Sunday, 30 September 2012

Garden recorders

As I wander around the internet ion search of new hoverfly records, it strikes me that there are lots of potential parataxonomists who take an interest in the insects that visit their gardens. Anybody who regularly keeps a photographic record of what they see can make an important contribution, especially if they do this over a period of several years. There are several people who regularly post photos from their gardens and a few whose garden photographs now form a significant data set in its own right.

Garden recording might just appeal to people whose mobility has declined and yet they want to get involved in biological recording? It might also appeal to a younger generation as a way of getting into insect identification?

It would be great to set up a network of garden recorders but the big question is how to reach them and how to get the message out to people who currently don't use the established mechanisms for posting photographs such as Flickr. I would be grateful for any ideas.

There are some taxa that are better suited to photographic identification than others. For example, shieldbugs, ladybirds and some other beetle families such as longhorns are potentially viable. Hoverflies are not too bad and in my experience about 80% of the species that are regularly encountered in gardens can be identified if the photo captures suitable angles. Some genera are tricky; for example Syrphus, some Eupeodes, Platycheirus, Cheilosia, Eumerus and Pipizines. Even so, progress can be made and I know of one garden where the photographer has recorded well over 40 species of hoverfly. That list would be about 10 species longer if it was possible to ID Eumerus, Pipiza and some Syrphus from photos.

The same approach might be taken with a local wildlife site. We have started to trial the regular monitoring of hovers through our 'Big Hover Watch' - which was largely washed out in 2012! It would be useful to get a feel for levels of interest amongst the non-specialist photographers.

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