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April – Biological Recording from Katie Jenks

Biological recording has its roots in natural history and some of the earliest recorders, including Culpeper (1653), knew how important it was to record their wildlife observations. Most biological records nowadays are collected by volunteers belonging to recording schemes and societies with the main aim of finding out what can be found where. Recording species and submitting them enables dots to be made on a distribution map and species status determined, from Nationally Rare to Locally Common. By knowing how a species is distributed we can then decide how to prioritise its conservation.

Most weeks there will be a headline story on some aspect of the environment. You may hear that a bird such as the greenfinch has moved from the Green List (no significant decline in numbers) straight down to the Red List (in urgent need of help). Or that a summer migrant is arriving in the UK earlier each year. Such data is due to reliable records being made and entered onto national databases.

The main elements behind an accurate record is that someone else is able to know the presence of an organism at a specified time and place by a named individual.

WhoKatie Jenks
WhatRed Kite
WhereWestwood Road, Tilehurst (SU666739)
When20 March 2023

For records to be comparable in the future, they must be like for like and repeatable in order to detect change. A recorder may list all of the flora and fauna they see on a 2 mile walk and have the site name as Moor Copse. A lot of us know what they mean by Moor Copse but which bit? Where is the site boundary? Moor Copse wood itself or somewhere else on the Moor Copse BBOWT site? A site name plus at least a six-figure grid reference number will give others a good indication of exactly whereabouts a species was seen.

Probably the easiest way to find a grid reference is on your mobile phone GPS although it may not be completely precise. Another good method is to use Grid Reference Finder where you can simply type in the road or postcode and the grid reference will show up on the map. What 3 Words is also useful as a stop gap until you can locate the grid reference but will only go down to 3m square so is not ideal for invertebrates and will need to be converted before you submit records.

Once you have these records, where can they be submitted? The local environmental records office  TVERC will need them and also iRecord (which will probably be another blog). iRecord has specialist verifiers for each taxon group and will filter down the results to TVERC. And the RDNHS specialists also collate data and can be find on the website.

Recording wildlife can be fun as you learn about what is around. You may choose to record everything you come across or you may choose just to record one species that you are interested in. By doing this, a species that has been considered rare may actually be relatively common – it was just the recorders of it that were rare. It was highlighted at the AGM that there is a gap in biological records from Berkshire, so have a go even if it is from your garden or window! Every record is precious.