Tuesday 3 January 2023

Biological Recording and PSL Review 2022

2022 has been another great year for biological recording. I’ve seen lots of amazing species, many new for me, but I’ve moved away slightly from the PSL approach. I still enjoy the listing aspect of biological recording but I am taking a more focused approach in terms of taxonomic groups. The vast majority of my additions this year are Diptera and vascular plants with a significant amount of Lepidoptera and very little of anything else. Still, I’ve added 581 new species, starting the year on 5241 and ending on 5822. Below is a breakdown of some of my highlights of 2022.

Vascular plants

I recorded 141 new plants in 2022 taking me to 1779 species in total. Many of these were in the New Forest where I spent a lot of my time in the spring and summer. New species in and around the forest included Eriophorum gracile (Slender Cottongrass), Persicaria minor (Small Water-pepper), Hammarbya paludosa (Bog Orchid), Ulmus sativa, Gladiolus illyricus (Wild Gladiolus), Persicaria mitis (Tasteless Water-pepper), Lotus subbiflorus (Hairy Bird's-foot-trefoil), Lobelia urens (Heath Lobelia), Taraxacum ciliare, Spartina alterniflora (Smooth Cord-grass), Sagittaria latifolia (Duck-potato), Eleocharis acicularis (Needle Spike-rush), Pulmonaria longifolia (Narrow-leaved Lungwort), Briza minor (Lesser Quaking-grass), Cyperus fuscus (Brown Galingale), Lotus angustissimus (Slender Bird's-foot-trefoil), Eleocharis parvula (Dwarf Spike-rush), Atriplex longipes (Long-stalked Orache), Galium constrictum (Slender Marsh-bedstraw), Cicendia filiformis (Yellow Centaury) and Rosa tomentella (Round-leaved Dog-rose).

Lobelia urens

Taraxacum ciliare

Pulmonaria longifolia

An early spring visit to East Anglia added Herniaria glabra (Smooth Rupturewort), Veronica praecox (Breckland Speedwell) and Veronica triphyllos (Fingered Speedwell) on the classic Thetford housing estate embankment as well as Pulmonaria obscura (Suffolk Lungwort) in a Suffolk woodland and Muscari neglectum (Grape-hyacinth) in the Brecks.

Pulmonaria obscura

My first ever visit to the Isle of Wight added Gentianella anglica (Early Gentian), Orobanche purpurea (Yarrow Broomrape), Orobanche picridis (Oxtongue Broomrape) and Gaudinia fragilis (French Oat-grass) around Freshwater as well as Pilosella peleteriana subsp. peleteriana (Shaggy Mouse-ear-hawkweed) at Tennyson Down. While not new Melampyrum arvense (Field Cow-wheat) was also looking its best.

Pilosella peleteriana subsp. peleteriana

Melampyrum arvense

A birthday trip to the Mendips and surrounding area added Hieracium angustisquamum, Galium pumilum (Slender Bedstraw), Noccaea caerulescens (Alpine Penny-cress), Potentilla argentea (Hoary Cinquefoil) and Hieracium cyathis around Ubley and Blackmoor. A stop at Harptree added Campanula patula (Spreading Bellflower) while a stop on the Somerset levels added Bolboschoenus laticarpus. A final stop at Fivehead arable reserve added Ranunculus arvensis (Corn Buttercup), Vicia parviflora (Slender Tare), Euphorbia platyphyllos (Broad-leaved Spurge), Torilis arvensis (Spreading Hedge-parsley) and Valerianella rimosa (Broad-fruited Cornsalad).


A weekend in Kent added Ophrys fuciflora (Late Spider-orchid) at Crete Road, Orchis purpurea (Lady Orchid) along with the potentially distinct Kent woodland taxon of Platanthera bifolia (Lesser Butterfly-orchid) at Covert Wood; Carex vulpina (True Fox-sedge) and Carex elongata (Elongated Sedge) at Marden and Scandix pecten-veneris (Shepherd's-needle) in a carpark near Dungeness. A quick stop in Sussex on the way home added Phyteuma spicatum (Spiked Rampion) at Hadlow Down.

Carex vulpina

Ophrys fuciflora

A few days in East Anglia for the Dipterists Forum summer meeting also provided the chance to catch up with a few plants. Stops in the Brecks added Descurainia sophia (Flixweed), Alyssum alyssoides (Small Alison), Phleum phleoides (Purple-stem Cat's-tail), Petrorhagia prolifera (Proliferous Pink), Artemisia campestris (Field Wormwood), Silene otites (Spanish Catchfly) and Thymus serpyllum (Breckland Thyme). Verbascum pulverulentum (Hoary Mullein) was abundant around Norwich as was Corynephorus canescens (Grey Hair-grass) on the dunes at Winterton. 

A meandering trip back from East Anglia included stops in the Chilterns for  Cephalanthera rubra (Red Helleborine), Surrey for Damasonium alisma (Starfruit), East Sussex for Seseli libanotis (Moon Carrot) and Bupleurum baldense (Small Hare's-ear) and West Sussex for Petrorhagia nanteuilii (Childing Pink).

Petrorhagia nanteuilii

Seseli libanotis

Damasonium alisma

Two trips to Amberly in Sussex over the summer added Leersia oryzoides (Cut-grass), Alisma lanceolatum (Narrow-leaved Water-plantain) and Potamogeton acutifolius (Sharp-leaved Pondweed).

A second consecutive year visiting Scilly for the Pelagics added a few species I’d missed in 2021 including Phymatosorus diversifolius (Kangaroo Fern) and Fumaria occidentalis (Western Ramping-fumitory). A quick stop in the pouring rain and near dark on the drive back also added Pyrus cordata (Plymouth Pear)

Fumaria occidentalis

A late summer work trip to Glasgow provided the opportunity to take a few days off and visit some southwestern Scottish specialities. Firstly, after a long struggle through marshy grassland and hybrids at Low Mains I managed to find what seems to be  pure Rumex aquaticus (Scottish Dock). A quick stop on the way from the dock to the Arran ferry added Juncus filiformis (Thread Rush) at Barcraigs Reservoir. The pilgrimage to the Arran whitebeams was successful with all three species seen,namely: Sorbus arranensis (Arran Whitebeam), Sorbus pseudofennica (Arran Service-tree) and Sorbus pseudomeinichii (False Rowan). Finally I added Atriplex praecox (Early Orache) on a beach at the north of the island.

An early autumn trip to Essex added Atriplex pedunculata (Pedunculate Sea-purslane) abundant in its only extant site as well as Clinopodium calamintha (Lesser Calamint) on a road verge. A quick stop at Darenth on the way home also added Eryngium campestre (Field Eryngo).

Other additions through the year included Polygonum maritimum (Sea Knotgrass) at Sandy Point on Hayling; Ajuga chamaepitys (Ground-pine) at Colley Hill in Surrey and Ranunculus ophioglossifolius (Adder's-tongue Spearwort) at Badgeworth.

Ajuga chamaepitys


The obvious highlight was an adult female Decticus verrucivorus (Wart biter) at Castle Hill NNR in Sussex in the late summer.

Another impressive Orthopteroid was Acanthoxyla prasina subsp. geisovii (Prickly Stick-insect) at Old Town on St Mary’s.

Acanthoxyla prasina subsp. geisovii

I also caught up with three new Orthoptera in the New forest, namely: Chorthippus vagans (Heath Grasshopper), Nemobius sylvestris (Wood Cricket) and Tetrix ceperoi (Cepero's Ground hopper).


I joined one of the organised trips to visit the recently discovered colony of Coenagrion scitulum (Dainty Damselfly) at Sandwich and added a bonus Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter) at the same time. The only other Odonata addition was an overdue Aeshna isosceles (Norfolk Hawker) on the Dipterists Forum summer meeting in the Broads.


Diptera were again the main focus for the year. I ended the year on 1348 species having added 276 new species. Highlights were too many to detail fully here but among them were recording two species new for the UK seeing one of the UK’s most charismatic hoverflies and recording a wide range of rare species on the Dipterists Forum summer meeting in Norfolk. 

