Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Not good enough yet

Bonfire Moss - thanks Andrew!

I seem to get to this same point at least twice a year - get all 'pan-species' keen but then get knocked-back and re-group my natural history interests. The culprit, again, is moss.

There is a rather fine field guide - Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland - published by the British Bryological Society. I've got a copy and quite often flick through it. I've even taken it out into the field with me, together with an eye-glass and plastic bags to gather mossy samples in. The book alerts you to one of the problems that any budding bryologist will face, that of enormous diversity and plenty of similar looking species. My efforts to identify what I find to species level has been, quite frankly, poor.

In some ways this doesn't seem to bother me with mosses. I quite often wander through damp woodland and marvel at the sheer profusion of them and can appreciate the differing shades of green and the varying forms. But as for 100% identification? No.

This pan-listing lark is really just that - a lark. Getting involved in its murky world has made me look at orders that ordinarily I wouldn't have got involved with, and that can only be a good thing. For example, for every 40 or 50 similar small black beetles there is a big, colourful whopper - and most of these I can put a name to.

My 'core' interests - birds, plants and moths - are time consuming enough without the loss of several days to trying to become a poor bryologist. And if I'm being honest my proficiency with my core interests is ebbing away whilst doing so. I've come to a decision...

Without jacking in the pan-species concept, I need to spend 90% of my natural history time birding, botanising and mothing, and get back to the levels of competence that I once had. If, in passing, an insect or fungus catches my attention, then I will attempt to record it and identify it. But to keep the pan-species flame flickering, I do intend to seek help in tackling the 'difficult' groups. I am planning on attending a bryophyte field trip on Epsom Common later in the month. Plus I have been in contact with the West Weald Fungus Recording Group and will join them on a field trip or two prior to hopefully becoming a member. Both of these will allow me to be shown - by experts - the best ways in which to gain proficiency in the respective orders. It is moss and fungi that taunt me more than other life forms. They promise a bountiful harvest (not literally in my case as I don't gather either) but identifying them with certainty is some way off.


  1. It looks remarkably like Funaria hygrometrica.

    1. It does look like a match Andrew, thank you. Tortula, my ar...

  2. Steve, come to Ditchling Beacon before the winter is over and I can show you some very nice memorable chalk-grassland mosses. A manageable amount of about 15-20 quite distinctive species. Plus some really nice inverts wintering among them! Pick a date and I'm all yours!

  3. Graeme, that's a very kind offer. I will be in touch...

  4. Make it a Wed or Thus and it could be a merry threesome....