It surprises and alarms me in equal measure every year just how short a period 12 months is. It never used to be like this. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper warbler a year was an endless epoch, stretching into a great mythical realm beyond called the future. The six-week school summer holiday alone seemed in many ways to be limitless, to employ my employer’s new favourite word.
Fast forward into another century, and I find myself able to spend six weeks writing a single email. Or so it seems. Just where does the time go? The natural year follows this pattern too, such that I feel as though a rug is constantly being pulled from under my feet*. Miss a key event for a day or two and it is cruelly taken away from you – the first swallows, the last swifts, elderflowers, the blooming of a particular orchid or the flight season of an early spring bee. Every year I make new pledges to myself to get to grips with some group or another, only to find that the bird – or beetle – or, er, flower in question has flown before I really got started.
Clearly the only way to hold myself accountable is to make sure other people are relying on me, or at least watching over my shoulder. So it is that I find myself signed up for a square in the new National Plant Monitoring Scheme, and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Beewalk surveys. In other words, to ward off another year’s procrastination I’ve dropped myself in it – it’s now or never for sorting out common bumblebees and plants!
Also, last Saturday I attended a ground beetle workshop at Dinton Pastures Country Park, run on behalf of the British Entomology and Natural History Society by Mark Telfer and John Walters. It made a refreshing change to be student for the day – given that the word teaching is in my job title, I’m usually the one standing up trying to appear knowledgeable – and I came away suitably equipped and inspired to pay more attention to what is, after all, the perfect apprentice coleopterist’s group. In other words, one I really should know better by now.
I sincerely hope the results of this attempt to get organized will be useful: after all, the records I generate should now have ‘added value’, either by fitting in to carefully designed nationwide schemes or simply by being more accurate!
*Although, curiously, at the same time it can feel as though the current season has basically gone on forever. Who remembers what a temperature warmer than 15 degrees feels like?!