ColSoc Wigtownshire Field Meeting 19th-23rd June 2023

Meal at Newton Stewart ©Bruce Phillip

The Coleopterists Society of Britain and Ireland (ColSoc), held its first Scotland field visit, to Wigtownshire (Vice County 74), in June this year. We chose Wigtownshire because the vice county’s terrestrial beetles are generally under-recorded and also because the county sits in an important strategic location. Situated at the western end of the Solway Firth it is a gateway to the colonisation of the Clyde coast and we were hoping to find southern species that might be extending their ranges northwards. It certainly didn’t disappoint in terms of scenery and habitats with everything from woodland to blanket bogs being visited. As with most other part of the country the ongoing dry weather affected insect numbers and beetles were scarcer than we might have hoped but, on a more positive note, everyone enjoyed the sunshine.  The participants were fairly scattered across the area and it was not possible to find a suitable venue where everyone could meet each night to discuss the day’s efforts but we did manage to get most people together for a meal in Newton Stewart.

A good turnout of 19 ColSoc supporters attended the visit for all or part of the week representing a wide variety of experience and expertise and coming from as far away as Somerset and Wester Ross. It was particularly encouraging to welcome a group of students from Reading University who were unfailingly keen and cheerful and helped to lower the average age of the group! We were also joined by four people from the Natural History Museum in London who are involved with the Darwin Tree of Life Project (DToL). Their goal is to map the genomes of all of Britain’s eucaryote organisms (ie animals, plants, fungi etc). This is a huge and daunting project that requires the freezing of live, identified specimens, which is not easy for some of the smaller and trickier species but hopefully we made some valuable contributions.

This is a brief summary of the week’s activities but at this stage we have not collated the details of all the identifications so the following accounts refer mainly to species that I caught myself. A full list will be made available to SWSEIC and uploaded on to iRecord in due course but even at this early stage there have been some interesting finds. In addition to the main sites listed below many other sites were visited by individuals or other groups, including some light trapping courtesy of one of Mark Pollitt’s light traps.

Monday 19th – Wood of Cree and Barclye Wood

Not actually in Vice County 74 but too good a site to miss. The weather was very damp in the morning but cleared in the afternoon. One bit of drama was an unusually markedLeptura which some thought was aurulenta, and therefore new to Scotland, but inevitably it proved to be the much commoner quadrifasciata. My highlight was the click beetle Hemicrepidus hirtus which may be a new record for Wigtownshire. 


Tuesday 20th- Carghidown Coast SSSI and eat Luce Bay

This splendid strip of coast held a lot of promise but, unfortunately, much of the vegetation at the top of the shingle was very dry and brown and beetles were rather thin on the ground. Further north was more productive with an apparently first Wigtownshire record for the Tenebrionid beetle Lagria hirta and also a second Wigtown and Scotland record for the very attractive Melyrid Psilothrix viridicoerulea. With the first Scottish record for this beetle coming only last year, from Port Logan, this is perhaps one of the species that is shifting its range northwards.


Wednesday 21st – Crook of Baldoon (am) and Flow of Dergoals (pm)

Crystal Maw and Ivan Lang welcomed us to the Crook and, with tide being out, we were able to get well out onto the saltmarsh and mudflats. The new wildflower planting adjacent to the car park produced a lot of small ‘Apion’ weevils while out on the mud lots of shiny Bembidion varium ground beetles were scurrying about in the sunshine. Just to prove that we look at other things a water stick insect (Ranatra linearis), possibly the third record for Scotland, was found in one of the ponds.

The Flow was much harder work and we had to scramble over an area of old clear felling to get to the bog surface. A blanket bog was a new experience for most of the students and the DToL people and the going here was not much easier. Once again beetles were fairly scarce but the pretty leaf beetle Cryptocephalus labiatus was an interesting find and may also be new for Wigtownshire.


Thursday 22nd – Torrs Warren

This huge area of dunes and grassland is managed by QinetiQ for the Ministry of Defence and used as a training ground for the armed forces and we were very warmly welcomed by the staff. The area is so large that it is not possible to do it justice in one day but the mix of of sandy coast, dune grassland, wetland and ponds provided many opportunities in spite of the dry conditions.

Torrs Warren ©Bruce Philip


Friday 23rd – Mull of Galloway and Aldouran Glen

The Mull was very wet and windy and most of the group opted for the café but a few brave souls ventured out to see what they could find. Some beetles were taken in the area around the Mull but to date I have not heard what was caught.

Aldouran Glen is managed by the Woodland Trust and is one of the best bits of semi-natural woodland in the Vice County although a wet Friday is not the best day to visit. The highlight was a probable record of the rove beetle Philonthus tenuicornis which could again be a new species for the Vice County. The record for the largest species however was for Gruffalus horridus!

I look forward to circulating full species lists when all the identification work has been done. I am sure that there will be several new species for Wigtownshire and quite probably new species for Scotland.  For the moment I, personally, would like to thank the many local people who have helped with the organisation of the event, particularly Mark and Peter at SWSEIC, all the RSPB staff, Malcolm Haddow (ex Biosphere), Karl Munday (NatureScot), the Woodland Trust, the staff at QinetiQ and all the landowners who were happy to have us on their land.

Bruce Philp

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