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.