Archivos de diario de enero 2024

04 de enero de 2024

Book Review: Moths and Mothing, Featuring The Moths of the Devils River by David G. Barker

Cover: An Introduction to Moths and Mothing, Featuring The Moths of the Devils River

David G. Barker (@ptexis) has just published a gorgeous volume entitled, "An Introduction to Moths and Mothing, Featuring The Moths of the Devils River" (VPI Library, 2023**). I met Dave Barker for the first time several years ago during an iNaturalist bioblitz at Lake Amistad National Recreation Area, not far the Barkers' getaway home on the Devils River in southwest Texas. Based on mutual interests, we immediately struck up a friendship from which I have benefitted disproportionately.

Barker's lifelong interest in snakes, and in particular his fascination with Gray-banded Kingsnakes, lead him to the Devils River many years ago and it was there that an interest in moths was sparked in 2016. Dave is a keen researcher with an eye for detail and that is evidenced in his research on moths and his photographic skills.

An Introduction to Moths and Mothing (IMM) is a slick, well-structured volume with useful information for moth-ers and nature enthusiasts at all levels of interest. Barker's writing style is down-to-earth, matter-of-fact, and very readable. He uses technical terms with facility but is quick to define each for the general reader. The volume has five introductory chapters describing, in order, "All about Moths", "The Basics of Mothing", "Names and Numbers of Moths", "Identifying Moths", and "Photographing Moths". Dave includes a 9-page ecological introduction to the Devils River, one of the most enticing, important, and biologically fascinating watersheds of Texas. These chapters, each of which is well-illustrated with nicely selected images, are packed with invaluable nuggets, but they are, for me, just a tasty appetizer leading to the main moth entrée.

Just over half of IMM is taken up by Dave's beautifully photographed moths from the Devils River. This is eye candy of a caloric richness that will delight the senses of even the most dispassionate nature observer. The 106 plates display 558 species of moths which Dave documented in just a five-year span. Here Dave's photographic skills are on full display. The generously oversized and well-cropped images show moths in natural poses--not uncommonly with multiple images of variable species. Each image is labeled with the scientific name and the species' "Hodges Number" (i.e., from the Checklist of Lepidoptera of North American). The species are displayed in taxonomic order by Hodges Numbers. There is no biased "selection" of species here; the micros and the macros, the gaudy and the not-so-gaudy are all illustrated. I applaud Dave for this comprehensive presentation. Certainly there will be many more moths to be discovered and documented in this--and every--corner of Texas, but Barker has offered a gorgeous guide to the vast majority of what is known from the region. Importantly, the diverse set of species included by Barker harbors many widespread Texas taxa along with a mouth-watering display of the very special moth fauna which characterizes Southwest Texas.

There are essentially no identification notes accompanying the images but this is explicitly a "photographic guide" to the species and it serves that purpose well. The reader can thereafter consult any of our commonly used resources such as iNaturalist, Moth Photographers' Group, and BugGuide, or the recent Leckie & Beadle field guide (Southeastern U.S., Peterson Field Guide series, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) for ID help. Moreover, because of the geographic focus of IMM, this contribution offers a critical supplement for moth-ers in a larger swath of Texas to what is found in the latter field guide.

The volume concludes with a set of appendices covering a species list, useful references, and a few other tidbits. Perhaps my only minor disappointment with IMM is its lack of an alphabetic index to the moth species included; Appendix 1 "indexes" all the species, but it is not so much an index as just a list of the species, plate by plate, in Hodges order. Appendix 1 contains common names of those moths for which such names are in regular use.

Did I mention Barker's photographic skills? These are emphatically on display in a set of distractingly beautiful "moth pattern images" on interleaves and facing pages separating chapters. Dave has artfully created the several pages by carefully crafting kaleidoscopic compositions of repeated, small, cropped bits of moth wings. There are 15 such pages scattered from cover to cover and--Spoiler Alert--the identities of the moths from which he created the art are listed in Appendix 3. I challenge the reader to take the "quiz" and try to recognize and name the moth contributing to each page before consulting the list of species!

Simply put, this is a must-have volume for anyone interested in Texas moths and, with its informative introductory chapters, it will have a much wider utility for nature lovers in broader regions.

**The volume can be ordered online at:

Disclosure: I was the happy recipient of an early pre-distribution copy of this volume. I thank Dave Barker for that kindness.

Publicado el enero 4, 2024 04:19 TARDE por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

25 de enero de 2024

Take Good Notes!

It is said that we learn more from our failures than our successes.

