Getting started with wildlife recording is easy. It requires little equipment, instead relying on good observation skills and record keeping. Some species are more difficult to observe or identify and there is therefore a learning curve to pursue for those keen on a challenge.
For your records to be useful and meaningful it is important to follow the basic rules of what to record and also to be confident in the identification of the wildlife you’re reporting. Then to pass your records to GiGL please see the submitting records section. There are some excellent sources of help and support for recorders, please visit these links to find out more.
Casual observations – are ‘common species’ okay?
Maybe you are a keen gardener, a walker, or simply like to notice the urban wildlife around you in London. If so, recording what you see on an ad hoc or regular basis is valuable information to GiGL.
Your identification skill level may be restricted to species you’re familiar with and those which can be readily identified – house sparrow, common frog, robin, hedgehog, red admiral, red fox etc. – but this is fine, we accept all species records at GiGL and ‘common-or-garden’ species are important to record, sometimes going unrecorded by more specialist surveyors or interest groups focusing on rare or protected species. Also, some familiar species become the focus of conservation interest if their populations go into decline, for example the house sparrow or hedgehog.
Check what a record should include and record to species level. For example, 7-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) is much more useful than ladybird as the latter could be any of a large number of species.
Your records can help to fill gaps where we don’t currently have professional information, can highlight spaces across London that provide habitat for wildlife, and can be a first step to getting involved with other kinds of recording (see below).
Starting to record species lists
If you regularly encounter wildlife and have an interest in natural history you might want to generate a list of observations for single outings or locations. Perhaps you have an affiliation with a particular greenspace in London or are a photographer, or maybe you’re interested in a particular species or habitat. For this our Standard Data Entry Spreadsheet is most useful. See the page on how to submit records for more information.
Verification and skill sharing are important. To verify the identification of your records it’s a good idea to get involved with local expert recorders or recording groups in your area – the London Natural History Society or other expert recording organisations (see links) are a good place to find specialist advice. Going out with others or a friend who is more experienced at recording can help to confirm what you know and build on this knowledge with new examples.
Digital photographs can help to aid verification and record keeping. We don’t currently collate photographs as standard with records at GiGL, but if you think this would be useful in your case please get in touch.
Your photographs could help verification with experts, get in touch with recording groups to find out more (see links). Online, iSpot is a useful photograph based resource and network. Here you can have your photograph reviewed and the identification of the species discussed with an online recording community.
Note that photographs are not always sufficient to identify to species level, however. Some species require for particular morphological features to be visible, or may require a sample to be analysed under a microscope.
Increasing your skills
There are many organisations and groups that will support your learning with regards to recording wildlife if you wish to increase your skill level or take on a new species group. A few organisations offering courses are listed below, but this is by no means exhaustive and see the recording links page for other organisations you might want to explore.