It must have been some time in the early 2000s that I first counted up all of the life forms that I had identified and recorded in Britain. This fledgling list was largely made up of birds, moths and plants with a few large, colourful and obvious insects thrown in for good measure. I thought of it as an enjoyable sideshow in my natural history studies, and, as a maintainer of lists rather than a chaser of them, it kept itself firmly in the background, coming out to play whenever I had a few ticks to add to it. I'm at a loss to remember the precise moment that I discovered that there were others out there that kept a similar list - maybe through an internet search or a discussion while out birding, but I soon found myself in touch with Mark Telfer, who was organising a web-site devoted to such matters with an accompanying league table of recorder's lists. I needed no second invite to post my efforts and, very briefly, found myself in the top 10 of the innaugaral table. I soon started to spiral down the ladder as more people joined in, but position was not my main interest, more the sharing of our passion and knowledge (the latter being more one way in my direction, there really were some talented people out there).
All this took off in 2012, when the photograph above was taken, at Heyshott Down in West Sussex, day two of a Pan-species Lister's (PSL) get together. It was here that I first met Mark, Graeme Lyons and Mark Skevington, all still listing and all still blogging. It was a revelation, walking with people who couldn't put one foot in front of the other before finding yet another obscure species of moss/lichen/insect. I had a lot to learn.
For maybe three years I took to the PSL way of life, spending my time in the field trying to identify everything that I came across. Of course I had limitations - a lack of insect keys, a misunderstanding of how easy it would be to identify fungi (they are difficult!) and a need for calm dedication to master even a small group of species. I soldiered on, sometimes going along on organised forays into the field for fungi, bryophytes and insects (often in the company of Graeme and Seth Gibson), which I throughly enjoyed but must admit to feeling a little empty afterwards, as a notebook full of Latin names is not the most satisfying way of remembering what you saw. I gradually withdrew, not giving up for good, still adding to the list now and again. I spent my time more focused on my core interests of birds, plants and moths.
Graeme Lyons recently announced that BUBO listing was creating a PSL list on their renowned website, which would see the existing PSL website close. You can read Graeme's article here. I wasn't sure that I could be bothered with transferring my almost 4,000 species over and wondered whether my PSL days were over, but I thought that I would take a look... and I'm glad that I did!
Firstly, the team behind this enterprise deserve huge congratulations. It is so easy (and quick) to populate your lists, with a fast and intuitive build. I have had few issues so far (apart from losing the odd species which is most probably due to lumping). I have so far uploaded 2400+ species and have only 1500+ species of plant to go - I will take my time over these as I'm sure that I have not added all that can be counted! There are a number of features to play with, such as being able to see how many observers have seen a certain species, who has recorded the most of every order and being able to create a list of targets. It has, without a doubt, rekindled my interest in the PSL world.
And this PSL world is not all about numbers. It is, to my mind, a celebration of the wealth of wildlife to be found across these islands and of a sharing in our enjoyment and knowledge. It also encourages us to get out there and record. I found myself dusting down a few basic guides to churchyard lichens this week and hot-footing it to the gravestones at Mickleham. I reckon, in all good faith, I added six species to my PSL list...