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Final results: Sandwich Bay Coleopterists’ Meeting 2012

I wrote a brief blog about this sunny and sociable weekend in Kent shortly after the event: here.

I have now finished my identifications from the Sandwich Bay Coleopterists’ Meeting (31st August to 2nd September 2012) and have also received records from Eric Philp, James McGill, Kevin Chuter, Martin Collier, Peter McMullen, Roger Booth, Simon Horsnall and Tony Allen. Between us we recorded 273 species of beetle (and 36 species of other invertebrates, including spiders, millipedes, dragonflies, bush-crickets, bugs, flies, bees, wasps, ants, moths and snails).

One of the highlights for me was the discovery of the phalacrid beetle Olibrus norvegicus new to Britain, as well as an intriguing featherwing-beetle specimen of the genus Ptenidium. Another major discovery was of the dung-beetle Euheptaulacus sus which was found by Roger Booth (from a light trap), Tony Allen (by evening sweeping) and James McGill. It is many decades since this dung-beetle was recorded from Kent.

Amongst the beetles were 7 Red Data Book, 1 Near Threatened and 36 Nationally Scarce species. In total, 16% of the beetles recorded during the meeting have conservation status, a figure which is consistent with top sites of national importance for invertebrate conservation.

A spreadsheet containing a species list and a worksheet of all records from the meeting can be downloaded here.

To download the keys, left-click the link. This will take you to my Google Docs webpages where you can see an online preview of the document (in which the formatting and pagination isn’t great). From the File menu, select Download and Save the file to your computer to see it in its original form.

 
The meeting did not formally start until Saturday morning (1st September) but most people travelled down on the Friday and the results include records from Friday afternoon and evening. In my case, I worked the area seaward of the Chequer’s Inn, Deal, where I had found Amara spreta, Melanotus punctolineatus and many other interesting beetles on a previous visit in 1999. This was also the area where Eric Philp recorded Ophonus cordatus although a few decades earlier. On a warm and still evening, I gave the Autokatcher a spin, driving back from the Chequer’s Inn to our accommodation at the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. It yielded a massive sample of mostly very small beetles, including the Ptenidium mentioned above and an impressive five species that I’d never seen before. Only one of the five (Omalium exiguum) is actually Nationally Scarce but the Autokatcher seems to be a good way of finding beetles that I don’t bump into using my normal fieldcraft. After dining together at an Indian restaurant in Sandwich village, a small party donned headtorches and headed out with sweep-nets to the dunes north of the Prince’s Golf Course clubhouse. This was when I found Olibrus norvegicus new to Britain though of course it wasn’t until a few days later that I dissected them and realised what they were. Of the species recognisable on the night, one of the most interesting finds was a single individual of the tenebrionid beetle Xanthomus pallidus.

After much loitering in the Bird Observatory car park on Saturday morning, the meeting got underway with people dispersing in small groups, some back to Chequer’s Inn, others to the Prince’s Golf Club dunes and some walking out to the north in search of Dune Tiger-beetle Cicindela maritima. It was a good day for carabids with several people finding Amara curta, and with several other scarce carabids being recorded: Amara fulva, Amara equestris, Harpalus serripes, Dicheirotrichus obsoletus, Panagaeus bipustulatus, Masoreus wetterhallii and Demetrias monostigma. We dined at a good Thai restaurant in the evening, followed by more torchlight fieldwork.

On the Sunday, while some carried on with fieldwork at Sandwich Bay, a few of us visited the other site for which permission had been arranged: Blean Woods RSPB Reserve. Martin Collier and I tackled a wood ants’ nest – the first time either of us had attempted to find beetles in such a potentially painful microhabitat! We soon discovered that the ants were remarkably placid and the whole experience was surprisingly painless. However, there were very few beetles evident in the field (only three individual beetles in my sample, only one of which (Gyrohypnus atratulus) was an ant-nest specialist). Martin wisely took his sample home and put it in an extractor which yielded a specimen of Myrmetes piceus. Meanwhile, Roger Booth and Tony Allen were beating dead and dying branches and amongst a good list of saproxylic beetles, found the Vulnerable anthribid beetle Pseudeuparius sepicola off a dead oak branch.

Martin sieving a wood ants' nest at Blean Woods.

I really enjoyed this meeting, not just because Sandwich Bay is such a great place for beetles but also for the chance to socialise with other coleopterists over the course of the weekend. I enjoy it enough to be thinking of organising another weekend field meeting but I’m not going to do that until 2014 (probably at Orford Ness). Meanwhile, if anyone else wants to organise a meeting, it doesn’t have to be a lot of work: pick your location and dates, suggest somewhere people could stay but leave them to make their own arrangements, make a restaurant booking in the evening, and arrange with the BENHS to extend their insurance to cover the meeting. That really is all it takes. Following the successful examples of Dungeness in 2010 and Sandwich Bay in 2012, both based around bird observatories, a couple of obvious venues to try are Portland Bill Bird Observatory and Lizard Point Youth Hostel.


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