Hi David et al,
I have always been interested in the natural world, and I think my
interested started with invertebrates rather than birds. I agree with the
comments made by other respondents, except that I see far more things, other
than birds, when I go bush. HOWEVER as others have said, identifying them,
even to family level, is very hard, at times impossible.
If you consider the amount of discussion on this site that can ensue
regarding the identification of an Australian bird - there are only several
hundred to choose from. All fully described (with rare lumps/splits) and
essentially able to be identified remotely.
Now try invertebrates. An over 10yo Australian INSECT guide says there are
about 86,000 Australian sp that have been identified so far (probably as
many undescribed, even undiscovered.). It is therefore, as already has been
said, VERY hard to ID any insect, let alone other invertebrate you see -
without dissecting the male genetalia - and being an expert on this! Then
there is often amazing sexual dimorphism!
Collecting (and now photographing) Lepidoptera (Butterfly/Moths) is one of
the more popular invertebrate pastimes. According to a recent guide,
Australia has between 20,000 and 30, 000 species of moth, and about 400
butterflies. There are countless (moths particularly) uncollected and
I have recently become very actively involved in recording the moths in my
small inner Melbourne garden. One great attraction of this is, due to
various personal circumstances, I am unable to travel, so my birding
opportunities are very limited. I am very fortunate to be being helped by a
(the) local expert on this - and I have begun volunteering at the Museum
Entomology Department, so I have the opportunity to use the collection there
to help identify species I find. Even with these formidable resources ID is
no easy thing.
Most people don't have these resources. Available guides cover only a small
number of species, and for we Victorians, tend to have a NSW-Qld bias.
I have been studying my front yard leps seriously only since September last
year. In that time I have discovered a 2.5cm wingspan geometrid, breeding at
the front of my (inner Melb remember) house, that is unrecorded in the
Melbourne and Canberra collections. In the last month or so, 3 or more other
possibly unrecorded moths - this will require more research.
I am also recording arachnids and other invertebrates in my yard, and have a
good number of these too! Similar ID issues arise with these - Beetles,
another fairly popular group, has over 28,200 Australian species!
In the short time I have been concertedly studying them, I have recorded
(mostly in my yard) >85 sp of moth that I have ID-ed. Many more that I am
yet to have time to ID. I'm waiting for the winter moth lull for this!!
As you can see mothing and other non-birding can be very exciting and
productive. But also VERY challenging.