Plans for 2017

I thought it would be a good idea to formulate a strategy for the year, to keep myself on track and not stagnate halfway through the season. I need to improve on my weak points, I need to keep up a good steady run of lifers. But which groups do I most need to concentrate on to make useful progress, and when will I need to be doing this? 

I'm making the assumption that I will be living on Skye throughout the year. Biogeographically I'm out on a limb. This is a cause for concern as I now need to travel a long way for many desired species and I won't be able to just drop everything and head south all summer long. I shall have to plan carefully and time my trips precisely in order to maximise time spent in the field rather than spent in the car. And naturally I'll need a high success rate too!

Essentially there are two parts to this; which specific species do I plan to target in 2017 and what groups do I need to concentrate on to best improve my natural history abilities? First though I need to address the mad twitcher instinct that coarses through my veins!

I'd really like to improve my Odonata and Orthoptera lists. There are some big, glaring gaps that should have been filled a long, long time ago. Of these only White-faced Darter occurs up here. In fact its strongest populations are up here, so that should be an easy day-trip jobbie. What of the others, which do I still need? 

Odonata Hitlist - Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, Southern Damselfly, Dainty Damselfly (extinct again?), Willow Emerald Damselfly, Southern Emerald Damselfly, Southern Migrant Hawker and Common Clubtail (plus White-faced Darter - I can find this locally). All of these I can find in the south-east of England from Essex and Kent across to the Home Counties and Hampshire. A full house here would put me on 45 species, up from my currently rather middling 37.

Orthoptera Hitlist - The only resident grasshopper I've still to see is Lesser Mottled Grasshopper which is rather awkwardly restricted to the Isle of Man. All of the rest are located in the south-east of England. These six species are Wartbiter (late July - September), Sickle-bearing Bush-cricket (late August onwards), Italian Tree Cricket (mid August onwards), Field Cricket (mid April - late June) and Cepero's Groundhopper (adult August to spring). Plus Scaly Cricket at Chesil (all year I believe?) I need to visit Dungeness and East Sussex for that lot. Looks like another 2 trips worth, first in mid to late May and another in August for the Sussex/Dungeness/Chesil species. Ignoring Lesser Mottled Grasshopper for now, a clean sweep of the rest would bump me up from 34 species to a very respectable 40 species. Although Lesser Mottled Grasshopper would put me on equal first position with Mark Telfer. And any new Sticks or Earwigs would see me as clear leader of the field. Blimey, that is actually quite do-able too! (Slough Wonder Stick, Unarmed Stick, Smooth Stick, Lesne's Earwig, Lesser Earwig and Short-winged Earwigs....phew that would tally up to 48 species!!!)

Graeme Lyons reliably informs me that Field Cricket is over by late June (see his 2015 management report - and that Wartbiter is easy in August around Brighton. Cepero's is a piece of piss at Dungeness (Mark Telfer pers comm) so hopefully I won't have to resort to failing at finding it in Hampshire again. That just leaves my nemesis - the remarkable Scaly Cricket.

MID-LATE MAY - Common Clubtail near at Goring-on-Thames near Reading and Field Cricket in Sussex. Have to hope the Clubtails emerge towards the end of May else it'll be hit and miss with the crickets. 

MID-JULY - Southern Migrant Hawker breeds at Wat Tyler CP, nr Basildon, Essex. Southernmost pond is best bet. Earliest ever was 28th June, usually active from mid July through into August. Neil Phillips is the local man to go to. He's already said it's fine to contact him nearer the time, plus he works at Wat Tyler. Need to do a thorough cleansweep through Suffolk/Essex/North Kent clearing up on Southern Emerald Damselfly, Willow Emerald Damselfly, Dainty Damselfly (if it still occurs) before heading down to Crockford Bridge area in the New Forest for Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly and Southern Damselfly. Nearby Ober Water has Stone Loach, and that's a fish I've wanted to see for a long time! Potentially this will be a good opportunity to try for Scaly Crickets down at Chesil. May have to enlist the help of Steve Trewhella and Danny Cooper to up my chances.

LATE AUGUST - Rapid blast into Sussex and Kent required, potentially in the company of Mark Telfer. Meet up with Graeme Lyons at Brighton in the morning for Wartbiter followed by Dungeness in the afternoon for Cepero's Groundhopper and then loiter into the evening for Sickle-bearing Bush-cricket and Italian Tree Cricket

And then to Isle of Man for Lesser Mottled Grasshopper if I've actually done it and cleared up on all the others. Wouldn't that be just so amazing? In July and August it costs £210 return with a car, or £49 as a foot passenger and then hire a car to travel to the sites at the southern end of the island. And kip in it that night too. Actually this could bloody well work! Wow.



  1. Sweet baby Jesus. Good luck to you. I guess I'll stick with local patch bothering for the time being!

  2. I did Southampton to Ben Lawers three times in two weeks a couple of years back. I needed Mountain Ringlet to finish off the set, I'm well used to madcap roadtrips! :)

  3. For Scaly Cricket you need to put some (dry) pit traps in the shingle around the high tide mark; bait them with fish-flavoured cat munchies and come back an hour later! I found a hardboard lid supported by pebbles worked OK. Good luck!