Monday, 15 October 2012

Post field meeting reflections

This year's Autumn field meeting was far less productive than previous recent years. Unlike 2011, when we recorded over 200 species of fungus gnats, gnats were very scarce and we barely scraped past the 100 mark. Conversely, craneflies were a bit more abundant and we managed 58 species which is substantially up on recent years but still nowhere as good as lists for two decades ago. What has caused the change?
Forum members Andrew Halstead, John Bratton and Malcolm Smart
at Newborough Warren

The key point I think is that we visited many very suitable sites but the weather was much colder than in previous years. Many sites were west-facing and took most of the day to warm up, and by the time they were getting any sunshine the heat had gone out of the day. However, we cannot dismiss the effects of a very wet year which has had a detrimental impact on much of our insect fauna. Species that favour wet environments do seem to have fared better than in previous years, and Eristaline hoverflies have done comparatively well. There are slight indications that the recent downward trend in abundance of these species is being reversed, but we will really only know if the conditions persist and the fauna responds accordingly.

From a wider perspective it was extremely disappointing to see very few Heleomyzidae and Lauxanidae. Drosophilids were seemingly absent from many sites but we did manage six species of Platypezidae. All-told this was not the most inspiring of Autumn meetings but the company was good and our accommodation was pleasant. On this point I would happily recommend the Northwood Guest House in Rhos on Sea adjacent to Colwyn Bay and Llandudno. It was comfortable, our hosts David and Sandy were excellent, the breakfasts were excellent and we were made very welcome.

I am already planning 2013 meetings. At the moment we think it is time to explore Scotland in September, so a small group is likely to head north in early September. I will arrange a further four-day meeting in the south-east in October; as likely as not this will be based in Reigate, assuming we can make bookings.

My other remaining task is to sort out the venue for the Summer field meeting which I think will be in Lancaster. This is going to be a bit of an adventure because we will use self-catering accommodation at Lancaster University. This choice should bring the cost of the accommodation down to manageable levels for younger members so hopefully we will attract a new cohort of Dipterists from those who have attended recent courses.

Lunch at Newborough Warren - 
Malcolm Smart, Alan Stubbs (standing) Andrew Halstead and John Bratton.

Peter Chandler and Malcolm Smart taking advantage of a sunny spell after torrential rain.

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