Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Just for the record - are you a "Twitcher"?

First for Hampshire - a Beautiful Marbled
 Keeping records is an important part of monitoring wildlife and I do try to play my part. Bird watchers, especially men, can often be quite obsessed with their lists – World lists, UK lists, County lists and lists comprising the “most seen in a day” or totals from a certain “favoured patch” and some will go to great lengths to add a new “tick” to the list – which is known as “twitching”.

I admit that I have jumped into the car to go and see a rare bird locally, but twitching does not really seem to be in my genes. I prefer to have real purpose behind the recording that I do, so that it hopefully adds to our greater understanding of a habitat or species. I must admit that I do usually keep a record of species seen on a foreign birding holiday, but that is about it.

During the year I do however carry out organised surveys, such as walking transects or monitoring a particular kilometre square of countryside, for both the British Trust for Ornithology and the GWCT, the results being sent in as part of national recording scheme or a research project. I also try to send in the records of the moths that turn up in my moth trap or interesting species that I happen to come across when out in the countryside.

In England, each county has a Biodiversity Information Centre (BIC) where all these records, sent in by a wide range of people, are collected together so that we have a reasonable handle on what exists where within the county! To any land manager, whatever their particular interest may be, these BICs are an invaluable resource. If you have to give advice on the management of a block of woodland or some farmland, it is vital that you know what species are present or likely to be there, BEFORE you go charging in with your “expert” advice. Many a species (or opportunity to improve a habitat) has been lost through well intended actions, because the adviser did not know what was present.

As important as these centres are, they have felt the Government’s axe recently and most are now running on a much reduced staffing level. If Government is truly serious about the well being of the British countryside, then in my opinion it is absolutely vital that these BICs are properly funded. Apart from anything else, what on earth is the point of all these volunteers (me included!) beavering away to collect important data, if it is not accessible to those who can then use it in a meaningful way?

Having told you that I don’t keep lists, I do keep a few notes however – but that does not mean you can call me a Twitcher! Here are 3 “firsts” for my garden!

On the 31st of July 2004 I caught a Beautiful Marbled (Eublemma purpurina) moth in my garden which turned out to be only the second record for the UK and the first for Hampshire.
Last Saturday I walked into my garden and was immediately greeted by the rambling, scratchy song of a Sedge warbler – the first record for my garden since I moved here in 2000, which just goes to show that you never quite know what might turn up.
Also last Saturday, I saw my first Humming bird hawk moth of the year, an insect that will have crossed the channel from France to nectar on the pink Valerian in my garden that I grow specifically to attract them.  

First for this year - Humming Bird Hawkmoth 

First for my garden - a Sedge Warbler

1 comment:

  1. Hi Pete,

    Hands up, I probably am a twitcher! Saw a Short-toed Eagle at Morden Bog NNR near Poole Harbour last Sunday, my 490th bird species in Britain (so yes, I am a twitcher! But as you know, I am also passionate about all British wildlife, and seeing the sun rise on this fabulous heathland reserve with Cuckoo's all over, Tree Pipits displaying and Dartford Warblers feeding chicks was a joy to behold. Most twitchers are quite one-dimensional, but some of us are totally into all nature, though just a little bit fanatical! Matt Willmott