Sunday, 13 October 2013

Data from Photographs

In the course of the next six months I intend to prepare a preliminary analysis of the data gathered from websites over the last five years and to publish somewhere in the peer-reviewed literature. Odd snippets have emerged already but so far (in my article in British Wildlife and also a paper in the journal of the BENHS) but  I have not undertaken a comprehensive review. I'm not aware of any other such analyses but if anybody has come across them then do let me know.

In the past two month there has been quite a recognisable surge in data via photographers as a result of the establishment of the UK Hoverflies Facebook page. I have been amazed by its impact. There is now quite a recognisable community of photographic recorders and a steady stream of new records comes from this source. Other sources such as Ispot and Flickr remain very important, however. The ability of participants in Flickr to communicate with one another has meant that several Flickr users have now become very active recorders of hoverflies. This is fantastic.

The following graphs represent early analysis of the data but present a flavour of the nature of what is emerging from all photographic sources. So far, around 15,500 records have been assembled.

Figure 1. Numbers of identified photographs over the period 2002 to 2013. Data for 2013 are incomplete because the graph represents data to 12 October 2013. It can be expected that data for 2013 will increase substantially by the end of the year and will increase further over coming years.

The data tell an important story about the level of photographic activity. Relatively few people regularly photograph hoverflies. Eleven people (0.5% of recorders) have contributed around 20% (3,120) of all records and ~50% (7,600) of the records have been contributed by 100 people (4.2% of recorders). The data also tell us a great deal more and can be interrogated in many ways. We can say with some confidence that there is no specific tipping point where photographic recording came into its own. There has been a continuing and consistent growth in recording as shown in Figure 1. However, the development of ISpot has certainly helped (since 2009). The data collected since this point are arguably robust enough to show how this type of recording might be used to develop citizen science monitoring programmes. As a taster, Figure 2 shows how photographic activity mirrors levels of insect abundance in response to weather patterns.

Figure 2. The percentage of yearly records occurring each month over the period 2009 to 2013. This illustrates how periods of unfavourable weather affects recording effort and possibly also hoverfly abundance. For example, low numbers in July 2013 reflect a major decline in photographs posted during a period of extremely hot weather.

These notes should be seen as a highly preliminary analysis and should not be used as firm results. More work is required to make sure that duplication has been weeded out and to make sure that 2013 has been properly documented. However, they do indicate the potential of photographic data, whilst also highlighting the possible level of effort required to extract such data.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Local groups

I was in contact with a Flickr user yesterday who asked me whether I had thought of setting up a local group to improve coverage of a poorly recorded area. At the time I thought that I was probably doing as much as I could (the HRS, DF Field meetings, Training events and of course this group), but is there more that could be done?

Well, realistically, I doubt I can take on much more, but we do know that local groups can be helpful. For example Northamptonshire was an empty space on the maps until John Showers got interested and organised a local group. His group is now pretty active and Northants is now one of the better-recorded areas. So, is there scope for doing the same elsewhere? There are plenty of possibilities - what is needed is local interest.

Are there potential leaders out there who would like to stimulate improved levels of recording? Even well-recorded areas will need a new generation of recorders as our stalwarts are aging and not being replaced. Does anybody have any thoughts? There are active groups in Northants and a newly created group in Devon, together with an active group based around Preston Montford.

For those who want to get a feel for weak areas of recording, the maps on the HRS website are useful.

Obvious challenges are parts of Wiltshire, Buckinghamshire, South Lincs and the Fens, North Lincolnshire, Herefordshire, North and East Yorkshire, Northumbria and many parts of Scotland. Why is this? Well, I think one reason is maps tend to show where people like to go – and who wants to wander the barren wastes of the Fens? I have done this for about 10 years on and off – and it can be very boring. So at least in part, maps show where there is good habitat. But even in these areas there are little gems that the outside recorder does not know about.

It is also very noticeable that the bulk of recorders come from southern counties – why is this? Bearing in mind the historic legacy of the Workers Educational Institutes and numerous microscopy societies that abounded 100 years ago, surely this is not an area that is free of interest in wildlife recording?

What is needed is a network of 'shakers and movers'. They don't have to be experts but an ability to organise and motivate is really important. I have written on the subject from time-to-time and it does worry me that the most obvious group does not seem to be coming forward. These are recent graduates looking for a way of getting experience and making themselves stand above competitors for jobs. When I was in my formative years the local NHS was crammed full of young enthusiasts - me, Graham Collins, Jim Porter and Steve Church, Roger Hawkins, David Baldock, and led by inspirational people such as Ken Evans. That same society has no young members and I gather that meetings rarely comprise more than 3 people!