I have been a taker of detailed field notes in journals ever since the mid-1970s when the habit was ingrained in me during several Field Ecology classes at the University of California at Irvine. (My eternal gratitude and thanks to Profs. Dick MacMillen, Pete Atsatt, and Phil Rundell). As an avid "Lister" in my birdwatching endeavors, I have also kept relatively detailed records nearly everywhere I've traveled, locally, statewide, out-of-state, and internationally. My 80+ volumes of field journals are also supplemented with field checklists, small spiral notebooks, and my yearly/monthly/weekly "Minders" calendars that I have kept since the 1970s for meetings, appointments, travel notes, important dates, etc. As I slog through the current task of scanning thousands of old slides and uploading usable images to iNaturalist, I have benefitted greatly from all these records of my travels. I really couldn't accomplish these additions to the iNaturalist database without those supporting records.

That's the success of my note-taking system. But I'm not here to dwell on that. It has been a failure of those normally reliable habits that is driving me crazy at the moment and prompting me to post this preachy journal entry. The complicated documentation of this failure of note-taking is on display in this observation of a Glossy Snake, photographed somewhere at some point in 1979:

The short version of the story is that I have great images of the Glossy Snake but virtually no details in my journals about when/where the animal was photographed. The slides have an erroneous (late) date stamp of "Jan 80". They were probably developed from a roll of film that languished in a camera for months. I was pretty sure the observation was a first-hand record; I have Glossy Snake checked off for my Life List on several of my old Peterson Field Guides. But as of this writing, I'm still struggling with trying to sleuth out when/where the animal was documented. The story will continue in the comments and details of the above observation. But the bottom line is:


Don't rely entirely on the modern conveniences of date-time stamps and GPS locations for digital images. Sometimes those are wrong, so it is always smart to have back-up hard copy notes.

This is probably a very difficult, even baffling "ask" of younger generations who are completely comfortable with the aforesaid technology. But forewarned is forearmed. Just sayin' ...

Publicado el enero 25, 2024 06:31 TARDE por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

28 de enero de 2024

Working Through Old Slides and Field Notes

It may be apparent from my recent uploads that I was very busy in the field during the period 1978 to 1980 (and beyond). While a large portion of those records are from my personal birding travels and field research, there was another major source of observations that I accumulated. At the time I was working for a private environmental consulting firm as a wildlife biologist. They sent me to do field work at numerous sites scattered across Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, and as far as Florida and Illinois. I have fair documentation of all of those activities, often with daily bird lists, etc. But at times I wrote field notes with only generalized itineraries, dates, and locations. I have numbers of field checklists which pinpoint some of those efforts. At other times, determining dates and places involves some extrapolation and interpolation.

On most of those efforts I took quite a few habitat images to document the project sites, and no small number of pictures of plants and animals on now-fading Ektachrome slide film. Some, but not all, of the slide rolls had date stamps which, aided by my work calendars and field journals, help associate images with dates and locations. But perhaps 1/3 of the slide rolls lack date stamps. Luckily I had gone through all of those slides many years ago and at least marked a project name or general location (e.g., "Black Mesa, AZ") on the slide boxes. Later on, I organized all the slides in slide sheets and carried over the location information onto those sheets.

My notes and documentation are far from perfect but they have allowed me to properly locate and date the vast majority of the images. For those images with solid dates and locations, the process of scanning the slides and uploading images to iNaturalist is straightforward. Where the slides have little/no associated information and/or my field notes are more generalized, I have been very cautious about assigning places and dates. As a rule, I am only assigning dates and locations to images which I can date to within one week (e.g. +/- 2 or 3 days max) and place at no coarser than a county-level occurrence. For general observations (i.e. nothing rare or out of the ordinary), I hope this is sufficient for the iNat database. And happily, I would estimate that probably 90% of my images, particularly from my college years in the early 1970s up to the digital era starting in the early 2000's, are quite precise on dates and locations. I am still disappointed on occasion when I have some nice images from a project site that lack any notes and for which my memory fails me. Those will never see the light of iNaturalist.

So how many old slides am I working through? I'd have a hard time pinning the actual number down. I recently made a back-of-the-envelope calculation that I probably have something on the order of 10K to 15K slides. Of course, many of those are scenery shots, pictures of family and friends, etc. I would make a guess that perhaps at most 1/4 to 1/3 of all those slides include usable images of some organism. So the raw arithmetic would tell me that I will have eventually scanned anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 images. A quick check of "My Observations" from the dawn of time up through December 31, 2002, so far indicates that I have already uploaded about 1,250 observations of about 900 species (but not necessarily all from slide film). And many of those have multiple images. Looking at the bookcase of binders with all my slides, I'm sure I'm nowhere near half-way done with the task, so the higher estimate of the eventual collection of images may be closer to the final total.

Sorry, gotta go. I have some slides to scan.

