11 de julio de 2024

Trying Abbreviations in Species Searches

I'm just discovering this! How come it took me so long??? (I hear Millennials and Gen X/Y/Z's groaning...)

Many, many times per day, I search for a particular taxon, species, genus, etc., either among my own observations or elsewhere on various iNat pages. In some settings (when?), I need to be pretty exact, avoiding typos, to get the correct species or group. But I've just learned that at least on the Explore page and the Suggest an Identification tab on observations, some creative, short abbreviations may get you to a desired species name pretty quickly. Below are some examples I've used recently. Some variations are really useful because the name is relatively unique; others may bring up a short list of matches from which you can select your target. Some just flop. It's all an experiment for me right now.

"st dai" brings Straggler Daisy to the top of a list.

"pet can" gets Canadian Petrophila (Petrophila canadensis) as 3rd choice, while
"pet canad" gets it to the top of the list.
"can pet" gets me Canadian Petrophila as the 2nd suggestion on the list, while
"cana pet" gets it to the top of the list.

"fea e" gets the Feather-edged Petrophila as 3rd choice, whereas
"fea ed" gets Feather-edged Petrophila uniquely.
"fulical" gets me Feather-edged Petrophila (Petrophila fulicalis) as 2nd choice.

"cis ten" brings Thin-banded Lichen Moth (Cisthene tenuifascia) to the top of a list, as does "thi lic"

Birds in North America have long had the advantage of being known by standardized 4-letter codes which are recognized in iNat's search boxes, but the irregular ones sometimes trip me up. For instance, while "CACW" gets you right to Cactus Wren, that irregular abbreviation (not "CAWR") may slip my mind. Happily, "cac wr" brings Cactus Wren to the top of the list, as does "cam bru" (for Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus, which is always fresh on my mind).

Experiment with your most frequent taxon searches and see how many keystrokes you can save!

Publicado el 11 de julio de 2024 a las 10:55 PM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 1 observación | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

06 de julio de 2024

Petrophila IDs "Done"

Whew! I just finished a long-overdue task. From my interest in aquatic Crambid moths, I had wanted to review all available sightings of the genus Petrophila on iNaturalist. Over the past two days, using the Identify pages, I went through all of the remaining "Needs ID" observations. I can't identify many of the Central or South American species because there are just too many Neotropical species which I'm not familiar with. Those aside, I have now examined a little over 9,200 (86%) of the 10,700 Petrophila observations from the U.S. and Canada. I estimate that about 95 to 97% of them allowed a species level ID. (Currently 6.3% of all U.S. and Canadian observations sit at genus level but some of those will get to species when another community ID is added.)

Selfishly, this kind of effort has a number of benefits. It allows me (a) to cement in my mind not only the known diagnostic features of each of the several Petrophila species (see an array of the most common species, below), but also (b) to benefit from examining the variation available in patterns (and photographs) across the entire range of each species. Repetition is key in such a situation to gain some confidence in IDing, but it brings with it the chance for over-confidence. So I hope that only a modest number of my "improving" IDs will ever need to be changed or reversed.

Before I delve more deeply into the Petrophila moths of Central and South America, I hope to divert my attention to another favorite genus of mine, the Cisthene lichen moths, and review all the Needs ID observations for North America.

Now, everybody STOP observing Petrophila moths so I can catch my breath and turn my attention to other tasks! ;-)


Jalisco Petrophila (@jcochran706) | Canadian Petrophila (@smithjg1954) | Two-banded Petrophila (@jcochran706)


Feather-edged Petrophila (@gcwarbler) | Confusing Petrophila (@ouzel) | Capps' Petrophila (@gcwarbler)


Ozark Petrophila (@gzerbe57) | Kearfott's Petrophila (@egordon88) | Heppner's Petrophila (@ptexis)


Devil's River Petrophila (@ptexis) | Santa Fe Petrophila (@smithsqrd) | Spring Petrophila (@gaudettelaura)

Publicado el 06 de julio de 2024 a las 02:57 AM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 5 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de julio de 2024

A Beautiful Alabama Biodiversity Hotspot

Mary Kay and I were recently driving back from a family reunion in North Carolina towards home in Texas. I was navigating through lightly-traveled back roads to get across the South. Almost by accident, we stumbled upon Natural Bridge Park, near Natural Bridge, Alabama, a privately owned 140-acre nature preserve in western Winston County along US 278. We took a short two-mile hike in the canyon. It turned out to be one of the loveliest places we had seen in our travels through ten southern states.

The rugged canyon at Natural Bridge harbors some fabulous rock formations, cliffs, and shelter caves, the most iconic being the namesake feature, the "longest natural bridge east of the Mississippi". It is truly spectacular.

