Observing and identifying wildlife and noting down the key information (the four W's) is the first part of recording, but what do you do with the information? To be useful, it is important to get the information into a logical format that you (and others) can understand. This could mean writing them in a diary or notebook, entering them into a computer or filling in a recording form. As a local records centre we will take data in any format so long as it has the requisite information.
We have made a number of simple recording forms available for people to record their sightings. Our Casual Records Form can be downloaded and printed from the Downloads page, and you can write up sightings of any species on these forms. This is particularly useful if you wish to note down occasional sightings from your garden or whilst you are out on a walk. If you choose to specialise in a particular species group we also have some more detailed recording sheets for some groups (e.g. mammals) that allows us to record information about these in a more standardised way.
Entering records onto a computer
Many people have computers at home into which they can enter and store information. This can be very useful, in that it not only gives you access to a searchable list of your sightings but also helps to save us time on entering records.
If you use Microsoft Excel, we have a spreadsheet which you can download to enter your records onto. The spreadheet contains columns for all of the information we need, and is particularly useful if you record regularly and generate a lot of records.
- fill in as much information as possible, including things such as sex, lifestage and abundance wherever possible
- the comments box can be used to provide additional information
- only record things you are sure of, and try to be precise about what you saw (Great-spotted Woodpecker' rather than just 'woodpecker')
- remember to backup your records regularly and store them somewhere away from your computer
There are also many computer software packages specifically designed for storing wildlife sightings. Popular ones include MapMate and Recorder 6, but there are many others too. If you use one of these programs then please contact us to discuss the most efficient way of sharing your records.
Notebooks, diaries and photographs
You may prefer to simply keep a notebook or diary with your sightings in. Whilst these can be extremely valuable it is important that you remember to record all the information against each record (the four W's) and to ensure that the writing is clear and legible. If you use codes or abbreviations make sure that you jot down what these are at the front of the book so that others can understand your notes.
Photographs are also very useful records since these often include much of the information already. A digital photo will already include the date, the species (assuming you can identify it from the picture). If you label each photo with your name, the date it was taken, the location and the species these are excellent records. Photos also enable you to keep a record of the species you can't identify for the future.