02 November, 2015

Lists, and my fragile relationship with them

I've had a love hate relationship with pan-species listing since I started doing it in late 2012. When I have a lot of free time, I love it. During my gap year I'd spend a lot of time at Stokes Field, taking photos of every insect, plant or fungi I found and then staying up until stupid o'clock identifying them all. Over time I began to learn more about taxonomic groups I'd never usually look at, and I got a little buzz from the satisfying feeling that came with securing the identification of something particularly obscure and tricky.

On the other hand, when I don't have the time or enthusiasm to scratch my head over the front femurs of a Polydrusus weevil, a backlog starts to form that can be hard to keep on top of. I've been experiencing said pan-species lull for a while - not having entered a record since June 2014 according to the PSL website.

9 out of 37 pages worth of lists.


A bout of competitive curiosity last week had me wondering just how extensive my list had become since then. There wasn't an easy way to work it out - a lot of wildlife-related things have happened since June 2014, and I spent several long nights trawling through all my photos and notes from Skokholm, Mull, Eigg and the like; picking out every species I possibly could and adding them to the list.

I hit the 2000 species milestone on Wednesday night with Elachista albidella - a tiny micro moth found in a bog on Mull - and the common hoverfly Eupoedes luniger became number 2001 the next morning; six months after I photographed it in the garden on a sunny spring afternoon.

Elachista albidella

Eupoedes luniger

How long this spell of listing enthusiasm will last, I'm not sure. The PSL recorders' league table is fun, but it doesn't interest me as much as learning about the species itself. As soon as I find myself listing for the sake of climbing up the rankings, I'll know it's probably time to give it a break again.

8 comments:

Dylan Wrathall said...

Bill - welcome to the real world! As much as I admire any individual's efforts to push the boundaries of their knowledge - competition has no place in the enjoyment of our natural world. It is a demeaning, OCD, insult to the bio-diversity on offer to each and everyone of us.
Records are all well and good, but not the reason for going out and looking at our wildlife, in whatever guise. You're at the beginning of your journey, I'm getting close to the end of mine, the thrill of new discovery never diminishes - choose how you deal with it, as you feel fit. Don't beat yourself up over not doing this, or that, with the records you've accrued - they really won't make too much difference in the bigger scheme of things.
Take care and keep blogging - Dylan

Steve Gale said...

Hi Bill, what Dylan said, but not a strongly...

Tristan Bantock said...

PSL is just a fun way of realising your own progress, rather than competing with others, although I get the OCD bit! I worked out my totals for the 2 groups I know most about out of curiosity and then couldn't resist posting them...

Ali said...

PSL is kind of what I've been doing anyway, trying to catalogue the species present on my reserve. I like that it additionally motivates you to look at new things and take on new groups. The one downside is that concentration on breadth can result in lack of depth, though you could call obsession with one group monomania if you wanted

Though I'm not so much interested in competition I disagree about its lack of utility. Competition has as many benefits as co-operation. When people spur each other on they become better at what they do.

Gibster said...

Hiya Bill, what Ali said, but stronger. Ignore the troll at the top ;)

Peter Alfrey said...

I've got up to something like 1200 species at Beddington but beginning to rediscover that just like with birds once you get through the main characteristic species its into a big pile of time consuming cryptic stuff and into the realms of subjectivity after that. I'm becoming an increasing fan of collective knowledge- just knowing where to go if I want to find out what something is (and sharing what I know) or collecting the data as a group- so the site list approach in addition to the individual listing approach. Agree with the others on healthy competition and good co-operation too and also the perils of listing and obsession (I've seen serious and genuinely upsetting cases- Steve will know what I mean :-/).

Jane Stanford said...

Hi, Bill! Eupoedes luniger is so beautiful! Thanks for updating the blog! I like reading it and following your thoughts.
Cheers,
Jane
Commented on Birds and Other Animals - www.writers-house.com

Bill Dykes said...

Thanks for stopping by Jane!