Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Numbers Game

Two blogs in two days, what's going on here then? Nothing too exciting - I've been playing around with numbers this evening and thought I'd share. This will prove of absolutely no interest whatsoever to anybody but myself, but it's my blog so you'll have to just 'shut up and put up' as my nan used to say.

By now you have probably realised that I'm taking part in a challenge to try and see 1000 species in my chosen 1km square. If this has somehow passed you by (where have you been?!?) click here to visit Andy Musgrove's beast of a PSL site and gen up.

The idea is to find and identify 1000 different species in a calendar year and all within a single 1km square, or monad as it's technically known in OS parlance.  Anything over a thousand is a bonus, but to be fair I'd be very happy to find anywhere near 1000 species in NG3963 (the square around which this whole entire blog revolves). The species all have to be wild, no garden plants or crops, no domesticated or captive animals/pets. Humans count as long as they are wild (and up here they're definitely of the 'wild' variety) as do nits or species of Tinea living on aforementioned wild humans. But only if you fancy getting that intimate.

So there are several ways to approach this 1000 species challenge. You could just go out there into your square and bimble along noting things as you come across them. You could target specific habitats or groups of organisms and concentrate on those. You could run a light trap and hope for 800 species of moth, leaving you a piss-easy 200 of everything else to casually find. Or you could plan your whole year with military like precision, compartmentalising your square into different habitat zones and work your way through them hunting specific species as the seasons progress. Me? Bit of each I think, though I don't have a light trap. Yet.

Anyway, I'm anal enough to have categorised my hoped for 1000 species into different orders and added a target number for each. I did this about six weeks ago, I have the species breakdown scribbled onto a piece of paper which is pinned to the side of my wardrobe just above my laptop. No-one gives a monkey's arse about seeing this but here it is anyway, re-arranged into descending order of projected target completion

Algae - target of 25. Seen so far 25 (100%
Bristletails - target of 1. Seen so far 1 (100%)
Lichens - target of 60. Seen so far 53 (88%)
Fungi - target of 50. Seen so far 44 (88%)
Platyhelminths - target of 7. Seen so far 6 (86%)
Bryozoans - target of 8. Seen so far 6 (75%)
Molluscs - target of 50. Seen so far 35 (70%)
Bryophytes - target of 60. Seen so far 40 (67%)
Myriapods - target of 15. Seen so far 10 (67%) 
Birds - target of 90. Seen so far 59 (66%)
Plants - target of 140. Seen so far 89 (64%)
Crustaceans - target of 20. Seen so far 10 (50%)
Springtails - target of 4. Seen so far 2 (50%)
Sponges - target of 2. Seen so far 1 (50%)
Fish - target of 10. Seen so far 5 (50%)
Annelids - target of 15. Seen so far 7 (47%) 
Mammals 0 target of 10 species. Seen so far 4 (40%)
Cnidarians - target of 5. Seen so far 2 (40%)
Arachnids - target of 20. Seen so far 7 (35%)
Orthopteroids - target of 4. Seen so far 1 (25%) 
Coleoptera - target of 70. Seen so far 11 (16%)
Small orders of Insects - target of 20. Seen so far 3 (15%)
Diptera - target of 60. Seen so far 5 (8%)
Moths - target of 140. Seen so far 7 (5%)
Hemiptera - target of 40. Seen so far 2 (4%)
Odonata - target of 3. Seen so far 0 (0%)
Butterflies - target of 6. Seen so far 0 (0%)
Reptiles - target of 2. Seen so far 0 (0%)
Amphibians - target of 2. Seen so far 0 (0%)
Echinoderms - target of 5. Seen so far 0 (0%)
Tunicates - target of 4. Seen so far 0 (0%)
Slime Moulds - target of 2. Seen so far 0 (0%)
Protists - target of 5. Seen so far 0 (0%)
Unexpected extras - Nemertean Worm - 1 seen, none anticipated. Bonus!

So what does all this tell us? Well, it shows that I under-estimated how many species of algae, lichens and fungi I'd see in NG3963. Three quarters of the year is still ahead of me and I'm going to exceed expectations on all three. The bristletail target has been met, but that's no surprise and no great skill involved either. I'm very pleased with the platyhelminths tally and I hope to exceed the target in this group too.

At the bottom of the table come the groups where I've yet to see a single species. This is expected for Reptiles, Butterflies and Odonata - it's still very early in the season for them. But I'm a tad worried about Amphibians, I'm not even sure there ARE any in the square! Maybe somebody has a garden pond I can look into? Echinoderms and Tunicates are out there, and the low tides are happening now, so I hope to find some of those very soon. Protists were a last minute add-on that I optimistically threw in when my compound microscope arrived. I think I probably set the target too high, by about 5. Moths, flies, hymenopterans and bugs will only increase from here on in as the weather improves. 140 moths is probably impossible without a light trap, I may have to make one before much longer.

So, of 1000 hoped for species I've seen 439. Well, Skylark is a 'heard only' record so far, but I'm sure I'll see one soon. Which essentially equates to 44% of the way there in under a quarter of the year! I think that's pretty bloody fabulous. Christian Owen is doing even better - he's on 46% already and Ali is at almost 40%, probably will be by end of March.  

Me at the beach during January's lowest tides. Gonna be even lower this week!
Lots of lovely exposed black sand - be nice if the weather is like this tomorrow (though rain is forecast)

Tune in tomorrow night to see what I found out there!

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