Food for thought?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Identifications from Photographs

Unfortunately, quite a lot of hoverflies are identified using characters that are difficult to depict in photos or require manipulation of the animal to get the right orientation. Thus, it is not uncommon for people to post photos that cannot be taken much further than genus, and occasionally not even that far! Most people when told that a definite ID is not possible will accept this and move on. Occasionally the person providing advice gets a torrent of abuse that they are not living in the real world and should ‘wake up to reality’. So, I thought it might be worth discussing the issues in a bit more detail. This note is a brief canter through obvious points and must not be regarded as definitive.

The first point that emerges from the photographic record is that quite a narrow spectrum of hoverflies gets photographed regularly. These are primarily the showy ones – bright colours attract attention. Many of these are perfectly doable at least to species pairs and often directly to species. There are, however, a few genera that regularly crop up and cause problems:

Cheilosia: There are some obvious species, led by C. illustrata, but accompanied by C. chrysocoma and perhaps C. grossa and C. albipila. A few regularly get photographed: C. bergenstammi, C. pagana, C. variabilis. In some cases one can be reasonably certain but in others it is more conjectural and circumstantial. Those quoted, together with occasional specimens of C. impressa are likely to be accepted as records subject to a good photo. The surprise is C. caerulescens which is often readily recognisable and has a certain jizz about it that I cannot describe. It is not infrequently photographed in gardens but I would be at a loss to say quite how/why I would recognise this apart from the facial profile and when the wing shade is obvious – it is considerably hairier in some places but cannot be described. These apart, I fear the majority cannot be done although one might have a good idea of what something is likely to be. I guess the difference between me and some recorders is that I am immediately thinking of what happens to the record and how this affects data reliability.

Epistrophe/Eupeodes/Melangyna/Parasyrphus: A few are readily identifiable such as E. eligans and E. grossulariae. Many firm IDs rely on micro characters such as wing microtrichia or hair colours that are generally poorly depicted in photos. Thus, the degree to which an ID can be given is often directly proportional to the quality of the photo. I’ve seen some fantastic stacked shots that make ID quite possible for many species, but not all features of importance are readily depicted on a live photo because wings may cover them or they may be on the underside of the animal.

Eumerus: these are generally not possible because the critical characters on the hind femur are obscured unless the animal is at least unconscious and inverted.  It has been further complicated because a new species has been added to the list - Eumerus sogdianus, which is very similar to E. strigatus and can only be separated on genital characters.

Melanostoma: At certain angles, male M. mellinum and M. scalare can be separated with modest confidence, provided they are from lowland locations. Even so, there are some where the elongate abdomen of M. scalare is not as pronounced as illustrations suggest. It is highly possible that a further species lurks here and several specialists have also suggested that there is a much bigger complex. In females, the dusting on the frons (not withstanding Species A and M. dubium) is distinctive provided one is looking directly down on the head. The problem is that extent of dusting is frightfully variable, with lots of intermediates.

Platycheirus: A few are eminently doable such as P. granditarsus, P. rosarum and perhaps P. manicatus. So too are many, but by no means all, P. albimanus. Thereafter, life becomes complicated and those males where the pits on the underside of the front tarsi are key characters are not generally doable because the animal is standing on the character concerned! In males, greater chances of ID are possible if the front legs and especially the tarsi are sharply depicted. Females are much trickier, and in general I would hesitate to tackle many of the yellow ones. Now, in reality, many of these segregate themselves because relatively few are photographed: most occur low in wetland vegetation and only a few will bask on leaves and flowers sufficiently regularly to get noticed. Also, they are small and therefore less likely to be noticed.

Pipizini: A very tricky tribe, although the odd specimen is doable. Pipiza austriaca is occasionally obvious and so too is Pipizella viduata at some profile angles where the antennae are well illustrated. These apart, there is little to go on without micro characters and genitalia examination for some.

Sphaerophoria: Lots of people put names to females, and although there are continental keys they are not reliable. From personal experience I have found them to be extremely tricky with preserved specimens that can be highly magnified, so I fear there is a minefield if one is tackling them from a blurry photo or even a reasonably sharp one. The resolution is rarely likely to be adequate. In males, apart from S. scripta, S. rueppellii and S. loewi, there are no good external characters and one is dependent upon the structures within the genital capsule. Male Sphaerophoria are bashful and hide these bits, so ID from a photo is pretty well impossible.

Syrphus: We see hundreds of shots of Syrphus and many relative novices try to put a name to specimens. It is not unusual to see names being allocated on the colour of bands or other characters that are not used in the keys. In my experience, it is rarely possible to do males, although occasionally one sees a nice shot of S. torvus in which the eye hairs are visible. In females, S. ribesii can be separated if the hind femora are fully visible (not possible from above); but only if one assumes that S. rectus does not occur in the UK. The jury is out on that one and probably we won’t know until there is DNA analysis of European and North American specimens.

There are a few other challenges, but the above is enough to get started with. The key point that emerges out of this is that the better quality the photo is, the greater the likelihood of getting a firm ID. In a recent debate it was pointed out to me that I should be providing advice on the angles that people should be taking shots from. This really is not practical – the angles depend upon a thorough knowledge of the insects in question and therefore until the photographer has gained an understanding of the genera and what they are photographing they will almost inevitably miss the key character. Thus, it seems to me that the best advice one can give the novice is to try to get to know the genera first. This is the approach we take in our training courses – pretty much the first half day ID session focuses on embedding the use of the key to get to Tribes. Thereafter greater refinement slots into place.

After that, the critical issue is to get confirmation of tentative Ids. Please don’t expect a line by line explanation for every photo. Those of us that do try to help often put in spend several hours a day. We are happy to help where we can, but there are limits to the time that can be spent explaining in full on several occasions a day why a photo cannot be taken further than a genus.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

A cold spring

The news today reported that this was the coldest spring for 50 years! Well, the data from the internet confirms this - numbers of photographs accompanied by locality  posted this year are well down on both the last two years and in April they barely reached the level of 2010.

The following to graphs illustrate this. However, it must also be noted that the numbers of photographs with data posted in May exceeded any previous year. It is also quite surprising that good numbers of records were generated last Saturday, but the numbers for Sunday and Monday were well down on what might be expected for a nice sunny Bank Holiday.

Numbers of photographs posted with location data 2004 to 2013 for the period January to April. Each bar represents the cumulative numbers for the period.

Numbers of photographs posted with location data 2004 to 2013 for the period January to May. Each bar represents the cumulative numbers for the period.

These data suggest that interest in photo recording continues to grow. I am starting to think there might be scope in developing a more detailed photo-recording initiative based on iSPOT or similar technology. Scanning websites also makes me think we need a team of entomologists extracting data for all taxa. The numbers of moths and butterflies posted is amazing and there are good numbers of beetles and shield bugs.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Disrupted services

I realise that it is a very long while since I last posted anything. There have been various distractions; not least the job of send out large numbers of WILDGuides! We are not quite sure how many have actually been sold world-wide, but we think it is in the order of 1800 copies. Stuart and I have sold (on behalf of Dipterists Forum) around 200 copies. As I've previously mentioned, the proceeds are going to Dipterists Forum and we hope that they will be used to support training programmes for new dipterists.

There are several pieces of news to relay.

1. A new approach to keys

Stuart and I are working on a new key to Platycheirus. Although based on the key in Stubbs & Falk, we are planning that it should be extensively illustrated with photographs and populated with maps and phenology diagrams as well as species descriptions. It is the first stage in planning for a new version of Stubbs and Falk. However, unlike previous approaches we have concluded that a new format is needed to improve the presentation of the keys (lots of people have trouble with following the right couplets). We also want to re-organise and re-write the species descriptions to incorporate new learning and experience from running training courses. This key will hopefully come out as a Dipterists Forum publication in the autumn. My guess is that it will be 60-80 pages in length - I've completely re-written the species descriptions and Stuart has a draft layout for the key. All we now need to do is to put it together and chase down specimens of a few species to photograph.

2. Species on the move

Yesterday I was alerted to a photo of Rhingia rostrata from Cumbria. The locality is within the known hot spot around Grange-over-Sands whose climate is rather different to the rest of Cumbria. Given that it has moved this far - a massive leap from the latitude of South Yorkshire - there is the possibility of a wider scatter of new records this year!

Some while ago I was contacted by Chris Webster who takes fantastic hoverfly photos. He had a Syrphus-like species that was puzzling him. It turned out to be S. nitidifrons. The photo can be seen on Steve Falk's website .

3. Training

Stuart and I ran a weekend course at Cardiff Museum in April that was a departure from our traditional introductory course. This one was an 'improvers' course that focused on Platycheirus and Cheilosia. It was very successful and we hope that we will be able to run a few more in coming years. What is really nice is to see old friends who attended past courses and continue to record hoverflies.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Encouraging a younger generation of Dipterists

At the last committee meeting of Dipterists Forum we agreed to allocate funds to help to meet the costs for under-25s and students who would like to participate in our summer field meeting at Lancaster this summer (6-13 July). The headline cost of the meeting is £200 but our subsidy should bring this down to around £120 (this does not cover travel to the venue but once there we will make sure that transport is available and can possibly arrange to collect from the nearest railway station)..

Our venue is based in self-catering Halls of Residence. Food is not provided but participants are welcome to join in communal cooking arrangements. There will also be a workroom where we do our evening microscopy. We will make available equipment on loan for those who need it (nets, pooters etc) and will bring additional microscopes. Expressions of interest are therefore sought from qualifying individuals.

This is a great opportunity to visit a variety  of excellent wildlife sites and to get to understand the habitats around Lancaster in the company of some of the country's leading Dipterists. Anybody interested should let me know (roger dot morris at dsl dot pipex dot com).

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Do training courses encourage more recording?

Over the last three years Stuart and I have run somewhere between five and eight courses each winter, plus additional courses for the FSC at Preston Montford.

What we failed to do is to maintain any record of the numbers of people we have trained. I did a few quick sums this morning and concluded that during these years, together with the intervening years from 1993 when we first started to run courses, we must have provided training for about 500 people!

Sadly, we don't know who they were and cannot therefore match records received with previous trainees! Thus, we cannot answer with any certainty just what impact our training programme has had on hoverfly recording or submissions to the Recording Scheme. We think it has had a positive impact and we do know of a few people who have become very active recorders as a result. Those that we know of give us hope that we will have a long-term impact on recording effort.

This question has become more than simple academic interest as we see the publication of the WILDGuide which we hope will act as a further stimulus for interest in hoverflies. What impact will it have on recording and in particular on sales of the critical work: Stubbs & Falk? Intuitively, I think it is likely that sales of Stubbs & Falk will drop, at least in the short-term, because lots of people will find that the WILDGuide amply satisfies their need for a guide to hoverflies. Some of those people would probably have bought Stubbs & Falk in the past but will not feel a need for it now. How many new recruits to hoverflies will feel moved to buy the main monograph too?

My suspicion is that relatively few people go much further than identifying a proportion of the common and obvious species by matching their find to a picture. This is clearly illustrated by the decline in the numbers of records of tricky genera submitted to the Recording Scheme over the 30 years since Stubbs & Falk was first published in 1983. Over this time, the proportion of records of tricky genera has fallen by about a third, suggesting that a larger proportion of recorders confine their interests to genera that require relatively little equipment and, in particular, a microscope. I hope the WILDGuide will act as a stimulus!

This issue has gained greater prominence after what is best described as an 'interesting' dialogue with the BENHS who publish Stubbs & Falk. Have we had an impact on their book sales? I  sincerely hope so, as that is really proof that people have gone away from our courses sufficiently inspired to buy the book! If 20% of people we have had contact with have gone that far, this equates to maybe as many as an additional 100 books sold that would not have happened otherwise. My suspicion is that the equation works differently, and that many people bought the book specifically in order to have it for the course.  Others may already have owned a copy but could now use it to better effect.

So, why does this matter? The reality is that many natural history societies are finding it difficult to maintain numbers and see their demographics changing with fewer young people joining. Times have changed and people feel less inclined to join societies. We all work via computers these days and don't make the effort to attend meetings and listen to lectures. It is a great pity because societies offer scope for like-minded people to share their interests. So, does this spell the demise of the Natural History Society? If it does, there is a real risk that there will not be the development of new specialist guidebooks. Societies create the mass that is needed to support publications. Stubbs & Falk would not have happened without the BENHS, and it follows that hoverfly recording in the UK would be much weaker. Also, lots of people might not have gained pleasure from the book and the insight it gives into the natural world. That includes those people who now buy the WILDGuide because I might never have become enthused sufficiently to do what I have done for the past 30 years (21 of which as joint National Recorder).

