Wildlife Recording Techniques

Saturday, January 01, 2005 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

I have often wondered how other people go about recording what wildlife they see when out and about in the great outdoors, if at all. Many people have blogs such as this one which is a great way of sharing information and stories but it can never store enough information to be a useful reference resource year on year. I also know that some people use products such as MapMate to log sightings and locations of absolutely everything that they see. These types of records are invaluable when passed to county recorders as they enable an accurate picture of wildlife in an area to be drawn up. However this method for me is far too time consuming. I would much rather be exploring instead of battling with data entry forms. I have also seen people that make field sketches along with copious notes to record their experiences. The skill that is shown via this method is often outstanding and in my opinion the results usually aren’t far off being works of art in their own right. All are perfectly valid ways of doing things as at the end of the day it comes down to what best suits the individual and what they are aiming to get out of the recording process in the first place.

I first started recording wildlife about three years ago, not long after I had moved to Swansea. I was slowly becoming aware of the vast array of species that could be found in the area and simply started jotting a few things down. Very quickly this developed into making detailed lists of numbers, locations and sexes of birds and other wildlife. The main reasoning behind these lists was that it gave me an excellent representation at the end of the day of just what I had seen. Over time the lists have almost become a bit of a competition in terms of trying to better previous ones which further adds to my enjoyment. Through the lists I have become much more aware of the changing populations of various species throughout the seasons, and have been able to build up a detailed knowledge base of where to go to see certain things and when. All of this has come simply through lists. It is also great on a bad day when I am stuck in the house to have a flick back through my various notepads to remind myself of some great times and experiences. As things have progressed I have also added a daily diary to record those one off sightings that wouldn't normally have found themselves onto a list. What follows is a brief description of my recording methods.

Firstly we have the notepads that I take out with me to do the initial recording in. These are small and pocket sized making them very easy to add to my normal outdoors gear. My usual method of recording involves noting each species down as I see it, along with a number to indicate how many there were and a small location indicator. Typically this is a local landmark or location but when at reserves it usually relates to a specific hide. These lists are usually made when out on longer visits as opposed to the odd sighting during a normal day.

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Once home I write these notepad lists up into a more formal and neat style in the form of these faux-leather bound books. These are far easier to flick through at a later date as the original notepads are often rather battered and at risk of falling to pieces after having been carted around in my pocket through all sorts of weather.

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Finally I have my day to day diaries. As I mentioned above these are for the odd sighting during the week that wouldn’t normally make it onto a list and serve as an excellent reference as to when I have visited certain locations. A specific trip can be easily found in the diary and I can reference that back to the longer lists that have been described above.

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I have recently added to these recording methods in the form of a digital listing on the BUBO Listings website. I have been paying much more attention to the arrival of spring migrants this year and had been having difficulty finding the dates at which I first saw the same migrants last year. BUBO allows me to easily record dates of first sightings and in future years will allow me to compare this data much more readily. The lists on BUBO are slightly lower in terms of the number of species recorded than those that I have been manually maintaining on this site. The reason for this is that BUBO does not list species such as White Wagtail as a separate entity whereas I do. For this reason I shall be keeping both sets of lists active - what I consider my tick list and what is considered an official list by the establishment. BUBO also allows me to have a fancy badge on my blog that lets you know the last new species that I have discovered.

Record, share and compare with BUBO Listing at www.bubo.org

I hope that this little overview has proved interesting and I would love to hear from you about your recording methods if indeed you have any.


  1. I thought this was an excellent idea for a post. I am quite a novice, and shall certainly pick up some tips. I tend to use my camera as a notebook when I'm on the hoof - though I always have a notebook with biro attached by a cord.

    I love following the finds of others via e.g. the Gower Wildlife blog, the Kenfig and Skomer blogs and the Pembrokeshire whale blog.

    The RSPB Big Garden Bird watch has helped to focus my mind, and to prove to me that so much can be seen in a concerted effort e.g. over an hour.

    We saw our first Redstart of the season at the w/e in the Llandeilo area.

  2. Great find on the Redstart. They are very nice birds.

    I am glad that you found the post useful. Recording techniques was something that I looked for when I first started out so I thought I would share my own experiences.

    A great selection of blogs to follow there as well. They are all regular reads by myself also.


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