The canyon is clothed with old-growth beech-magnolia-oak-pine-hemlock forest and harbors many regional rarities. The proprietors, Donnie and Naomi Lowman, are very interested in documenting the biodiversity in the park and recently (5-7 April 2024) hosted an iNat bioblitz at the site. My contribution on our short visit in early July offers only a very small set of observations but those included a number of new-to-me plant species. I can see from the array of species documented thus far on iNaturalist that there is a great deal more to discover at this site. I highly recommend a stopover at this site for anyone traveling through the region. Admission is $10/adult. Here are links to more information about the site:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_Bridge_Park
https://www.northalabama.org/listing/natural-bridge-park/269/

Publicado el 04 de julio de 2024 a las 03:47 PM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 7 observaciones | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

30 de mayo de 2024

Panama 2024 - Preliminary Notes

We're just back from a 2-1/2-week Panama vacation that included a week-long birding visit to the Canopy Tower (Panama), a 4-day stay at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve (Chiriquí), and several days with friends in Alto Quiel on the outskirts of Boquete (Chiriquí). As my "teaser" uploads suggest, we encountered an amazing array of biodiversity.

Now comes the task of uploading the bulk of observations from about 5,200 photos and dozens of song recordings. I have no idea at present how many species I documented, much less how many of them were new to me (probably 80 to 90%). Like I've said many times, with apologies to Mark Twain, "Travel is Taxonomically Broadening". I'm going to create some links below which should point to various sets of the existing and upcoming uploads from this foray into the Neotropics. The output from these links will burgeon over the next few weeks (and months?) as I continue to upload.

All 2024 Panama observations
Mammals from 2024 Panama visit
Birds from 2024 Panama visit
All insects from 2024 Panama visit
Butterflies from 2024 Panama visit
Moths from 2024 Panama visit
Hemiptera from 2024 Panama visit
Beetles from 2024 Panama visit
Flowering plants from 2024 Panama visit
ALL of my Panama observations ever

Geeking Out on the Upload Process
I'm still trying to think through how I want to attack this mountain of stuff. There are a couple of pathways and there are upsides and downsides to each. (As an aside, I was paranoid about losing my photos, so I ended up AirDropping all iPhone photos and copying my two SD cards from the Canons to my laptop every night and also periodically offloading the entire set of images from there to a 32-gig thumbdrive.) For some technical reasons, I ended up taking the vast majority of my plant and mothing images with my iPhone 14, the latter with a new Xenvo clip-on lamp (Glowclip Mini from their Pro Lens Kit). The iPhone images provide sufficient, if not perfect, detail on most plants and moths if I don't have to dig deep into taxonomic keys, and the iPhone-Xenvo combination is much more convenient to use than my long-trusted point-and-hope Canon PowerShot cameras. I used the latter, particularly my Canon SX740 SX, for most butterfly and bird photography. For the iPhone photos, I can (and do) upload images directly to iNaturallist from within the iNat app. That's a pretty good option but with my clumsy fingers, it's quite tedious to add any comments to observations at upload in the iOS version of the app. Another issue with the iOS uploads is that, although the locations are carried forward in the metadata at upload, there seems to be no way on the iPhone to modify the automatic placenames added by the iPhone (probably placenames from Apple maps), and these are often generic (state-level) or misleading. The only way to modify them after upload is to get on the website on my computer and edit the location names and that involves a lot of tedious post-processing.

The other basic option for upload is to work from the copies of all my photos which I've now downloaded to my laptop, using the website uploader. This is more akin to my traditional upload pathway and I like it because I have more tools on the computer for any editing and cropping of images (e.g. within Preview, iPhoto, or even Photoshop if needed). The major drawback for working with the laptop versions of the images (which I assume, for instance, are true and faithful copies off the iPhone), is that for some reason the locations for iPhone photos are lost when I AirDrop them to the laptop. That's a major glitch because it then requires me not only to manually add the locations, but to remember where every image was taken! Once again, that adds a lot of tedious effort at upload on the iNat website, even if done in batch mode. Some of these glitches may relate to the fact that I'm working on an older laptop with an outdated OS but at present I can't upgrade or update any further, so I'm stuck with what I have. I may try to attach my iPhone directly to the laptop (by cord) and see if a download bypassing AirDrop will retain the photo locations. I'll be experimenting with all of that today. [Update: I tried to connect my iPhone 14 to the old laptop and my desktop computer but neither has a recent enough OS version that is compatible with the offload process. Sigh...]

If anyone has some advice on these two alternatives or some other pathway, I'll be eager to hear about it. Thanks!

