Wildlife recording is quickly becoming a main passion of mine. The process of searching out interesting species, making notes, creating records and contributing in some small way to our understanding of nature proving to be a fulfilling way of making use of time outside.
Before digging into the subject in a little more detail on this blog, I wanted to cover the basics first and take a closer look and just what makes up a wildlife record…
The importance of wildlife recording
The importance of wildlife recording, or biological recording, to use the proper lingo, cannot be understated. Citizen science and the records generated by naturalists across the UK help inform conservation action by monitoring the abundance and distribution of wildlife, revealing expansions and of course, bringing to light declines too. They help paint a picture of how wildlife is faring on a national level but, closer to home, highlight local trends too, helping conservationists, organisations and researchers to target effort where it is needed most.
What is a wildlife record?
Whether we’re talking plants, insects, birds or a different group entirely, all wildlife records have a few main components:
The name of the plant or animal you’ve spotted and identified. If you’re unsure what you’ve seen, an identification to family level may suffice – the great thing these days is that there are plenty of people out there ready to help identify your finds.
A picture speaks a thousand words and photographs help verifiers and county recorders confirm the species you’ve seen. Images are not always needed but for tricky species, they’re a big help.
The place at which you spotted your plant or animal. An accurate grid reference is the most important factor here and generally, it is best to be as specific as possible. For many species, a six-figure grid reference is a good starting point.
Grid Reference Finder is an excellent tool to help with this.
The date on which you made your wildlife observation.
Your name, in full. Or least written in a way that you would like to be displayed when your record is used elsewhere. Usernames and nicknames can sometimes be an issue for those looking to use your records so it is best to stick to writing your name in full.
What else could you record?
Depending on how thorough you wish to be, there are many other things you could note when creating your wildlife record. Additional informal is a great way to maximise the value of your sighting. Some things you might wish to include are:
How many of your plant or animal did you see? Was it a single individual, or twenty? Information such as this is very important when it comes to assessing local and national populations.
Only applicable with some taxa but useful to note. If you spotted an insect, was it an adult or was it in its larval stage? If a plant, was it flowering, in seed or vegetative?
Knowing more about the site at which you spotted your plant or animal is really useful. You may which to stay broad, for example by stating ‘woodland’ or may specify further, coniferous or wet woodland for example.
Anything else you observed while recording your plant or animal. If, for example, you’re recording a pollinator, what kind of plant was it feeding on? If a fungus, was it growing on a particular kind of tree?
What to do with your wildlife records?
Knowing what to do with your wildlife records is a different kettle of fish entirely. Biological recording in general is a bit of a minefield and plenty of websites, apps and organisations welcome the submission of your valuable records. Generally, there are a handful of really good options for wildlife recorders in the UK, but we’ll cover those further in another blog…