At the beginning of 2014 I resolved to make a decent attempt at seeing 1000 species within a 1-km square, an intriguing listing challenge that aims to discover the wonders on our doorsteps. Unexpectedly moving some miles away from my chosen square certainly hampered this effort, though it did mostly cover parts of Whiteknights Park, where I spend most of the working week. So I don’t really have many excuses for barely scraping over halfway, except to say that I’m impressed at the dedication and knowledge of those who complete the challenge.
There’s actually a website for this pan-species listing lark, which is much the same as bird life listing, only taken to taxonomic extremes. Look carefully towards the also-ran end of the rankings and you’ll find a fairly familiar name. A modest effort so far, though I am very pleased to have recently reached the milestone of having seen 1000 things that are not birds. Whether or not you take it that seriously, tallying up what you’ve seen is a fun thing to do. For me, rather than seeing natural history play second fiddle to list-building, I find that the list facilitates recollections of past experiences, and is also a useful way to reflect on the things I know and, more importantly on the things that I don’t.
A great example of something I would never have known about if not for pan-species listing is the daffodil fly, Norellia spinipes. Though technically speaking a dung fly, their larvae feed in daffodil plants, hence the name. I noticed a post on the PSL Facebook group about them, with an encouragement to check our local daffodil patches. So I went outside and looked at a daffodil patch, and there one was!
Over the next few days, having encouraged others on campus to join the fun, we concluded that daffodil flies are quite common in Whiteknights Park. This previously little known fly is very quickly having the gaps in its distribution map filled, thanks to what some would call a trivial listing enterprise. It’s nice to think that what is in the end just a bit of fun can make a genuinely useful contribution to biological recording.