The first of my two new species for the UK was actually collected in 2021 in Scotland but not looked at until early in 2022. This was the rather boring looking tiny Agromyzid fly Chromatomyia isicae which was only picked up as new when Barry Warrington queried my images on iRecord. The second new fly was a Eumerus narcissi, a hoverfly collected on Scilly. Papers detailing both these finds have been submitted and will hopefully be published in the new year. 

Probably the most exciting fly was the large, rare and beautiful dead-wood associated hoverfly Caliprobola speciosa seen in its stronghold in the New Forest.


Caliprobola speciosa

Collecting in the Broads and Dunes in Norfolk on the DF summer meeting produced some choice flies perhaps the best of which was the small Chamaemyiidae fly Parochthiphila spectabilis collected at Upton Broad. This was a new site for this rare (pNear Threatened) fen associated species. 

There are also a few outstanding mysteries requiring more investigation which include a Agromyzid potentially new to science from the New Forest and a confusing Platypalpus from the Broads.


A trip to the Isle of Wight added Melitaea cinxia (Glanville Fritillary) in good numbers at Freshwater. Having refused to twitch Satyrium w-album (White Letter Hairstreak) on the assumption that I would catch up with one eventually that day finally came at Pagham in the summer. My other addition was Papilio machaon (Swallowtail) in the Broads.


I added quite a few moths in 2022, 78 to be exact. I ended the year on 1064 species making moths my third group with over 1000 species. 

I only added a few new macros at home on Hayling Island. These were:

  • Cyclophora punctaria Maiden's Blush

  • Eupithecia intricata Freyer's Pug

  • Eupithecia simpliciata Plain Pug

  • Eupithecia ultimaria Channel Islands Pug

  • Arctia villica Cream-spot Tiger

  • Arenostola phragmitidis Fen Wainscot

  • Pechipogo plumigeralis Plumed Fan-foot

Arctia villica (Cream-spot Tiger)

New macros elsewhere included 

  • Macrochilo cribrumalis Dotted Fan-foot Barton Fen, Norfolk

  • Adscita statices Forester Cranwich Camp, Norfolk

  • Coscinia cribraria Speckled Footman Dungeness, Kent

  • Thalera fimbrialis Sussex Emerald Dungeness, Kent 

  • Pyropteron chrysidiformis Fiery Clearwing Folkestone, Kent

  • Comibaena bajularia Blotched Emerald Sissinghurst, Kent

  • Hypomecis roboraria Great Oak Beauty Mark  Ash Wood, New Forest

  • Simyra albovenosa Reed Dagger Barton Fen, Norfolk

Simyra albovenosa (Reed Dagger)

Hypomecis roboraria (Great Oak Beauty)

I added quite a few micros from my garden trap or elsewhere on Hayling. These included:

  • Coleophora alcyonipennella

  • Yponomeuta rorrella

  • Tinea trinotella

  • Coleophora atriplicis

  • Elachista triatomea

  • Borkhausenia fuscescens

  • Teleiodes vulgella

  • Carpatolechia fugitivella

  • Phtheochroa rugosana

  • Gynnidomorpha vectisana

  • Cochylis molliculana

  • Lozotaeniodes formosanus

  • Acleris ferrugana

  • Acleris schalleriana

  • Crocidosema plebejana

  • Spilonota ocellana

  • Clavigesta purdeyi

  • Enarmonia formosana

  • Grapholita funebrana

  • Platytes cerussella

  • Galleria mellonella

  • Ancylosis oblitella

  • Vitula biviella

  • Agdistis bennetii

Off the island I added a decent number of other new micros most of which were bycatch while sweeping for flies. Non-Hayling micros included:

  • Coleophora virgaureae Hudder Down, Cornwall

  • Sorhagenia rhamniella Cranwich Camp, Norfolk

  • Thiodia citrana Cranwich Camp, Norfolk

  • Oxyptilus parvidactylus Cranwich Camp, Norfolk

  • Aroga velocella Icklingham Triangle, Suffolk 

  • Cydia fagiglandana Mark Ash Wood, New Forest

  • Nephopterix angustella Natural History Museum Gardens 

  • Pammene gallicana Ports Down, Hampshire

  • Opogona omoscopa Garrison Campsite, St Mary’s, Scilly

  • Pediasia contaminella Garrison Campsite, St Mary’s, Scilly

  • Dolicharthria punctalis Garrison Campsite, St Mary’s, Scilly

  • Elachista subalbidella Widden Bottom, New Forest

  • Buckleria paludum Widden Bottom, New Forest

  • Caryocolum alsinella Winterton Dunes, Norfolk

  • Cochylis pallidana Winterton Dunes, Norfolk

  • Homoeosoma nimbella Winterton Dunes, Norfolk

Dolicharthria punctalis


A visit to Ventnor on the Isles of Wight provided good views of Common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) my only new reptile for the year.


Again, unexpectedly, fish feature on this list, with one of the highlights of the year being the huge mobile feeding frenzies of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) chased down on one of the Scilly Pelagics.

Another Scilly Pelagic fish highlight was good views of a number of different Blue Shark (Prionace glauca) attracted to the chum bag as well as brief views of the fin of a Porbeagle (Lamna nasus).



The obvious highlight was finally catching up with Wilson's Petrel on the third day of three Scilly Pelagics. Having more or less resigned myself to a second year of Wilson’s-free pelagic to get them on the final day was one of the most exciting moments of the year. On top of that the pelagics were packed with other great birds including unbelievable numbers of Great Shearwater (Ardenna gravis) and Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris borealis), multiple encounters with an adult Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) and well as Sabine's gull (Xema sabini) and Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius). Two of my other lifers were also on this trip with a lucky encounter with Spotted Crake on Tresco and a Balearic Shearwater on the Scillonian on the way back.

Laughing Gull

Finally seeing Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in East Anglia after numerous failed attempts in the New Forest was both a highlight and a relief. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to add my other main target, Stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) though I did hear them on a freezing cold night camping in the Brecks early in the spring. 

Other additions were a few more or less local twitches including the remarkable Oxon Nighthawk.

New in 2022 were:

  • Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor

  • Spotted Crake Porzana porzana

  • Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis

  • Wilson's Petrel Oceanites oceanicus

  • Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus

  • Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides*

  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor*

  • American Robin Turdus migratorius

All by two of these (asterisked above) were also Western Palearctic ticks 

Western Palearctic

My only other new Western Palearctic birds were on a trip to SW Bulgaria in June. Overall I recorded 68 species in a week of which four were new:


  • Black Stork Ciconia nigra

  • Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius

  • Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus

  • Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Iduna pallida

Grey-headed Woodpecker


A much delayed trip to Guatemala finally got off the ground in January. Being my first experience of visiting or birding anywhere in the Americas it was amazing but, at times, overwhelming. I mostly birded independently but did hire a guide for two days at the end of the trip to target Horned Guan and Azure-rumped Tanager around Lake Atitlan. Overall I recorded 201 species of which 178 were new. I could have seen many more with further guiding or previous experience of neotropical birds but I enjoyed discovering stuff for myself and the unfamiliar feeling of not having any idea what many things were and having to flick through the book. 

I started in Tikal NP among the extensive lowland rainforest and Mayan temples. Some of the highlights here were Orange-breasted Falcon after a long wait in the mist on their nesting temple, Purple-crowned Fairy, roosting Boat-billed Herons, Great Tinamou and the plastic-feeling Ocellated Turkey population in the carpark. Being the first stop pretty much everything was new and it was particularly nice to see a range of nearctic warblers previously thought of as near-unattainable vagrants in UK bird guides.

Ocellated Turkey

Great Tinamou

Orange-breasted Falcon in the mist

The second stop was at El Remate on Lago Peten Itza where nice species included Lesson's Motmot and Gartered Trogon as well as wetland birds like Ringed Kingfisher.  

