Monday, 26 November 2012

Basic microscopes for novices

I noticed today that there was a question about suppliers of basic microscopes for novices wishing to start recording hoverflies (or for that matter other insects). I've posted a reply there but then reflected that it might make a useful subject for this blog.

Stuart Ball and I have bought micropscopes on two occasions in the past couple of years.  The first time we did this was facilitated by an OPAL grant - we bought a zoom microscope together with an optical camera and software for use on our hoverfly training courses. The following year we bought 13 basic microscopes which we use to run courses at venues where microscopes are not available. These too were funded through an OPAL grant.

In both cases we went to GX Optical near Cambridge">Stereo

The model we bought was fairly basic and cost around £250 without a light. We chose not to have a fixed light as fixed lights can get a bit hot and will fry the entomologist and the subject-matter. Instead we use a goose-necked lamp from Homebase - about £6.00. A setup like this will not give you Leitz quality but it is pretty adequate for the basics. The camera is also pretty good and is certainly suitable for what we want to do. The combination of camera microscope and teaching kit has been a huge success and we are indebted to OPAL for the finance that made their purchase possible.

Our contact at GX Optical is Bob Town who is absolutely excellent - really helpful and willing to look at the options needed to provided the microscope you need. Do tell Bob that you come with our recommendation as we are very happy to endorse their microscopes.

uffolk CB9 9AF

Friday, 16 November 2012

Wildguide update

Fear not! The WILDGuide is progressing towards its trip to China for printing. Stuart and I have spent several more evenings sorting out further issues and preparing additional inserts. The end result will be pretty spectacular and we hope that it will act as a real stimulus to hoverfly recording.

I've had quite a few enquiries recently as to the book's progress so I thought it was probably about time we put some illustrations out that showed what it will look like. The following images are therefore a taster of what the introductory sections of the book will look like. It is packed with all sorts of information that is not in Stubbs & Falk, and will really be a genuine improvement to the literature. As I have previously commented, our aim has been to cover all of the genera and a selection of species rather than the entire fauna. Producing something comprehensive would be too big a job and would really require very different treatment.  However, a combination of our book and the keys in Stubbs & Falk should make the hoverflies a great deal easier to identify.

Readers who have done our hoverfly course will recognise this page! We have made regular use of the material prepared for the training courses we run, but have added further information.
Some of the stories about the last thirty years efforts to find hoverflies are illustrative of the advances that have happened since Stubbs & Falk was first published. It will be interesting to see what happens as a result of this book.
Although we have not specifically created conventional keys, the introductory sections have been designed along the general concept of a key. We shot nearly 200 specially prepared photographs of specimens to show characters that are described by line drawings in Stubbs & Falk. These follow the experience we have gained in teaching hoverfly identification.
We are indebted to a large number of photographers who have supplied the fabulous photographs that pack this book.
The work of preparing this book has been a huge job and it would be extremely difficult to distribute royalties in any meaningful way. The photographers who have contributed to the book will each receive a complimentary copy. We have asked that Royalties will go to Dipterists Forum and we hope that they will be used to support initiatives to increase participation in Diptera recording.

The training roadshow is currently under-way. Last weekend we went to Bristol Museum. In two weeks time we will be doing a session for the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust. In the New Year we will be going to Carlisle and to London, and are in the process of finding a date to run an improvers class (possibly at Cardiff Museum).

Must dash - let me know what you think of the book.