Remember the W’s when recording wildlife

Graeme Wilson of Westruther has been appointed as manager of The Wildlife Information Centre.
Graeme Wilson of Westruther has been appointed as manager of The Wildlife Information Centre.

Last time I was writing this column I was the biodiversity officer for Midlothian Council but I have now moved on and am now the manager of The Wildlife Information Centre (TWIC).

I have written about TWIC before when I have been writing about recording wildlife that you have seen as it is a local biological records centre.

TWIC covers the Lothians and Scottish Borders but there is also a biological records centre covering Northumberland and beyond, the Environmental Records Information Centre for the north east.

Records centres such as these play an important role as they are repositories for wildlife records as well as habitat data. The information they gather is used in a variety of ways including by organisations that are planning projects to ensure that no protected species or habitats are impacted on by their project, as well as by local authorities in a variety of ways.

Wildlife records and habitat information is gathered in a variety of ways, such as surveys by trained surveyors, organised survey days where groups of volunteers get together to survey a specific site and from survey reports from other sources.

However one of the best sources of information is the public reporting their wildlife sightings, but if you are going to send in your wildlife records to your local records centre then you have to remember the four W’s. Without these then it is not possible to accept a record and treat it as a biological record. But what are the four W’s?

They are Who, What, Where and When.

The Who is the name of the recorder. That is you. It is really important to be able to put the name of an individual next to a wildlife record so that you can be contacted if more information is required. Records centres do not pass on contact details without permission.

The What is the name of the species. In most cases the common name is enough but some species share the same common name so to avoid possible confusion the scientific name is best.

The Where is the location you saw it. It is best to give as much information as possible including the name of the location but the best thing to do is give a grid reference. A six figure grid reference is the minimum needed but an eight figure grid reference is even better.

The When is the date you saw it. If you can give a time that is even better and can be useful to know, especially when dealing with certain animal species.

The four W’s are the minimum that is needed for a biological record to be valid but other information is always gratefully received. This might include how many of the species you recorded there were, what sex the species was, what habitat you saw it in and if there was anything about their behaviour that was worth recording.

The latter could include something like a bird collecting nesting materials or food in their beaks. This lets us know that the bird is nesting close by so that it can be recorded that this species is breeding in this locality. So if you have any wildlife records please think about contacting your local biological records centre and give them your records. Even if you have never recorded any wildlife before but you see something interesting or unusual it is worth reporting it. Your records will be put to good use and could help protect our wildlife and habitats.

I hope I haven’t bored you too much by going on about wildlife recording but it is an important part of wildlife conservation.

GRAEME WILSON

Should you find an animal in need of our services, or if you need advice please phone HQ on (01289) 302882. We are happy to help. You can also e-mail via our website www.swan-trust.org. We are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/swantrust.

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