Collecting and submitting records provides a focus for my wildlife outings. That being said, I try to remember that looking for wildlife is not simply about numbers. For me, it may have been initially, but it certainly is not now. It’s also about having fun.
I currently submit records of birds, butterflies and wild flowers to various authorities including GiGL. This is my third year of submitting butterfly records to GiGL. I also submit records to the Kent Branch of Butterfly Conservation and bird records to the London Natural History Society.
Most of my records relate to sightings in the London Borough of Bexley.
It all started in late 2010, following my retirement, with birds. One of the first bird species I saw were ringed plovers, beside the Thames in the Belvedere area. They are still there and I secretly refer to them as, ‘my ringed plovers’.
I cheerfully admit to being a slow learner and vividly recall being told, after a couple of years or so of recording, that there was a whinchat on the marshes. I thanked the person who told me, hopefully convincingly, at the same time as wondering, “what the heck do they look like?”. But I did find a Bonaparte’s gull swimming in the Thames in 2013, so it’s not all bad.
I next moved on to butterflies. In theory, with fewer butterfly than bird species, it should be much easier. However, I often have trouble differentiating between green-veined white, large white and small white butterflies. Somewhat disconcertingly, I seem to be generally alone in experiencing this problem. A couple of years ago I chanced upon a marbled white butterfly fluttering around on the Holly Hill Open Space, seemingly the first confirmed sighting of a marbled white butterfly in Bexley. “Well done, me” I thought. But of course, pride comes before a fall. Within a few days, the “first sighting” was relegated to the “third sighting”. Oh well.
I then moved on to wild flowers. It was with considerable trepidation that I joined the Kent Botanical Recording Group, but it was with even more trepidation that I submitted my first list of sightings in a local 1km x 1km square “monad”. Any credibility I might have had, was lost after I identified English scurvygrass as Danish scurvygrass. But I had gained in confidence enough to submit another batch of records for another local monad. And wow – I passed the test.
And I do have my moments. An interesting find in 2016 was of golden dock and marsh dock, both growing on the former Thamesmead Golf Course. According to Kent Botany 2016, “for both of them to occur together is exceptional”.
But birds, butterflies and wild flowers are my limit. Heck, I can’t even differentiate between the common/harbour seals and grey seals that I see by and in the Thames. After a series of incorrect guesses (sorry, identifications), I now just refer to “seals”. Unless I see one pretending to be a banana in which case, it’s odds-on, apparently, to be a common/harbour seal.
It is probable, that if anyone who receives my records reads this, that they will now entertain grave misgivings about the reliability of anything I submit. However, although acutely aware of my considerable limitations, I possibly know a little more than I give myself credit for. At least we hope so.