Wildlife Recording

Wildlife Recording            Graham Martin

How to start. Biological Recording should be enjoyable and straight forward. Records of any wildlife that you observe are always valuable and making a proper record of it should be easy. The key is keeping within your expertise, and don’t make it a chore or a challenge. Whether it’s a plant, animal, or fungus, be sure that when you start making records that you keep within your comfort zone. The simplest of records are just as important as recording something esoteric or rare. A record has just four key facts: who, what, when, and where. So just find something that you are confident to identify, make a note of your name as the observer / recorder, what you have identified, the date on which you recorded it, and where you found it.

Sharing your records. If you submit your records to one of the regional or national recording schemes you are sharing them with others. This will extend far into the future, to people who you will never meet but who will be grateful for your efforts and who will use your record when looking for patterns of change in time and place. We now live in a world with a rapidly changing climate and all wildlife will respond to these changes, but we cannot be sure how. Wildlife can also change due to the presence of diseases or newly introduced species. Recording very common things today may be the rarities of the future. Only when we have enough records will patterns emerge that enable people to fully understand the changes that have befallen wildlife.

How to record. The best way is to start using an on-line recording scheme straight away. Alternatively, if you prefer to keep records in a notebook, these can either be transferred to a spreadsheet, an online recording system or submitted in paper form. In Worcestershire, records in a spreadsheet or paper document can be sent to the Worcestershire Biological Records Centre (WBRC) at WBRC, Lower Smite Farm, Hindlip, Worcestershire, WR3 8SZ, Tel 01905 759759 or via email to records@wbrc.co.uk. The WBRC holds a large database of records for Worcestershire and has links to many experts in wildlife recording across the county as well as within the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.

Where to get help. You will find a lot of wonderfully illustrated books available to help you with your identifications. There is also a lot of help on the internet and you can access Apps on your phone or Tablet. No identification source is comprehensive or foolproof and wildlife is wonderfully variable and diverse. Therefore, stick at first to things you know or can be confident about, and then when you are stuck ask around for help.

About iRecord. The best national recording scheme to use is iRecord. It’s a truly national scheme in which you can record every type of wildlife. Within it you will automatically build your own list of records and a map showing the distribution of your records. However, your records will also go straight into a national database where others can see them and you can be sure that your records will have lasting value. iRecord can seem a little daunting at first, but there are a lot of helpful files and videos that explain what to do and how to do it. Getting the right name for something is straight forward. As soon as you start to enter a name the menu throws up suggestions and you can drill down quickly to the species that you want to record. Other menus then take you to entering the date on which you saw your find, and then to a system to record easily the place where you found it. This is achieved by drilling down through Ordnance Survey maps of increasing scale and eventually to aerial views of the site. At any point you can click on the map and the location of your record will be logged at whatever scale you are happy with. This might be at the scale of a 1km, 100m or a 10m grid square, it’s up to you.

Take photographs. In iRecord there is a very valuable facility to upload photographs of your find. It is not essential to submit a photo but it is very useful. A photo acts not only as a reminder and evidence of what you found, but over time your record may be looked at by an expert who will use your photograph to confirm identification. When that happens, you will get feedback via email of your record.

Into a national database. Your records on iRecord go straight into a huge national data base (currently standing at about 25 million records) and your record will never be lost. It will also be available for others to see, and you can also find out where other people have recorded something that you are interested in. Another excellent aspect of iRecord is that it is linked to all the various specialised and county-based recording schemes, so your records become available to other organisations across the UK, as well as your local biological records centre.

iRecord is operated by the Biological Records Centre (BRC) as part of the work of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH).