I made 55,111 records of 4,505 species in 2023!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 14 March 2024 11:47

Last year, I really got much better at capturing the records I make throughout the year. Now I wasn't trying to 'pan-species year list' here, I was just trying to record as much as possible. I had no idea what I had recorded until I added it up two days ago - 'blind listing' if you will.

The grand total was of 55,111 records of 4,505 species. That would put me in 22 place (out of 239 people) on the PSL rankings and is more than half of everything I have ever seen (currently 8919 species). Of these 4,505 species, some 3,267 were invertebrates, including 1025 beetles and 401 spiders. Yet there is no way I could have done that without being involved in PSL for the last 14 years. I suppose this will be the decade in my life I get the most done. I am pretty pleased with these totals. That's 151 records every day on average. The majority of my records are from Sussex and I have already synchronized some 40,000 records with Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre. Actually, my peak was on 28th April with 1,042 records made as part of City Nature Challenge.

It's not all been easy. Mum died in January which was really tough. For the last two winters too I have had to condense six months write up and microscope time into four months to leave time to write the book on pan-species listing (this winter that was 192,000 words, over 18 reports), which has meant very long days and very few days off. I am very grateful here for a thing called hyperfocus. I am 80,500 words into the book and the other unexpected thing this year, was discovering that I am both autistic and ADHD (AuDHD) as part of my research for the book. 

That's a HUGE thing to take in and this is me publicly coming out about it for the first time. That's where the hyperfocus comes from then. In some ways, it helps explain my obsessive energy for natural history and my better-than-average-memory but it also sheds light on areas of my life that do not work as well as they should. Someone described it to me once as "having a brain like a Ferrari but with the brakes of a Nissan Micra." And for all those people who have criticised my spelling over my life, this explains why (and why it annoys me so much). I wonder how many other pan-listers are neurodivergent? I bet a fair few are specifically AuDHD too. "We're all on the spectrum somewhere" comments are not helpful BTW, it's usually people feeling awkward, trying to shut you down from talking about something that makes them feel uncomfortable and dismissing what you have discovered about yourself. Try getting a proper assessment and then we can try that conversation again, I guarantee it will be totally different. More on the pros and cons of neurodivergence another time.

Anyways, back to the recording. The bulk of these 55,111 records are from paid surveys, I had 93 field days in my schedule last year, slightly more manageable than previous years. Well, 12 of these days were from two voluntary surveys but I treat them the same in my schedule. I did however, do quite a bit of recording outside of work. I wasn't year-listing spiders, so have done very little recording after September but I did do away quite a bit, the idea being to research the book and meet as many pan-listers as possible that I had not yet met. I had week on the Isle of Wight in March, I did City Nature Challenge at the end of April/start of May, a trip to North Wales and Snowdonia at the end of May (Great Orme being the furthest north I went), the PSL field trip to Sandwich Bay at the end of June (furthest east) and then another week away to Dorset in September and a long weekend in Cornwall in October (furthest south and west). I recorded in 89 hectads throughout the year.

And here, at the Sussex level.

I use a rotation of ten notebooks, never taking one in the field that already has data in. I get this into Excel ASAP, then import this into my Recorder 6 database. Specimens wait until the winter. It works!

Here is the breakdown of the number of species in each group  that I recorded in 2023, I was blown away by 1025 beetles! I really had no idea.

Late last year and early this year, the new pan-species listing website was launched, it really is rather good and there has never been a better time to get involved with the movement. Have a look here and get involved!

With the advent of the new website, it's very easy to start pan-species year-listing but a word of caution with that. Pan-species listing is a life long vocation to see as much as you can, over your whole lifetime. If you become too distracted with annual year-listing of everything, not only will you have missed the point of PSL, you could also find that your list doesn't grow as fast as it could and you could also start falling into the trap that so many birders do. Driving around the country to the same places each year to see the same species. What I would suggest is, go for it maybe once or say once a decade but don't start doing it every year OR do it blind like I have here. If I started ticking everything off the new website each year, not only would I lose loads of valuable time at the microscope, I'd start chasing the targets. Which would mean losing more time in the field where I should be finding things I had never seen before.

What better way to celebrate the madness of last year then, with a belated top ten of my wildlife highlights. Some of which, I never got around to writing on my blog. Now, I would have put the creation of the new PSL site as number one, but I wanted these to be about actual sightings and records.

1). I found a spider new to Britain on Brighton Beach!

And it was a jumper too! I found this with Karen while I was monitoring the shingle creation/translocation project by Brighton & Hove City Council. It's Heliophanus kochii. More here.

2). Snowdonia and the Great Orme
I climbed two mountains in two consecutive days and got seven new spiders, thank to Richard Gallon. But finally seeing Snowdown Lily was possibly the best memory of all. More here.

3). The PSL field trip to Sandwich Bay
So many amazing memories and I really should write this up more in full now but I think cleaning up on shieldbugs and moths was the highlight. Here I include finally catching up with Greater-streaked Shieldbug and Restharrow. Thanks to Kev and Debs for organising.

4).  A week in Dorset
Another holiday with a heavy PSL slant. Lots of good moths but finally seeing Scaly Cricket was the highlight, as was all the time on Portland. More here.

5). Trip to Cornwall in October to meet Sally, Finley and Louis
Another one that needs writing up BUT relocating a spider I had found ten year earlier, confirming it as Enoplognatha mandibularis and getting my 2nd spider new to Britain in 2023 (although it was 2013 originally). Unarmed Stick-insect was a close second. 

6). Isle of Wight in March
A huge thanks to Mark Telfer for showing me around the island and for all the lifers! Yet my self found Edmundsella pedata at Freshwater Bay was my highlight. More here.

7). Finding Nephrotoma sullingtoniensis during City Nature Challenge
I helped secure Brighton and Hove as the city that recorded the most species AGAIN in 2023 but to actually find one of the rarest UK flies with very few previous records and add to our understanding of this rare species phenology and life cycle. More here.

8). Surveying Hoyle Farm
I had a great time at this place, with my highest total of field dets of invertebrates for a day (298) and my largest overall day total of invertebrates (367). There were plenty of rare plants there too. More here.

9). A work trip to Devon
I was working on Moor Barton, and picked up a few nice things down there in the evenings and on my way back home. Finally catching up with Cliff Tiger Beetle, Marsh Fritillary and Lulworth Skipper were some of the highlights.

10). Surveying the Downland Estate for BHCC
I am working my way through a landscape scale biodiversity study of these incredible 5000 ha of farm and downland. So far, I have made 13,422 records of 1618 species. Including 1160 invertebrates (not all in 2023 mind). I thought I had found this weevil new to Britain but I was beaten to it, Aulacobaris caerulescens. It was new to East Sussex at least.

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