Publicado el 30 de mayo de 2024 a las 03:52 PM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 42 observaciones | 7 comentarios | Deja un comentario

26 de abril de 2024

Salton Drive CNC 2024

Due to a confluence of external circumstances, I will be limited in my perambulations for this year's City Nature Challenge. That said, I live in a hot spot of urban biodiversity, so my intention is to thoroughly document the fauna and flora of Salton Drive over the period of April 26-29 with every tool at my disposal. I recently (4/24/24, 6 a.m.) did a "trial run" on my moth sheet with a new 395nm blacklight on the back porch and managed to document about 100 species of insects and other invertebrates in about a half hour. The Salton Drive Biodiversity project currently stands at 1,995 species so with some effort and a little luck, I hope to push that up over the 2,000 species threshhold. I'm going to set some modest diversity goals just to prod myself to keep at it:

Mammals: 8 species
Birds (difficult with my equipment): 10 species
Moths: 100 species
Other Insects: 100 species
Other Invertebrates: 25 species
Plants and Fungi: 100 species

I have done much gardening (transplanting, seeding) of native plants in the yard, but for the record, I will only be documenting species and individuals which are native to the lot or have spread of their own accord from my original plantings. Thus species like Crucita (Siam Weed), Plateau Goldeneye (Viguiera dentata), Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arborea var. drummondii), and Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) in our butterfly garden were originally planted but these have subsequently spread widely elsewhere on the lot.

I'll be doing some blacklighting each night (weather permitting), sweep netting, and dip-netting in the creek. I'll also be trying to use Merlin to record and identify bird sounds and will try to capture images of a few bird species visiting a feeder outside my office window and with my long-standing trail camera which is pointed at the bird bath. Just to be thorough, I'll probably prowl the recesses of my garage to document such commensal species as the silverfish eating all my old papers, etc.

Publicado el 26 de abril de 2024 a las 06:21 PM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 44 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de marzo de 2024

You Can [Almost] Never Go Home

I just completed a very interesting run to the West Coast. The nominal purposes of the brief (two-week) road trip were (a) to attend a 50th college class reunion at U.C. Irvine, (b) visit SoCal family, and (c) enjoy the early Spring bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I don't get back to Southern California very frequently--twice in the past two years is exceptional. But every time I do, it brings back floods of memories of my childhood upbringing and all the events that occurred in the first 25 or so years of my life.

Relevant to iNaturalist, I got to visit such boyhood haunts in Orange County as Upper Newport Bay (now a Regional Park and Ecological Preserve), Doheny Beach State Park (where I learned to surf), and Crystal Cove State Park (which was once part of the locked-away Irvine Ranch).

At Upper Newport Bay, I had a nice encounter with a pair of the endangered California Gnatcatchers very near the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center. Ironically, I got a Lifer bird species not far away along the hike-and-bike trail--a Swinhoe's White-Eye--although I didn't get a picture of the species. This is apparently a fairly recent colonizer in Orange County; it wasn't on anyone's radar when I published the first compilation of Orange County Birds nearly 50 years ago. Along that hike-and-bike trail, I also documented Coast Cholla on the very bluff where I had once slid downhill as a teenager, impaling my flimsy tennis shoe into a patch of the same cactus. At Doheny Beach, only slightly distracted by a handful of surfers on some nice late winter swells, I came across a large Wavy Turban at the high tide line, one of my all-time favorite seashells. On a backcountry hike in the San Joaquin Hills of Crystal Cove State Park, the abundance of Black Mustard, Poison Hemlock, and Malta Star-thistle along the trail's edge offered a stark reminder that no corner of SoCal remains unscathed by the long-term influences of human activity.


A Prickly Goal

On many such road trips, I'll pick a group of organisms (usually some woody plant genus or family) on which to focus as a target set of species. This allows me to narrow my study preparation and yet in doing so, I can "vacuum up" all the other biotic diversity I encounter in my focal searches. On the recent trip to SoCal, almost by accident I began to realize the high diversity of cholla cacti (genus Cylindropuntia) that I was encountering. I did my best to try to sort them out--only partially successfully--and in the end documented at least eight species in the genus across southern Calfornia and Arizona. (This doesn't include our familiar Christmas Cactus and Tree Cactus which I recall passing by during my first day-and-a-half on the road in West Texas, but didn't bother to document.) For the record, this set included the following species...and I still can't claim to be able to separate all them with any confidence:

Buckhorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa)
Teddybear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii)
Mason Valley Cholla (Cylindropuntia fosbergii)
Chain-fruit Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)
Gander's Cholla (Cylindropuntia ganderi)
Coast Cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera)
Branched Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia ramosissima)
Thurber's Cholla (Cylindropuntia thurberi)

Don't quiz me on all of these. Remarkably, this swath of the southwestern U.S. through which I traveled is home to as many as 25 species of cholla plus some hybrids. A prickly identification challenge, indeed!


For the record, here's a link to the full array of my observations on the two-week sojourn to SoCal and back.

Publicado el 11 de marzo de 2024 a las 02:35 AM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 13 observaciones | 2 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 31 de enero de 2024 a las 03:33 PM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 2 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 28 de enero de 2024 a las 03:46 PM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 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:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/197512935

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:

TAKE GOOD FIELD NOTES!

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 25 de enero de 2024 a las 06:31 PM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

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: https://vpi.com/galleries/moths-2024.

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

Publicado el 04 de enero de 2024 a las 04:19 PM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario