Monday, 20 January 2020

Record player

Penny and I have spent the weekend with the grandchildren who at one stage went into a frenzy of mathematics - multiplying 12 until their brains were exhausted and reciting numbers up to stratospheric levels. On the way home, we called in on some small grand-nieces who told us that they had 'millions and billions' of fluffy toy owls, many of which they produced as proof.

Where all this expertise comes from, I have no idea, but it certainly isn't me. I scraped through Maths O Level in 1966 with Grade 6, the minimum required for a pass, and never really got a handle on the subject (though aspects of it, such as the curious habits of the number 9) have always intrigued me.

This is leading up to the admission that I am a very poor record-keeper, which is a lamentable characteristic in a recorder of moths. Some would say that running a trap, as I do, is largely pointless if you do not provide the UK - and world's - very impressive data banks with records of what you have found.

Did you know that every county in the country has a moth recorder, indeed usually more than one, and the largely amateur circle of people who run lights has a magnificent history of keeping them supplied. I was only just reading a note on the ever-excellent Upper Thames Moths blog by one counterpart to myself who counted 16,961 little visitors last year. His best night saw 1077 moths of 125 different species. I would have lost count long before reaching 16,000 and if Penny had to wait for morning tea while I counted 1077 moths, there might be trouble.

Anyway, two years ago (Oh the shame), I contacted our local moth recorder to say that I was at last intending to organise myself. Nothing happened, but after the Christmas just gone by, I made a New Year resolution and I have carried it out. My tallies for Oxfordshire going back to April 2013 when we moved from Leeds are now on this blog's What Moth Is That? records page. Hooray! 

Don't get too excited, however. My inability to spend time doing exhaustive counts means that the list is primarily a record of highlights - for example, on one of the very rare occasions where I give an approximation of the total - 10 June 2014 - I selected only a dozen or so of an estimated 300 moths in the trap for specific attention. I must have been going through a conscientious period at the time because there was a short spell in the Spring of that year when I listed totals of arrivals - eg on April Fool's Day:

1 Apr Dotted Chestnut  Diurnea fagella  Agonopterix alstromeriana   Common Quaker (32)  Small Quaker (14)  Clouded Drab ((13)  Hebrew character (12)  Early Thorn (4)  March  Pine  Beauty, Twin-spotted Quaker  Satellite  Red Chestnut (2) Clouded Drab (9) Common Quaker (26) Emmelina monodactyla (2) Oak Beauty

So 'tis done. But there is also much more to do. After a good rest and no doubt turning my attention to life's other demands - eg the above-mentioned grandchildren - I must buckle down and do the same for the still-undetailed years from 2008 to 2013 when I paid host to moths in Leeds.

I also suspect that the moth recorder may want me to reclassify my list into species rather than dates; and some of the favoured reporting forms are both online, which I don't find a doddle, and have intimidating numbers of queries about moths' gender, weather conditions and so forth.  I applaud the motives for this thoroughness while at the same time quailing at the prospect of trying to satisfy it. But I will try. In due course.

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