Yesterday I had the bright idea of spring-cleaning (or should that be autumn-cleaning) my Pan-species list (PSL). If you want to find out more about this PSL madness have a look here. My PSL 'career' has been one of bursts of enthusiasm, followed by troughs of neglect, but the list has always been steadily maintained even if not actively pursued. Even before Mark Telfer launched the PSL initiative, I had already been keeping such a list (all taxa species personally recorded in the UK), and it was a pleasant surprise to find out that others were also doing so. My Top Ten listing in the first 'league' table was a false dawn as I soon started to fall down the ladder as others joined in - many of them professional ecologists. Even now, hovering around 40th position, is not a true reflection on who has seen what in the UK, as I know of many naturalists who have recorded far more than I but who do not appear.
I do not keep an all-encompassing database of what I have recorded. My written notebooks will never become bytes in a computer. All my lists are, likewise, formed of paper and ink/pencil - checks against printed checklists. For some orders (such as birds, plants, butterflies and moths) this is easy to keep up with, but for most of the other orders my totals are but a tiny fraction of what is on offer, so I have written down what I have seen on various bits of paper or in a number of guides. If I'm being honest these notes were strewn all over the place. It was time to consolidate this mess.
It took a whole morning. I cannot for the life of me find where my Annelid Worm list is - I know that I have seen six species, but which six? I gained a few ticks in some groups and lost a few in others. I am also slowly transferring my plant list from Stace 3 to Stace 4 which may alter the numbers as there has been much splitting and lumping going on.
It was an enjoyable exercise. To spend a bit of time looking at different orders reminds you that there is an awful lot of life out there that we normally ignore as we blindly trample the vegetation to get a better look at a bird. Even a modest back garden will supply you with a conveyor belt of delight. This summer, in an uncharacteristic burst of PSL enthusiasm, I spent an hour looking in our back garden and added several new species to the list. They may have been common, but that is beside the point.
A few autumns ago, and because of PSL mania, I spent quite a bit of time hunting for fungi. It was an eye-opener, not just because of what beauties were found but also because there was so much to learn. It soon became apparent that there was only so much a beginner could hope to achieve with accurate fungi identification. I did put me off looking. But after all this rain, the conditions must be good for a bumper fungi autumn. I might be tempted to look for them again.