Moving to the weird, dusty surf village of El Paredon provided a range of species of dry places such as Stripe-headed Sparrow and Rufous-naped Wren as well as access to the Sipacate Naranjo National Park with a wide range of wetland birds including nearctic waders. 

Stripe-headed Sparrow

The final area visited was around Lake Atitlan where thanks to the assistance of a great guide I succeeded in seeing Horned Guan and Azure-rumped Tanager as well as lots of other great species including a pair of Resplendent Quetzal, a perched Ornate Hawk-Eagle and good views of a Fulvous Owl. 

Fulvous Owl

Resplendent Quetzal male

Resplendent Quetzal female

Ornate Hawk-Eagle

Blue-throated Motmot

My full eBird checklists for the trip are here: Sam Thomas - eBird     


Some of my favourite species from the trip were:

Tikal NP

  • Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus

  • Ocellated Turkey Meleagris ocellata

  • Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius

  • Red-capped Manakin Ceratopipra mentalis

  • Slaty-tailed Trogon  Trogon massena

  • Russet-naped Wood-Rail Aramides albiventris

  • Eye-ringed Flatbill Rhynchostylis brevirostris

  • Black-headed Trogon Trogon melanocephalus

  • Great Tinamou Tinamus major

  • Purple-crowned Fairy Heliothryx barroti

  • Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius

El Remate, Lago Peten Itza

  • Lesson's Motmot Momotus lessonii

  • Golden-crowned Warbler Basileuterus culicivorus

  • Stub-tailed Spadebill Platyrinchus cancrominus

  • Gartered Trogon Trogon caligatus

  • Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata

El Paredon / Sipacate Naranjo National Park

  • Stripe-headed Sparrow Peucaea ruficauda

  • Rufous-naped Wren Campylorhynchus rufinucha

  • Cinnamon Hummingbird Amazilia rutila

Lake Atitlan and surrounding area

  • Ornate Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus ornatus

  • Resplendent Quetzal Pharomachrus mocinno

  • Azure-rumped Tanager Poecilostreptus cabanisi

  • Fulvous Owl Strix fulvescens

  • Horned Guan Oreophasis derbianus

  • Black-vented Oriole Icterus wagleri

  • White-naped Brushfinch Atlapetes albinucha

  • Azure-crowned Hummingbird Saucerottia cyanocephala

  • Cabanis's Wren Cantorchilus modestus

  • Crescent-chested Warbler Oreothlypis superciliosa

  • Rufous-collared Robin Turdus rufitorques

  • Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush Catharus frantzii

  • Spot-crowned Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes affinis

  • Rivoli's Hummingbird Eugenes fulgens

  • Hooded Grosbeak Coccothraustes abeillei

  • Elegant Euphonia Chlorophonia elegantissima

  • Guatemalan Tyrannulet Zimmerius vilissimus

  • Flame-colored Tanager Piranga bidentata

  • Mountain Trogon Trogon mexicanus

  • Singing Quail Dactylortyx thoracicus

  • Golden-browed Warbler Basileuterus belli

  • Bushy-crested Jay Cyanocorax melanocyaneus

  • Green-throated Mountain-gem Lampornis viridipallens

  • Blue-crowned Chlorophonia Chlorophonia occipitalis

  • Blue-throated Motmot Aspatha gularis

  • Violet Sabrewing Campylopterus hemileucurus

  • Emerald-chinned Hummingbird Abeillia abeillei

  • Rufous Sabrewing Pampa rufa

Targets for 2023

I’ve set myself a more modest target for next year with an aim to reach 6358 by adding 536 species. I’ve removed targets for many of the groups that I haven’t recorded this year but included some ambitious targets for my key groups. Specific targets for 2023 include finally seeing a Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), catching up with two of my last remaining UK butterflies: High Brown Fritillary (Fabriciana adippe) and Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus). I’ve booked a trip to Teesdale and will also hopefully get to visit the Channel Islands for the first time and Scotland again. In April I’m planning on visiting São Tomé and Príncipe so I should get some good endemic birds.

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