours of hard graft later and it was looking like yet another wasted journey. And then I found another piece of discarded carpet with dozens of carabids under it including 5 Pogonus luridipennis!

Pogonus luridipennis from Skegness

Published habitat information for this species in Britain includes “on clayish seashores, mostly in marshes under seaweed” and “coastal habitats, particularly saltmarshes”. The reality for this and several other ‘saltmarsh’ carabids is that they prefer the margins of lagoons which are only rarely inundated by seawater. Pogonus luridipennis seems to be particularly fussy and after a long run of records from Salthouse, Norfolk in the 80s and 90s, it was last seen there in 2001 (and has been repeatedly looked for since without success). The last Norfolk record was from Titchwell in 2005 (Dave Gibbs). It has not been recorded from the Severn Estuary for a few decades now. It still persists on the Dorset coast with a recent record from Eype.

Hopefully, now that we have a reliable site for P. luridipennis, research by John Walters under the Biodiversity Action Plan will be able to answer a few questions about when, where and how to find it, and ultimately how to conserve it.

At Skegness, it looks as though it would be extremely difficult to find if it wasn’t for a few pieces of old carpet that someone has thrown away on the edge of the lagoon. Before I got into beetles, I thought all litter should be collected and disposed of properly. Now I usually regard pieces of litter as valuable refuges for invertebrates and I put them back carefully after looking underneath!

Litter or valuable refuge? The Pogonus luridipennis carpet.

Flushed with success, I thought I’d check out a site near Lincoln where Alan Lazenby discovered Amara nitida on 8th July 1990. Having started my interest in carabids in the Brecks, a hotspot for Amara species, I still regard Amara as the most interesting genus of all. Amara nitida is easily misidentified and is probably not as common as the distribution map suggests. My efforts to see it in Britain have concentrated on sites with definite records. I’ve been to the heathy clearing in Swanton Novers Wood, Norfolk where Bryan Sage discovered one on 11th June 2006. I’ve worked flood debris at Pontrilas, Herefordshire where C.E. Tottenham found it on 29th November 1929 and I’ve looked for it at Lyme Regis, Dorset and Ports Down Hill, Hampshire. It’s always felt like a wild goose chase and I’ve never seriously believed I would ever see this beetle. And now I have! Alan’s site looked unremarkable and I was deeply pessimistic of my chances. But it came up trumps! In a fairly quick look I found one female so there’s probably quite a good population there.

Amara nitida

Can this be the right place? The seemingly unremarkable spot where I found Amara nitida at the base of Meadowsweet and willowherb stems along a tiny stream.

Twitching rare beetles usually requires patience, doggedness and immense reserves of optimism. Saturday was a truly exceptional day. Maybe I should go and look for the real holy grail next?


2 Comments

  1. Bill Urwin says:

    If you find the holy grail, put it under a glass and give me a call 🙂

  2. markgtelfer says:

    Stefan Müller-Kroehling has been in touch, having found Amara nitida in short-rotation coppice stands in Germany. Though primarily a grassland species in Germany, in Eastern Bavaria (and only there according to the habitat preference catalogue) Amara nitida inhabits the pioneer phases of forests.

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