20 December, 2013

Have Yourself a Merry Spring-mas

The Christmas holidays have come around like a train, which means that for the first time in donkey's years I've found myself back in my merry home village of London. With two weeks of free time, one would naturally go straight into planning out a healthy schedule of local winter birding trips, but at the moment I seem to be struggling to complete even the most basic of tasks associated with a civilised, well organised home life. It's almost been a week, but I still haven't gotten used to the big, scary machine in the kitchen that seems to spotlessly clean dishes- and if you want a sure fire way of scaring me out of the house, just turn on a hoover. Coming straight off campus, these new and innovative methods of cleaning are lost on me- if it's not a Kleenex tissue, it's too much hassle to use.

In between all this, I have managed to do a bit more sketching. Being the under-rated, under-recorded group of terrestrial non-insects that they are, it seemed only fair to scribble down a few of the 10 springtail species I recorded earlier in the year whilst trying to complete that extremely addictive '1000for1ksq' challenge set by Andy Musgrove. Out of the all those that could be identify without the use of a hand lens, only one species (Isotoma riparia) was anything other than ridiculously common. No matter where you look, there is likely to be a springtail utilising a niche of some sort- in tree bark, under a log, in a leaf pile or even in a pond. They're everywhere, and that is what's so great about them. 

... think I'll stick to the crayons

Just for the record, here's a short list of species found around the patch this year, with a few notes jotted down at the time:

1. Tomocerus longicornis- extremely long antennae. Found on soil heap. 
2. Orchesella villosa- very hairy, with distinctive black markings. Found under plant pot.
3. Orchesella cinta- distinctive pale band on abdomen, found under plant pot
4. Tomocerus minor- large, plain springtail found under a brick in the garden
5. Dicyrtomina saundersi- colourful 'globular' springtail found on a woodland tree stump.
6. Deuterosminthurus pallipes- Yellow 'globular' springtail, swept from meadow. 
7. Isotoma riparia- distinctive dorsal stripe, found under a wet log. Apparently localised.
8. Entomobrya albocincta- distinctive light abdomenal bands, found under tree bark.
9. Heteromurus nitidus- small, silvery springtail found under a wet log.
10. Entomobrya nivalis- Distinctively marked, swept from hawthorn tree.

Admittedly, I couldn't have even started to think about IDing this tricky group without the help of some invaluable online resources. Steve Hopkin kept up a fantastic website dedicated to springtails until his untimely death in 2006; the site has since remained open as a general resource with plenty of photographs and distribution maps for all our common species. For a more in-depth study, this huge site provides information on species from around the world, with plenty to links to photo galleries from different countries, keys, glossaries and enough general springtail facts to make you the coolest person around the dinner table on Christmas day.

12 December, 2013


Don't you hate it when you sit down to write a 2000 word report, and instead find yourself scribbling a load of random shit on bug morphology?

It's the festive season for God's sake. Why write essays when you can visit German beer festivals, eat roast potatoes and buy Jagerbombs for £1 in the local nightclub?