Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Pan-species listing - a warning!

This pan-species listing lark (no pun intended) can seriously wreck your natural history 'blueprint'. When I 'only' looked at birds, I was, without any complications, a birder. Identification of what I saw was a fairly straightforward matter and the literature needed to take on the more complicated species was both accessible and plentiful.

When I turned my attention to lepidoptera, butterflies were few (and obvious) and moths - as long as I took a circuitous path around the micros - was once again aided by clear identification guides. Even the micros were being increasingly serviced by excellent reference material on the web and in print.

Botany came a little later, but I was fortunate in having an embarrasment of books to help me out with those tricky crucifers and sedges. To sum up, with a little patience I could bird, moth and botanise without the need for much head-scratching when coming up with correct identification (although there are always some exceptions...)

Now... since I have embarked on the ambitious (foolish?) task of trying to identify every living thing that I come across, I am aware of many hurdles being placed before me.

One - problems of identification. Not all classifications have simple field guides. Some have complicated keys that require a degree to master, the use of a microscope and the ability to disect a flea's nether regions. Some of these reference works are also obscure in their whereabouts.

Two - too much information to take on board! I'm starting to drown in identification - help!!

Three - loss of knowledge already gained. If I'm being honest, I'm a worse birder, mother and botanist than I used to be as I'm diluting the time spent looking purely at these subjects. I'm increasingly  turning away from pugs and grass because, well, I frankly haven't got the time.

Talking of which, Four - time. With a career and a family, how do I fit it all in?

Five - loss of confidence. When I spend half an hour trying (unsuccessfully) to nail a moss, or have an identication that I was happy with shot down in flames, I have tended to question the foolishness of spreading myself so thinly across so many aspects of natural history.

BUT - by looking at these species that, up until now, I have trodden on, ignored or swatted, I have become even more aware of the wonders before us. I do get excited when I come across a new fungus, or a flower covered in insects. That spider in the garage gets me scrambling to pot it up and examine it.

It is, without doubt, worth some loss of what used to be stored in my brain and could be recalled with immediate effect. Our natural world is more than a passing Red Kite or a sunbathing Peacock butterfly. But be careful - if you look too closely you might just get sucked in!

5 comments:

  1. If your looking for the next group of organisms to study, I can definitely reccomend The carabids (ground beetles) here is a great key to them, the larger ones are pretty easy with a hand lands and the beetles are pretty easy to find!! http://www.nhbs.com/res_handbook_volume_4_part_2_the_carabidae_tefno_28859.html

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  2. Cheers Josh, I'll take a look. By the way, don't catch me up just yet!!!

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  3. That won't be happening anytime soon, I'm sure! If I could just spend a year botanising I think I'd get about 1000 ticks...! Plants just aren't floating my boat at the moment!

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  4. After an evening sat at my computer trying to nail the identifications of beetles, micro moths, rusts, flies, a bee, a couple of flowers and paying the rainy garden a fruitless visit in the dark for Hedgehog it was nice to be told of this post and know there is at least one other person suffering too!

    Plug away, brother!

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  5. Thanks Andrew, horribly addictive, isn't it?

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