Can I count it? Er, sometimes...
|Sussex Emerald - fortunately seen away from pots and fridges|
Recently, within the pan-species listing community, there has been some discussion as to the rules and regulations behind what is acceptable as a lifer. For example, is it enough to identify (and count) a leaf-mine (without seeing the life-form that actually created it?). Should you be allowed to 'have' a moth that someone shows you in a pot in a fridge? Can you count a bird that is only seen whilst being ringed? And does it all matter?
If you are part of a professional enterprise, if you are taking part in an competition or are a member of an organised society, then you are agreeing to abide by the rules and regulations of that body. When you play such 'sport' there are agreed rules to adhere to, to ensure that the playing field is a level one and that any result and resulting league table has credibility and meaning.
With pan-listing (at the moment), there does exist a list of rules but comes with an understanding that all those who are taking part in it are given leeway to amend these to their own way of thinking. Therefore, the pan-listing rules are there to act as a guidance and are not set in stone.
There are voices within this community that have no truck, for example, with potted moths. Where do I stand? A bit confused if truth be told. I have seen plenty of moths in pots (particularly at Dungeness) that I have not seen anywhere else. I don't intend to give these up soon - they include such beauties as Death's-head and Spurge Hawk-moths. But now we come onto semantics...
Scenario 1: you are out with a friend running your MV trap in a wood. You have a number of pots at the ready. It soon gets busy, so you are both keeping an eye on what's coming into the trap. As you are chasing down an interesting micro, your friend comes up to you with a pot (your pot!) and shows you a moth that he caught that was flying around the trap (your trap!) - it's a Triangle. You've never seen one before. Do you count it?
Scenario 2: same wood, same friend, except they've set up their own trap two hundred yards away. You keep an eye on your own traps. He wanders down to you after a while to show you a Triangle that he's potted up. Do you count it?
Scenario 3: after your trapping session you return home, where your partner (long gone to bed) has left you a note on the table. It reads: 'Interesting moth flew into kitchen. I've put it in one of your pots and it's in the fridge'. You check it - it's a Clifden Nonpareil! Your house, your pot - do you count it?
Scenario 4: a neighbour (who knows of your interest in moths) tells you that he found a big colourful moth and has put it in a box for you to look at. You go and have a look - it's a Clifden Nonpareil! You know what I'm going to say - do you count it?
Call me a naturalist lacking in moral fibre if you like, but I would count the moth in any of the examples above. But even here there are increments of unacceptability. I have been shown some stunning, live, rare and potted moths that I haven't 'ticked' and this is because they were not at their place of capture (ie a lovely Marsh Carpet, fresh from the fens but shown to me on Ashtead Common!) So am I talking about a minimum distance for a potted moth to be transported that will allow its acceptance onto my list? My mate's MV trap 200 yards away was fine, but what about 2,000 yards? Or two miles? Doesn't this just show up the absurdity of it all?
There are entomologists out there who only count moths that they have trapped themselves. They can even be leaning over a friends MV and see a 'lifer' settled on an egg box and they still won't count it! This is going too far the other way in my opinion.
What really matters in the long run is that any recording of a species is a valuable record, as long as that record is entered into a database and is correctly identified. Whether it came from a pot, a fridge, a bed-post or Auntie Flo's left leg is of no consequence.