Archivos de Diario para julio 2021

03 de julio de 2021

Notice of Intent: A Checklist of the Moths of Central Texas

I wanted to let several iNaturalists know that I have started on a long-ago conceived project of compiling a “Checklist of the Moths of Central Texas”. For many years, those of us attempting to study and identify moths in the general Austin region have had the use of some excellent resources such as the latest edition(s) of Knudson & Bordelon’s Texas Checklist (latest: 2018), along with access to online resources such as iNaturalist, BugGuide, Moth Photographer’s Group, and certain other useful databases.

With the passing of the co-founders of the Texas Lepidoptera Survey, Ed Knudson and Charles Bordelon, in the past few years, we have all been left somewhat rudderless in the vast sea of moths since they are no longer able to personally confirm IDs. Their checklists are rapidly becoming out-of-date from taxonomic changes, and fresh copies of their excellent regional publications are, for the time being, unavailable. Texas is not without entomological expertise, but Lepidopteran studies certainly suffered a major setback with the loss of these two gentlemen. It is my understanding that a book on the Moths of Texas is in preparation, carrying on work initiated by the late John Tveten, but I am unaware of the status of that manuscript or any timeline for its publication.

The abovementioned online resources offer us considerable help in identifying moths and understanding their distribution, but zeroing in on the fauna of any region smaller than Texas as a whole is tedious. It is not difficult to search any of the above resources for county records and lists, but county-level data is often a bit too fine-focused (small scale) to guide research. Compromises between a statewide list and county lists might involve looking at the moth fauna of an ecoregion such as the Edwards Plateau, a strategy which would have a strong ecological foundation as a basis for a faunal association. That said, at least three aspects of geography make that a difficult target: (1) each of the ecoregions of Texas has a great many counties subsumed in them, (2) the ecoregional boundaries do not handily align with political boundaries (which are more readily available for database searches, etc.), and (3) those of us living in the major urban centers such as Austin are likely to encounter moths from two or more ecoregions because our cities of residence are commonly on major bioecological boundaries.

As an ad hoc solution to the search for a basis of a regional moth checklist, I have settled on a large metropolitan boundary defined in various resources as the Greater Austin region. This coincides with the following seven counties including and surrounding the Austin metropolitan area: Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson. The immediate advantage of a polygon encompassing this region is that it coincides by definition with the outer boundaries of this set of counties and already has an established, georeferenced “Place” in the iNaturalist database. It also coincides with the region used for Austin’s participation in the annual City Nature Challenge on iNaturalist which typically adds massive numbers of Lepidopteran records annually to that database. It also has the practical advantage of encompassing a large portion of the local destinations we Austin-area moth-ers commonly visit and study. And finally, it has that advantage of straddling a major bioecological transition area which allows for the compilation of representative moth faunas from each side of such a boundary—probably not a comprehensive fauna of either ecoregion, but a strong sampling of each.

Among the resources I am tapping to compile a raw checklist are the following:

— I downloaded all Lepidoptera records from the “Greater Austin, TX” place on iNaturalist (roughly 130,000 records, of which about 76,000 are moth observations). Here’s a link to all these observations:

— I have at my disposal a spreadsheet compiled by the late Jim Gillaspy (Univ. of Texas) which goes by the misnomer “BFL LepList” refering to Brackenridge Field Laboratory of the University of Texas. In fact, it is a compilation of thousands of moth specimens collected by Gillaspy not only at BFL but also other central Texas locations (e.g. Pedernales Falls SP and Univ. of Texas’ Stengl Ranch in Bastrop County) along with many other separate collecting efforts around Texas the specimens from which are now deposited in the University of Texas Insect Collection (UTIC). That list was prepared in the 1990s and last updated in about 2000. Moth taxonomy has changed substantially since Gillaspy’s compilation but the spreadsheet has many advantages: (1) Most moth specimen identifications were provided en masse by Ed Knudson; (2) the spreadsheet contains separate lists for each location; and (3) its taxonomic sequence was orgainized by Hodges numbers (although these too are now somewhat out of date).

— Records on BugGuide and Moth Photographer’s Group maps will be used to check against eventual lists derived from the above databases.

— Visits to the UTIC will probably be on the agenda in the future to verify particular records and identifications (to the extent that I am able to).

I anticipate that the final product of a checklist will be made available online and in print form. I can only hope it might become the precursor to a proper "Field Guide" to our moth fauna with illustrations, descriptions, identification tips, etc. That'll take another day or two. ;-)

I am not unaware that this will be a long, involved task to get to anything resembling a useful up-to-date checklist. Updating the taxonomy of Gillaspy’s list and cleaning up the identifications of tens of thousands of iNaturalist observations will be among the initial tasks.

This journal post is both a notification of my efforts on this project but also a solicitation for help. At times, for various tasks, I am sure I will need multiple sets of eyes looking over various draft or interim products. I'm asking now if you might be available for smaller or larger subtasks along this undoubtedly tortuous path to a Central Texas Moth Checklist. You're welcome to message me privately with your interest and thoughts. I’m also interested to hear if any of you has ever attempted a similar compilation in any way (home, local, county, etc.) and might care to relate your experiences with such an effort.

Wish me luck. I’ll look forward to hearing any initial thoughts on this quixotic adventure.

Publicado el 03 de julio de 2021 a las 09:40 PM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 16 comentarios | Deja un comentario

24 de julio de 2021

National Un-Moth Week?

This almost was the week that “wasn’t”. I can’t remember a time when I set aside a calendar week for a specific effort (National Moth Week) and soooo many things got in the way. The multitude of hurdles that Everyday Life presented from July 17-24 has been a bit overwhelming, especially for someone like myself who is admittedly poor at multi-tasking. Some of the hurdles were self-imposed (e.g. scheduling non-mothing social events in the evenings—What was I thinking?) and others were out of the blue. The most tragic was that just as NMW began, my beloved Canon SX620 IS point-and-hope camera decided to die. The sensors went haywire and it could no longer figure out what I meant to focus on or what settings to use. I have a couple of inferior back-up cameras which filled the gap, but in the end, I had to place an emergency camera order online—and of course the new hardware won’t arrive until after the end of National Moth Week.

Mother Nature didn’t cooperate fully either. We reeeally can’t complain here in CenTex when we’re having a July with below average temps (up until today) and above average rainfall. That’s all wonderful. But a couple of evenings of NMW were lost due to disruptive thunderstorms. Yeah, I know, “Woe is us.” One ill-timed bolt of lightning caused a very brief power outage at my house; my computer had to restart and then my photo editing software decided it had to check its entire library of 125,000 images for errors. Seven hours later, it finally announced that everything was OK and I could continue editing.

The organizers of NMW need to look more carefully at the lunar calendar. This past night, at the climax of NMW, we had a bright full moon. Rule number one in mothing, from fundamental moth behavior, is that nights with a full moon will end up with poor results at artificial lights. Note To NMW Organizers: Look at the lunar calendar for 2022 and figure out when the New Moon (i.e. no moon) will be in July! That should be your target week.

Here in CenTex with it’s high biodiversity, a really good night of mothing in optimal conditions in Spring or Fall might result in the documentation of something on the order of 100 to 150 species of moths. This past week, in several evenings and mornings of effort over seven calendar days, I may have about 55 species of moths to upload. That might seem high by some standards—Sorry, you folks at more northern latitudes—but by Texas standards, that’s rather pitiful.

In the end, I just have to laugh it all off and assert, “Wait ’til next year!”

Publicado el 24 de julio de 2021 a las 08:11 PM por gcwarbler gcwarbler | 22 observaciones | 7 comentarios | Deja un comentario