Publicado el enero 28, 2024 03:46 TARDE por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

31 de enero de 2024

My Earliest Documented Observations

概括:1968 年 9 月至 1969 年 11 月,我在美國空軍服役期間駐紮在台灣台北。1969 年夏天,我拍攝了許多蝴蝶和其他動植物的照片。 我最近才開始掃描所有這些舊幻燈片。 可以在此連結中找到觀察結果。

简介: 1968 年 9 月至 1969 年 11 月,我在美国空军服役期间驻扎在台湾台北。1969 年夏天,我拍摄了许多蝴蝶和其他动植物的照片。 我最近才开始扫描所有这些旧幻灯片。 可以在此链接中找到观察结果。

Quick Link: My Observations in Taiwan, 1969

In my effort to upload all my observations of plants and animals, time is not linear...or at least the work to accomplish that task is non-linear. As I scan old slides and upload the records to iNaturalist, I tend to jump around a bit. Hanging over this huge task like a dark cloud have been some of my oldest images of nature. But the clouds are parting and I will soon be offering a set of observations from the year 1969 which will constitute the earliest large batch of usable iNat observations I have available. Here's a bit of the back story:

My training as an ecologist in college was interrupted by a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1971. Long story short, the USAF sent me to a duty station in Taiwan for 15 months in 1968-1969. My interest in nature, dating from childhood, was not diminished during that visit. Quite the contrary. I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, on/about September 1, 1968. After settling into my duties there, I acquired my first SLR camera, a trusty Minolta SRT 101. I began documenting events around me but by that time it was getting into the winter months. Even in Taipei's subtropical climate, the winter could be cool. I recall seeing snow, at least momentarily, on top of Chihsing (QiXing) Shan, Seven Star Mountain, on the northern outskirts of Taipei that winter. I didn't really get out to explore Nature in northern Taiwan until the following Spring, but thereafter, for the last six months of my stay, I made several forays to the suburbs and countryside and managed to document a modest amount of natural objects.

Those slides from my Taiwan visit have languished in boxes and notebooks for decades. I had previously identified several of the butterflies I'd photographed, but had otherwise done nothing with the slides. Happily most of the rolls of slides have dates stamped on them so that I can generally date the observation to within a month or so--not ideal but for records going back that far, I'll take it. As well, my outdoor destinations were few in number. Scenery slides interspersed with my images of plants and animals allow me to geolocate almost all of the slides fairly closely, down to "county" level or so and most times much more precisely.

The batch of observations I will upload from Taiwan can be found at this link. As I post this journal entry, the link will only have two single butterfly observations which I'd previously scanned and uploaded. But the collection will soon burgeon to some 50+ observations of various fauna and flora. For the record, below are some brief notes about my main destinations and an overview of my efforts.

-- I began seriously trying to document butterflies and other insects in about May 1969 with a majority of the observations made in June 1969. Most of my other records from Taiwan are incidental encounters with other taxa during those efforts.

-- I was friends with a married (USAF) couple who rented an apartment in a northern suburb of Taipei starting in Winter 1968-69. I visited them frequently and took the opportunity the next Spring and Summer to hike locally in that area to enjoy some Nature. I can't recall the specific subdivision they were in, and the area has built up considerably since then. Thus, I am unable to pin-point the neighborhood on Google Earth, but I will put a somewhat broad circle of uncertainty on those observations and have some confidence in the placement.

-- The USAF had leased a recreational beach site for U.S. personnel on the northern coast of Taiwan called "McCauley Beach". It was about 2 miles west of the Yehliu GeoPark. I had no car, but I could access the beach via a USAF shuttle or via a couple of rural (Taiwanese) bus routes. I visited the beach two or three times from June to August 1969 and have many slides from those visits.

-- My last Nature observations in Taiwan date from early October 1969. Typhoon Emily had roared across Taiwan in September 1969 with devestating effects and just a few weeks later Typhoon Flossie brought historical flooding rains to the island. After Emily's passage, I had gone to visit my friends in Taipei (above) on a long weekend break but the rains from Flossie began and we got flooded into their two-story apartment for several days. I photographed a few creatures that floated by or took refuge on the apartment walls and fence during the flooding.

-- After the floods of Flossie receded, I just made it back to my duty station in time to pack up and get ready to return to the U.S. I was back home in SoCal on leave in November 1969.

I don't remember enough of my Chinese Mandarin to properly construct even one intelligible sentence but with the aid of Google Translate, I'm going to insert a brief introduction to these efforts to alert some local iNaturalists in the region. That brief intro will appear in both traditional and simplified characters. I hope it translates well!

Publicado el enero 31, 2024 03:33 TARDE por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario