Why recording wildlife is important

August 2022

Henrietta Pringle & Roselle Chapman

Wildlife conservation relies on data. Knowing where particular species are, where they have been lost and where they might potentially be at risk, informs efforts to protect them from impacts of development, changing land use, and habitat loss. This information can also help identify potential hotspots where species might thrive in future, where efforts to restore and enhance habitat should be focussed or where species reintroduction programmes may have the most chance of success. Local Environmental Records Centres (LERCs) are hubs for this information, holding records collected by local wildlife groups, naturalists, ecologists and researchers and passing them on to those that need them. To ensure local decisions about planning and development, sustainable land management, research and conservation are driven by robust data, these Records Centres need your help.

The value of contributing wildlife records – please help

Everyone can play a part in the submitting wildlife observations to local Environmental Records Centres. This is so that they appear on the “official record” that is consulted by planning authorities, and used by other parties to track changes in distribution and abundance.

As well as the value of the data submitted, keeping a systematic note of what you see on your walks and in your gardens adds extra interest and depth to the experience, and can help you to improve your identification skills.

snake-head fritillary (RC)

How: using iRecord

A great way of easily logging records is via the iRecord website or app, from which Records Centres like our Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC) can extract data. You can also send records direct to TVERC to ensure they get them in a timely fashion – and see below for how you can contribute even if you don’t get on with iRecord.

Local groups or parishes can provide focus to their efforts by setting up an “Activity” within iRecord, whereby all records submitted by participants, within a designated geographical area or within specified window of time, will combine to form an easily accessible overview of what has been seen and where, including a species list.

However, you can, of course submit via iRecord observations from beyond the activity area, and historic observations (as long as you still have the relevant information to hand).For greatest efficiency, we recommend that anyone who is interested in contributing to this effort, or perhaps already keeps records of observations but has not shared them, creates their own iRecord account and uses that to record their sightings, if at all possible; to do this, go to https://irecord.org.uk. There is an option to start in “training mode”, which allows you to get use to the system of submitting records without risk of causing any damage! And even in live mode, iRecord uses a system of checkers to assess records, so that the risk of erroneous records getting on the official record is minimised. You can also attach photos to records to assist with this.

Once you have an account, you can find your group’s Activity by searching Activities and the name of your group or parish. If it is a “member-only” Activity, your application to join will need to be approved by the group’s administrators before you can access the activity.

Other methods of submitting observations

However, if you do not have the means to use iRecord, then record your observations in a field notebook, then ask someone in your group to upload your data for you. If this is not possible, then you can submit your field note books to TVERC. They will need certain key pieces of information: species name, name of observer, location name (provide the name of the site, ideally using one that is recognisable from an OS map; do not enter a postal address as the information you provide will be visible to others), grid reference, and date of observation.

If you have multiple observations to report then you will need to upload the records as a spreadsheet. In this case, please provide the information either in a spreadsheet format with headings as described above, or otherwise such that we can easily transfer it into a spreadsheet. You can also download TVERC’s spreadsheet templates here. You can find more information on how to submit your records, including links to video guides, on the TVERC website.

How your records are used

Your records are first validated (checked for location errors) and verified (checked for species identification errors) before they are entered into the TVERC database. This ensures that the data passed on to decision-makers is as accurate and informative as possible. The records are shared with local authorities in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency. They are also provided through data searches to local groups, parish councils, ecological consultants and researchers. The information is used:

  • by planning authorities and developers to make informed decisions on the design and location of sustainable development
  • to help farmers, land-owners and conservation organisations manage land in the best way to enhance biodiversity
  • by nature partnerships to direct wildlife conservation work
  • by teachers, students and scientists for education and scientific research

The database currently holds over 4 million records, including nearly 800 000 records of Protected and Notable species i.e. those that should be taken into account in planning applications. The vast majority of records in the TVERC database are collected by volunteers and local wildlife groups, showing just how vital your efforts are. So please, make your nature spotting count and submit your records to TVERC.


TVERC, Henrietta.Pringle@Oxfordshire.gov.uk

Wild Oxfordshire Roselle@wildoxfordshire.org.uk

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