Friday, 26 May 2017

Two Weeks to the BIG DAY

Earlier this year Graeme Lyons came up with a crazy mad scheme to try and see 1000 species in a single 24 hour period, invited us to join in the fun, threw us all the rules and regulations and set the date as 10th June 2017. He first went public with this idea on the PSL Facebook page, which was soon followed by this post on his blog. Note the liberal usage of the words "we", "we've" and "we're". Yeahhhh...not so much, this is Graeme's show and he's running it his way. Despite a fair few thoughts and ideas and suggestions being offered he's resolutely stuck to his guns, grudgingly accepting that sleep may be required by at least one member of the "no more than two" person team, sharing one motor vehicle, not allowed to count anything if you split up, and that food and drink may be provided by third parties should you so require it, though obviously they can't help find/identify anything etc etc etc ad nauseum. 

It's a great idea, and Graeme's spun it to make it a charity event as opposed to a full on ego massage. He's pretty confident he's gonna nail this thing, crowning himself king of his own contest. But I'm a bit of a rebellious so and so when it comes to enforced rules. Right from the start I've been keen to give this a go, but on my own terms - which is not really allowed. Oops, shit happens.

I have a few reservations about the whole thing. I've done several midnight-to-midnight bird races, both for charity and just for fun. I love challenges with clearly defined boundaries and a 24 hour PSL race is exactly the sort of thing that turns me on. I'm no stranger to lack of sleep (some nights I skip sleep entirely, insomnia is just so much fun...) so I have no doubt that I'd be able to keep active throughout the whole period. My boss has already agreed to give me the Friday evening through to Sunday afternoon off work so there's no worries there. Though maybe I should get that in writing.

But one of The Rules states that all species must be seen AND IDENTIFIED on the day. This means that a huge quantity of stuff is going to be field-identified rather than done properly at a microscope being calmly and sedately keyed through in an unrushed fashion. Graeme is an amazing field naturalist, nobody can deny that, but he's not infallible, he makes mistakes same as we all do. But he's gunning for that 1000 species target, it's probably never been done before and he wants to be the first. Hence rushed identifications (ie misidentifications) are going to be rife and then submitted. His ego won't allow him to retract numbers from the day's final tally afterwards, so duff records will be winging their way onto irecord all day long. Coz yeah, it's also meant to be "live from the field" too. Somehow. Maybe I can use smoke signals. The only way I can access the internet is via my laptop with a smashed screen which is connected via HDMI to a tv screen in my room. Smart phone, you say? Ha, what phone? I have a walkie talkie! Graeme's constructed some sort of a recording form for our use, though nobody else is allowed to see it yet. Bet it's not pen and paper though.

Another of The Rules stated that any team participating has to consist of two members and that both members need to see the species for it to be admissable on the tally. Well guess what - I live in the middle of nowhere, I have no idea where the next nearest naturalist is from here and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't want to take part in a gruelling 24 hour marathon tickfest with someone they've never even met before. Graeme's revised Rule Number 4 is a sarcastic but tough won concession to this fact.

Secondly I don't have a vehicle. My solution is simple - I'm going to do this thing on foot and I'm going to stick to my home 1km square NG3963. I made my announcement and endured some fairly condescending remarks regards needing a buddy on the day, I didn't realise how physically demanding this was going to be, I'd need a scribe blah blah blah. Tough titty mate, it's my only option so that's what I'm doing.

I'm fairly confident that I'll make it onto the podium in the "Solo, on foot and in a single 1km square Category". I have no chance whatsoever of finding 1000 species on the day. Heck, it's taken me five months just to hit 600 species! 

Anyway, I've given it a lot of thought. I decided to drop out, then I was back in, then I lost interest again. But fuckit, I'm going to give it a go. I refuse point blank to be bullied or cajouled into doing it by The Rules. So here is my own version of what will be happening here on 10th June 2017 - 

Start at midnight, on the dot. Heard-only records are fine provided that I'm certain of the identity of the species involved. I don't see any need to track down and spotlight an owl if I can hear one calling. Same with calling fox, singing Corncrake (still not back yet though...) or an invisible Skylark. 

Keep a running Master List in my notebook. I shall also have lists of everything I've previously seen in NG3963 which I shall be using as a checklist throughout the day, crossing them off as I find them. 

At some point return to my laptop and post my tally on the PSL Facebook page. I'll be heading back for breakfast, lunch and dinner (I work in a hotel and there are set times for we staff to fill our faces) so there will be at least three opportunities for me to post the running total throughout the day once I'm back on site. The hotel is inside NG3963 so I can keep on ticking in the hotel grounds whilst there for food/toilet/laptop/microscope time. 

If I decide to quit early then that's fine. To be fair, even Graeme understands that not everyone is hardcore enough to keep on ticking for a full on 24-hour bioblitz, so this isn't going against his rules. Though I think only bad weather/injury would see me quit early.

I will only submit records I am totally happy with, regardless of whether I identify them during the 24-hour period or several weeks afterwards. I'm not chasing 1000 species, my priorities are to have fun on the day, test my own skills and put good records through afterwards, in my own time. 

I'm not doing this for publicity or charity. I'm just taking the day off work and seeing what I can find.

Right, I think I'm about finished sounding off so I shall clamber down off my soapbox. Thanks for sticking with this text-filled blogpost. Here, have some plant porn, you deserve it

The awesome Globeflower, photobombed by the arse-end of a mystery stonefly


  1. Good luck with that. Masochist.

    1. I take it you don't fancy being the second member of Team Uig on the day then? :D