Graham Lyons posed the following question in his latest post - could he tick a potted Red-headed Chestnut on show at a moth group meeting? He suggested not and for what it's worth I agree with him. However, it opens up a dilemma attached to any listing that we might get involved in, and that is one of having clear rules to what we can - and cannot - count on a list.
I have two rules for listing. The first is that I can count whatever I want to on my closed, private list. Rule two is that if I keep a competitive list, where other peoples lists are also taken into consideration, then I need to abide by the rules of that particular group. For example, the Beddington Birders maintain a league table of birds seen on the site. On this list I have not included Common Redpoll, because when I saw my only Beddington sighting in 1980 I did not submit it, so it was never formally accepted. Only formally accepted records count on the league table. My private Beddington list does include it.
More extreme is the fact that my private British bird list includes a species not even on the British list. I was one of a handful of observers of the 1989 Dungeness White-cheeked Tern. It wasn't accepted by the BBRC and I abide by that judgement when it comes to comparable listing even though I'm convinced it was one. It sits quietly on my personal British list but not my pan-species list.
Back to the potted moth conundrum. If you are inspecting a moth trap with a friend, who finds a Crimson Speckled at rest nearby on a bush, you would walk over and tick it. The same situation, where your friend pots up a Crimson Speckled out of your eyesight and then presents it to you would, I suggest, end up with you ticking it. But what if he was a mile away from the trap site and brought it to you? Or phoned you up from his house and invited you over to see it? What if you lived next door to him - would that be different to having a twenty mile drive to see it? What if it had been potted in a fridge for a day? Two days? There are many shades of grey to this situation, which probably exposes the futility of ticking and keeping lists in the first place...
Ladybirds (Coccinellidae) of Britain and Ireland by Helen Roy, Peter Brown, Robert Frost and Remy Poland. You need never sweat over ladybird identification again and gives a bang up to date account of the status and distribution of these popular beetles.Available from all natural history book websites now.