Just as estate agents tell you that the most important things about buying a house are “location, location, location”, so with natural history it’s “recording, recording, recording”….
Finally, I am getting organised and sorting out my data so I can send it off to the relevant people and organisations who collect such things. I started collecting data properly only a year or so ago, and even then wasn’t completely confident enough in my identification skills to be sure that the data would be useful. However, several things this last year have convinced me otherwise.
Wandering around the wet woods near my house, over a year ago I came across the rather lovely liverwort Trichocolea tomentella; judging from the field guide I could see that it wasn’t that common in Sussex, but it was only when I mentioned it to Tom Ottley, the county recorder, on the first time I tagged along to the BBS south-east group that I had a sense that it was a nice record.
While walking the same part of the woods some months later I noticed a sedge I didn’t recognise; it was only when I brought it home and keyed it out that I realised that it was almost certainly Carex canescens (White sedge), another unusual species around here. Noticing that it wasn’t recorded at all in that 1km grid square for the Flora of Ashdown Forest, I sent it off to Mike Shaw, the west Sussex recorder for vascular plants, who confirmed the record.
So yes, it’s true, as everyone has been telling me, everyone can contribute good records for baseline biological data. It’s only by knowing what we’ve got and where it is that we know how scarce or common it is and whether its distribution and abundance has changed at all. I really don’t consider myself an expert at all, so it’s useful to know that even stuff you notice while out walking the dog can be valuable, and so submitting the data is really, really important.
There are several groups for which data collection is quite thorough; hoverfly records are picked up from iSpot and the group on Facebook, as well as more traditional routes, by Roger Morris, so my few sightings have been hoovered up there.
In addition, I’m now being rather more systematic in my recording, especially with the bryophytes. Even the first one I sent Tom a couple of weeks ago turned out to be interesting. I came across a small moss on one of the ash trees right in the centre of the village earlier in the year, and was quite pleased that I’d actually managed to identify it as Syntrichia papillosa; it’s not rare or anything, but it’s not that common, as that green dot on the map that Tom sent back to me makes clear.
So, at last, I’m recording, and sharing.