But the story actually begins several months previously. Graeme Lyons, ecologist at the Sussex Wildlife Trust and fellow Pan-Species Lister, had suggested a challenge: was it possible to find and identify a full one thousand species in just the 24 hours of one calendar day in the UK? With a few rules (2 people who must stick together as a team, one vehicle, no outside help) and a set date (10th June 2017), the gauntlet was laid down...
My team would be myself and Sally, a friend and fellow PSL-er based just outside Penzance in Cornwall, so Friday evening saw me piloting a van laden with caffeine, ID guides, site species lists and a sleeping dog down the ever-smaller Cornish lanes en route to our first destination, Windmill Farm. Having to use both the windscreen wipers and the heater didn't bode well, but the site was a Cornwall Wildlife Trust & Cornwall Birdwatching & Preservation Trust Reserve covered with species-rich pools, heathland, mires, trees and grassland, plus a Red-footed Falcon hanging around for the past week - must be good!
|Moth trapping at Windmill Farm|
A bit of tweaking and I eventually got the generator running properly, sorted out the dodgy wiring, and moved the other trap to the shelter of the windmill. A couple of hours torchlit searching and moth trap checking and we were up to 95 species - needing 42 new species an hour we were up on the deal! With the wind howling, rain falling, temperature dropping to single figures and both of us shattered from election-watching the previous evening, we decided to get a couple of hours sleep.
|4am is not a time the dog would like to be awake on Saturday mornings. Can't say I blame him!|
After about 45 minutes walking, sweep-netting and tree-beating, it was becoming very clear that we were going to need the aquatics: everything else had buried itself deep down in the undergrowth, away from the ever-more-insistent rain pelting against us. We reached the edge of the Ruan Pool field to find... a large number of large cattle, all very interested in the dog. We beat a hasty retreat and walked over to the dragonfly ponds on the other side of the reserve. A couple of stunned-looking damselflies awaited (Common Blue and Blue-tailed), but there was little sign of life otherwise.
|The Windmill Farm records|
|The view from Predannack Wollas|
We headed back up the hill into the intensifying rain. Both of us wear glasses and it wasn't long before neither of us could see much of anything, peering Magoo-like at leaf mines and aphids sheltering beneath leaves. My boots had reached the fully-saturated stage where they actually worked like tiny wetsuits, and I was regretting not bringing my waterproof notebook. The only way I was managing to record things now was by hunching over my phone to put records directly into the iRecord app: my notebook was long-saturated.
|Waiting for the rain to clear slightly|
Running out of things prefixed by the word 'sea', we headed back to the van and onwards to the north coast and Upton Towans, another Cornwall Wildlife Trust reserve. It was beyond dimpsey by the time we arrived, needing some 450 species in the final two hours of the day. The Towans were clearly a brilliant site: we quickly stumbled across Soapwort, Portland Spurge, Brown Chafers by the bucketload, a Garden Tiger caterpillar. Further into the dunes, dozens of Amara ground beetles criss-crossed the path with tiny ants, and we cursed the lack of time for microscopy.
The species kept coming - Thyme broomrape, Devil's Coach-horse beetles, galls of the mite Aceria thomasi on wild Thyme - but it was clearly going to be too little, too late. The sand of time were trickling away too fast, and when a Tawny owl hooted in the trees by the van it proved to be our final species of the day: number 657.
|Dog on his way home, channelling both of us|