Recording the wildlife, plants, and habitats that you come across in your garden or out and about is a great way to help protect the natural world whilst also looking out for your own health and well-being.
Why record sightings of the natural
In order to protect vulnerable species of plants and animals,
conservationists need to know what is present, where it is, how
many of each species there are, when they are around, and whether
this has changed year on year. This information can help build a
picture of which species are thriving and which are being depleted,
and under what conditions. Conservationists can then determine from
emerging patterns what is going wrong in an area and how to help
species to recover.
Recording the natural world is also beneficial for the people
taking part as identifying species can provide mental stimulation;
getting outdoors and searching for species can improve physical
health; and taking part in group surveys can help to build
relationships and tackle social isolation. By taking part in
surveys you can also feel part of a longstanding tradition within
the UK going back to the 18thC of exploring and recording the
What kinds of information make up a record?
The information included within a record varies depending on what
kind of survey you are completing. In general, records consist of
what species was observed by a person, at a location, on a given
date. Some surveys ask you to look out for specific species,
whereas others may ask you to check out certain locations. Some
organisations may ask for written information and others may ask
for images. One thing to be mindful of is to avoid sharing
locations of sensitive species or breeding areas. Natural Resources
Wales publish a
list of sensitive features and guidance on how these
records should be managed.
How do I get involved?
There are many organisations collecting records and running
surveys that recruit for volunteers or ask for occasional support.
There are some things that you may wish to consider before getting
started like how much time you want to spend recording and whether
you want to record all kinds of wildlife or focus on a specific
group. Some surveys are available all year round and others may be
during specific seasons or months where species are most active.
For instance, swift surveys happen in late Spring / Summer when
they migrate to the UK whereas mushrooms are generally best
observed in late Summer / Autumn. Some surveying may require going
out with a trained specialist, particularly for protected species,
whereas other species can be found with minimal preparation in your
garden or local park. It is worth considering whether you would
prefer going out with a group or doing a survey as an individual as
this can affect which campaigns you take part in.
Most recording these days can be submitted through a website or
mobile app, but some organisations will still accept handwritten
records. Many groups are also on social media so if you are unsure
what you have recorded you can ask other recorders; these groups
vary from novices to specialists so you may wish to do a bit of
digging to find one that fits your knowledge level (i.e. some
groups use scientific names of species which can be somewhat
intimidating if you are new to recording). Rest assured however
that there are many ways to get involved with recording, whatever
time, interest or level of experience you have.
If you want to get involved in surveying wildlife, plants, and
habitats check out the campaigns and organisations detailed in this
You could start by focusing on types of plants or animals you are
particularly fond of or when during the year you are most likely to
have time to search for and record wildlife. There are also mobile
apps and resources you can download to help you identify and record
species more easily than ever before.
For more nature based activities, check out our 'Invest in Nature -