Having made the big decision to stay on Skye in 2018, I can now knuckle down to planning for the forthcoming year. I have thoughts, targets and bold plans, some of which may or may not make it to fruition. However, several of these don't directly concern NG3963, and hence aren't relevant to this blog. The following are -
- 1000 in a 1KSQ
- Spend each month grilling a different group of organisms
- Run a light trap
- Keep the blog going throughout
- 24hr bioblitzing (June/July/August?)
- Take diagnostic photos of every species encountered
- Submit records to HBRG, county moth recorder, BSBI recorder, etc on a more regular basis
NG3963 Pan-species Listing
This essentially equates to repeating the 1000 in a 1KSQ Challenge, though allowing for an upwardly revised target for almost every group, I shall be aiming for somewhere approaching 1350 species in 2018. Initially this sounds exceedingly unlikely, which is probably a fair assessment. But yeah, I'm going to be aiming for fully a third more species than I achieved in 2017. But how is this possible when you barely managed to scrape up 1000 species??? I hear you cry. Ah well, in the words of Baldrick, I have a cunning plan...
The main part of the plan is to dedicate each calendar month to studying a different set of organisms, the intention being to really get a handle on the species in each group. This process will have several benefits. By forcing myself to focus heavily on a specific group (for example, the hemipterans which I shall be tackling in July) I should learn a lot more about them than I otherwise would. Repeatedly immersing myself into species assemblages and going through the keys is how I learn best, so by the end of each month my knowledge base and taxonomical understanding of these organisms should be substantially greater than it is right now. Fixed, defined boundaries work very well for me too, so having that 30-day countdown per group will definitely help. Also, each month will, in effect, be like a brand new adventure! Wow, so that's the bugs done! Over fifty new species for the square, 40 of them being lifers for me and I can now recognise quite a few by sight. Next up it's 30 days of locating, photographing, catching, keying and ticking some groovy arachnids - whoop whoop! At least, that's how I hope it'll be... This means I should never find myself wandering around in circles, lacking in enthusiasm and aimlessly wondering what to look for next. Structured. Simple. Nice.
There are a few things that could throw a spanner in the works...
- Injury - hopefully I won't do anything so untoward that it leads to me being out of action!
- Love interest - always a biggie but a non-starter as things lie at the moment. Could utterly trash the best laid plans though. Unless she's a lichenologist, coleopterist or hymenopterist....
- Spending too much time outside of the square - well yeah. I intend to explore a bit more of Skye now that I've been given permission to occasionally borrow a car. This is undoubtedly the biggest cause for concern regards dedicating my time to NG3963.
- Burn out - entirely possible. Mixing it up each month may prevent this from happening though.
- Leaving Uig - I have had a very serious offer of work back in England. Part of me is screaming at myself that I'm a fool not to have taken it. Another part of me really wants to make a stab at living on Skye. My job here allows me great flexibility, something I greatly cherish. It seems unlikely that I will live out the remainder of my days in Uig, but for now it suffices very well.
So, which species groups am I planning to study in 2018, which month suits each one best? Do I have decent literature and keys for each, will I require any special equipment before tackling them? As far as I can see, my existing literature is adequate for the job at hand. Equipment-wise, I need some chemicals before trying to tackle lichens. I need to replace my four-fold net, seeing as it's about to fall to pieces. I definitely need a pooter. I also need a proper set of electrics and bulb for my homemade light trap. Ought to replenish my supplies of pots and tubes too, I have no idea how they just disappear into thin air.
January - Bryophytes
|Never mind the big, easy liverwort, what's that scuzzy wee moss all around it???|
|So are there two or three Degelia in here? Hopefully I shall soon know the answer to that.|
|Who fancies a nice cup of Earl Grey Chi? I'm looking forward to light trapping - it's certainly been a while!|
|Fungus gnats, you say? Think I may start with hoverflies, blowflies and soldierflies first though|
|There's a big ol' weird and wonderful world just begging to be explored|
|Social wasps and ichneumons are pure evil and they scare the crap outta me. Somebody pass me my gauntlets...|
|Hemipterans don't really do it for me, but maybe that will change in 2018?|
|If they were all as gorgeous (and easy) as this, I'd already be an arachnologist!|
|Neil, Neil, Orange Peel Fungus|
|Mainly slugs and snails, I expect - but Limpets have feelings too|
|It's high time I got properly stuck in to beetles, I have so many keys now!|
|No idea, but I should have after a month's worth of looking at freshwater micro-algae|
The groups listed above comprise just a fraction of the species that occur in NG3963, clearly I shall be looking at everything I encounter throughout the year as and when I find them. I have a target of 100 species of birds and 300 species of plants to cram in around everything else. Then there's the annelids, orthopterans, mammals, moulds, crustaceans, stoneflies, myriapods, fish, etc, etc. Yup, 2018 is going to be a hectic year in natural history for me - that's for sure!
I've already made myself a trap from scrap bits of plywood, but lack a suitable bulb. I'm going to order myself a set of electrics and resume light trapping after a 20 odd year gap. Back then it was all about the moths, nowadays I'll also be looking at things such as craneflies, beetles, wasps, caddis, who knows what else may end up in there? Midges, that's what. An inch deep across the bottom of the trap, by all accounts. Enough to clog the screw thread of a bulb and shut it down, or so I've heard. The light trap will undoubtedly throw a lot of extra species (and midges) my way, I'm looking forward to it immensely. Apart from the midgey bit.
|Just need a suitable bulb....more or less..|
Keeping the Blog Going!
It shames me to admit that my blogging lapsed for over three months in 2017. My enthusiasm and drive to learn about each month's chosen set of organisms should ensure that this doesn't happen again. If it does, just leave a load of suitably bitchy comments, please.
1KSQ 24-hour Bioblitzes
I thoroughly enjoyed my first ever 1KSQ midnight to midnight PSL blitz on 10th June 2017. The weather scuppered all hopes of a huge tally, but I ended on 456 species which was pretty fantastic in itself. You can read my write up by clicking here, if you like. I plan to do this again in 2018, I have it in mind that 600 species should be possible with decent weather and luck. Might even do two if he first one goes well...
Photographic images of EVERY species
This is a dream I keep meaning to start, but I've never yet really managed to get around to doing anything about it. However, I have a much better camera now, a waterproof compact with a picture stacking option for close-up photography. I've found a couple of settings I quite like so will attempt to document every single species encountered with some sort of a photographic record. This will also provide good back up if/when a record is queried. Birds aren't going to be particularly easy though.
Submit my records on a regular basis
The issue I have is waiting until there's a huge great stinking pile of records to submit and then finding it a near-impossible task to digitise them all in one big hit. The solution is simple, submit smaller batches on a more frequent basis. So that's what I shall endeavour to do.
The grand theme for 2018 will be learning lots about selected groups of organisms that I'm currently not strong with, amassing a huge great species list for both the square and myself and submitting them all. My PSL is currently 145 species short of 5000. I'll probably hit that sometime in late spring, I guess. Who knows where I'll be by the end of 2018. Probably weeping at the sight of yet more unidentifiable microscopic pondlife...