Publishing costs are rising, and this means that specialist books could become too pricey to attract a big following. I hear through the grapevine that BENHS is proposing a price hike for Stubbs & Falk. It is no real surprise because prices have been stable for goodness knows how long? They have not risen for at least ten years and possibly longer. However, raising prices just as a new competitor arrives on the block strikes me as a little unwise. BENHS have the better part of 1,000 copies of Stubbs & Falk in their warehouse and really need to be shifting them quickly! Stuart and I are already talking about a new book in a new format. It is a few years away, but when it comes out, it will be designed as a companion to the WILDGuide - providing keys and more detailed text for all species. Hopefully the two will work in unison. When it comes out, the existing S&F format will be obsolete.

Meanwhile, we will be developing a supplement to Stubbs & Falk that will be ready by this next winter. It will provide the relevant additions and will explain how they fit into the current keys. We are thinking of producing it as a free pdf for download from the website, and will print small numbers under the Hoverfly Recording Scheme label to meet demand from those who prefer a hard copy. I would be keen to get a feel for the numbers of people who would like a hard copy of the supplement - we aim to make it as cheap as possible - certainly under £10.00.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Hoverfly WildGuide

At last the book is out! Only the saga has not ended because although commercial distributors have received their books and have sent them out, I am still waiting for delivery of books - I have 124 customers awaiting delivery and cannot do a thing about it until I get books!

It is all the more galling because I learn that Amazon is selling the book at about £17.50 including postage. It is almost at the rate we set as a pre-publication offer to Dipterists Forum members and makes me look like a fool for pricing the book so high (£14.00 + £2 p&p when we expected the RRP to be £17.95 - the actual RRP is nearly £25.00).

This has really rather serious ramifications for publishers of technical books. Those like Britain's Hoverflies are always going to be a niche market so the margins are extremely tight. Being pinched like this by Amazon has knock-on effects on the ability of the publishers to cover costs, and of societies such as Dipterists Forum to make sufficient income to maintain the work we do in promoting the study of flies. I for one am seriously put off from making the effort again, as this sort of undercutting prices means that the years of work that has gone into the book are being devalued.

Bearing in mind that Amazon are reported not to pay UK taxes, it seems that the UK taxpayer is suffering a double whammy - it gets no tax, and its legitimate local businesses that do pay tax are being out-competed. I start to think the only solution is to produce free books as pdfs and give up trying to produce hard copy. We perhaps need to take more control of products.

Stuart and I are intending to produce a supplement to Stubbs and Falk this Autumn. We will publish it under the HRS and DF banners and will make it available only through us. My feeling is that we will need to issue it as a pdf for free download and maybe do a small print run to meet the needs of those who want a bound copy. We can probably do this via 'print on demand' and keep the costs to a modest level.

In the longer-term, we are also intending to write a replacement for Stubbs & Falk. We have a few ideas, but again it would be our intention to find ways of taking more control of the product. For reasons I will not expand upon, it is time to consider a new format and a different publishing arrangement.

For those who have got hold of the book, I do hope you enjoy it. For those who still await your copy - I will be chasing the distributors tomorrow (especially as I have not received my copy either!).

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Winter hoverflies

Despite rather unpleasant weather a few photos of recent sightings have been posted on the web. This has included two records of Scaeva selenitica from gardens in Worthing (West Sussex) and Farnham (Surrey) yesterday!

This got me thinking about the benefit of establishing a network of non-specialists who are keen photographers of insects in their gardens. At the moment we have data from Jenny Owen's garden in Leicester and Alan Stubbs' garden in Peterborough. Jenny recorded over 90 species using a malaise trap for 30 years or more. Alan has recorded over 60 using a modified transect approach over about 20 years.

Apart from these, we also have data on a single garden in southern England that is effectively monitored by regular photography of its animal visitors. In terms of hoverflies, this garden has yielded 45 species over eight years. I wonder if there are other photographers who might be interested in developing a photographic investigation into garden hoverflies? The great thing about this sort of study is that skill as a photographer can greatly influence the outcome, whereas identification skills are less essential.

Frequency of occurrence of the 21 commonest hoverflies in photographs from a southern English garden.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Developing trainers

I attended Eric Philp's funeral at Deerton Natural Cemetery today. It was of course a sombre occasion but was greatly brightened by the many excellent reflections of Eric's contribution to Natural History. For me, the most telling point was just how many people reflected on his unassuming but considerable contribution to encouraging natural historians from all walks of life. He will be greatly missed but his legacy lives on. He produced two fantastic floras of Kent that stand as a testimony to his dedication. Perhaps more importantly he clearly influenced a further generation of naturalists. The world needs more people like Eric who can motivate and enthuse people.

