Clean sheets

A fresh start today as I've been guilty of listing for the sake of listing. It's not a new phenomenon - when I was a keen birder I wanted to see 400 species before I was 30. I'm now nearly 50 and have still only seen 319 species as I completely lost interest in the futility of chasing around after birds found by other people. I admit that I was aiming to have seen 5000 species by the time I'm 50, but that's not going to happen either. Whilst I've seen some fabulous species this year thanks to the generosity of others sharing information, even Late Spider Orchid and Tansy Beetle have been knocked into a cocked hat by finding my own Scarce Fungus Weevil, and Dicranocephalus agilis in a new site representing a huge range expansion. 



Tansy Beetle          Scarce Fungus Beetle

I fell into the habit of recording for the sake of getting new species. When (or if) it gets to going to field meetings just to list things other people find and identify or spending days driving miles to see one rare species found by someone else it may entertain for a while, but it loses it's attraction. I have to accept that there are certain groups I am never going to get into. I could spend days tagging along on lichen or bryophyte meetings feigning interest in small green things I will never identify again in a month of Sundays, but why? I was happy to find, this autumn, that two years of going out with two fungus groups and a set of new books have resulted in my getting to the stage where there are SOME groups of fungi I can now tackle with reasonable confidence - which was the aim. I'm happy to play like that.

So, my new list will be VERY limited in the areas which don't appeal to me! I've been back through my bird list and taken out all the birds I haven't found, and identified, for myself. Whilst it was sad to see the newly-added Bee-eaters ditched, I shed no tears over the Buff-bellied Pipit I stood around in the cold waiting to see. I wouldn't be able to confidently identify one if I saw it again and, in retrospect, it was a fairly pointless exercise. Over the next few weeks or months I will be reviewing all my lists. I imagine a shed load of inverts will go, not least because I cannot remember where all the records came from. But I learn more from the endless fun of the vagaries of my memory and enjoying the moment when you drop yourself in it when you declare that a cute beetle is new to you when you posted it online as an ID query just days beforehand.......




That's a bold and very

That's a bold and very admirable stance. A large proportion of several groups on my list are the direct result of someone with a far greater knowledge than I have showing me the critter/moss/fungi/grass followed by a phonetically spelled name being scribbled into my notebook. It's quite unsatisfying really.  Going back to birds for a moment - it's very easy to amass a huge list provided you have the free time available to chase the rarities. Hence a lot of crap birders made it into the UK400 Club (ie saw 400+ species of wild bird in Britain). I liked the idea of a UK 250 Club whereby you had to self-find and identify at least 250 species of wild bird in Britain. To hit that figure you need to be keen and have a certain skill base at bird recognition.So, spurred on by you Sarah, I think I'm going to attempt to go through my lists and come up with a similar "self-found and IDed list". That includes stuff I've had shown to me by someone else but have subsequently self-found and IDed for myself. That, I think, will give a clearer indication of who the real naturalists are as opposed to the "list cribbers" out there. I don't class you as the latter, btw Sarah!  

Snap snap snap! Oddly enough

Natterjacktoad's picture

Snap snap snap! Oddly enough I had EXACTLY the same idea back in the 90s!! 250 self-found birds would be far more significant that 400 'spotted' birds, albeit that Mr Evans (Chris would do if you couldn't find Lee.....) had to agree that you had seen them. As well as being unable to format photos, I seem to be able to click on 'save' and fail to actually save. I had added that the cute beetle in question (Hedobia imperialis), source of much humour at Knepp, turned up in my net a couple more times last summer so was recognised and recorded. Result all round. It doesn't matter how you learn, as long as you learn. My new criteria is that I have to have found it and identified it (preferably correctly......) either in the field or down the microscope. I can learn from seeing things IDed by others but they don't count.  I'm never going to be a fantstic naturalist and I remain in awe of some of those in PSL from whom I have learned so much. But I have been a list cribber and recent events have made me see how utterly pointless this is. Anyone can go out and list stuff but it really isn't about who dies with the most toys winning. I still have the 'other' list, and there are lots of happy memories on there but, for me, it now needs to be what I can do. The playing field is far from flat so it can't be a competition against others, you can only challenge yourself.   

What-I-know list?

Mark Telfer's picture

Interesting move Sarah, I totally agree that there is far more merit in finding and identifying a species for yourself, and in terms of my bird lists, I am more proud of my Britain and Ireland 274 self-found list than my life list. But I would never have made it as a birder if I'd done it all by myself. You have to let yourself be shown stuff and learn from others. That's why I'm reasonably happy to tag along with mycologists or lichenologists with my notebook out. If something of what they tell you lodges in your memory, then you're a step closer to being able to do it for yourself.

I think the list that would really show how good someone is as a naturalist is the list of species they could identify again without having to consult any reference books or websites. By the sounds of it, you'd have Bee-eater on that list but not Buff-bellied Pipit. I'd lose nearly all my fungi, lichens and bryophytes. In practice, it's an impossible list to draw up though as you can never be sure what you'll remember and you don't know what you've already forgotten!

I'm sure I will carry on

Natterjacktoad's picture

I'm sure I will carry on learning from others until I die, the only difference is that now I won't count species I am shown on my list until I have found and identified them for myself, whether that can be done in the field or under a microscope. A confession here. I am really a 'dog' naturalist (as in Dog Violet or Dog Rose, not canine dog or, god forbid, dogging). I didn't even LOOK at a key until I was in my late thirties (and that was Stace) and I was in my forties before I tackled invertebrate I am playing a nigh-on impossible game of catch-up anyway. The only reason I did reasonably well in my recent botany FISC is that the field session depended on IDing as many plants as possible in 90 minutes - and that meant recognising them, not keying them out. <br>

I'm not asking anyone else to follow suit - I'm getting away from the temptation to compete :)

274 self-found huh? That's

274 self-found huh? That's just 2 more than I've managed. I need to visit Shetland one of these autumns...

Might entertain myself by

Natterjacktoad's picture

Might entertain myself by going through my plant list today (should be fun with over 1200 species....) and work out which are self-found and identified! Incidentally, I will still be 'twitching' plants (my one concession) as I have kept a list for the Wild Flower Society for a fair few years.