That brings me on to the main point of this analysis. I had a short chat with Richard Jones about training initiatives and how to teach invertebrate identification skills. There are no 'right' and 'wrong' ways. Everybody is different and of course different insects require different skills. However, it did strike me that there is much to be learned from other people's experience and that maybe we need to share our experiences? Stuart Ball and I have often mused over the need to run a 'Training for Trainers' course. We have plenty to offer and we hope that other people have experience that they might want to relay too.

I am therefore using this blog as a way of asking - is there a call for such a meeting? I would like to get people from various disciplines (not just Dipterists) to get together. If there is interest I will happily look into such an idea and try to organise an event next autumn. So, do let me know. I imagine we might look at the Natural History Museum as a possible venue, but alternatively maybe we could get some funding support for a meeting at one of the FSC centres?

Friday, 11 January 2013

Eric Philp - An appreciation

It was with tremendous sadness that I learned of Eric Philp's passing earlier this week. Eric was one of the most remarkable natural historians of his generation, with taxonomic skills spanning difficult groups from dandelions to weevils. He was also a one-man recording machine who has made an amazing contribution to our knowledge of the plants and animals of Kent.

I first met Eric as a relative novice in the early 1980s when he was the curator of natural history at Maidstone Museum. A few years later when I was running a survey of invertebrates at Dungeness I regularly visited Eric who took on the unenviable task of identifying the weevils from our pitfall and water traps. This cemented a friendship that has lasted ever since.

I was greatly privileged to join Eric on several occasions for his 'at home' gatherings of local entomologists. They brought together many of the most active of Kent's entomologists of the time during high summer and were held in his garden where he also ran mist nets and ringed his feathered visitors. I look back on these with tremendous pleasure and reflect that maybe it is time I did something similar!

I last saw Eric at the AES exhibition last October when he was already undergoing therapy for cancer. Despite the obvious problems of the illness and treatment, Eric remained resilient and positive, although he was clearly a good deal frailer; his passing therefore comes as no massive surprise. Even so, Eric will be greatly missed by all who knew him. One friend commented that she always thought of him as a rather gentle grandfatherly figure and there is no doubt that Eric's kindness and support has enabled a good many of us to gain a lot more from our entomology than perhaps we might have done. When we talked last autumn he reflected that he always saw it as his job in Maidstone Museum to encourage newcomers; he remains an excellent role model. It now falls to those who follow in his footsteps to take on that role.

Some years ago Eric had a multiple heart bypass which gave him a new lease of life, and shortly afterwards he was back square-bashing: I seem to recall not much more than ten days elapsed between the surgeon's knife and Eric's return to biological recording! Once rejuvenated, Eric joined us on several summer field meetings of Dipterists Forum in the last few years, including Cairngorms in 2008, Gower in 2009 and Pembrokeshire in 2010. The following photographs for me capture the essence of Eric Philp and I hope other readers will reflect with happy memories of a lovely man. My thoughts go to his family and the loss they must feel.

Eric water-beetling on the Gower in 2009.

Eric and Stuart Ball at Martin Haven in Pembrokeshire on the day we tried to get over to Skomer but were defeated by the crowds! For me, this shot epitomises the companionship that an interest in natural history can generate - if there are no flies, well lets look at the birds!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Hoverfly improvers course

I have been promising to organise an improvers course for a fair while. At last we are close to a confirmed date. Subject to confirmation, the dates will be Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 April. There will be 12 places.

We have yet to finalise the costs but I expect them to be in the order of £30-35 per person. Places will be secured by a cheque payable to Dipterists Forum. I have already got a number of preliminary bookings as a result of casual inquiries over the past months but there are still places and there is no certainty that those who have expressed an interest will actually attend.

At this stage I am not taking confirmed bookings but would like to hear from people who would like to attend the course. It is aimed at people who have a reasonable level of previous experience; for example those people who have attended our beginners courses and have then actually done some recording.

Ideally, we would like attendees to bring specimens but we will also have material amongst challenging taxa to enable sessions on Cheilosia, Pipizini and Platycheirus. Stuart and I have been developing ideas of how to run this course so we have a bit of work to do to pull it together in coming months.

If we get too many expressions of interest I will see what we can do about running a second course next winter. My feeling is that this might be somewhere local to us - in the vicinity of Stamford - but we will have to take soundings on this.

So, do let me know - my e-mail address is roger dot morris at dsl dot pipex dot com