The importance of recording sightings

This post is a special one this week. Its all about the importance of recording things.

Just over two weeks ago I went to my first Gwent Ornithological Society (GOS) AGM meeting. I really enjoyed it. It was good to meet up with similarly minded people and learn something. Hearing about the activities of GOS was great. GOS hold indoor and outdoor meetings. The full programmes are on their website.

This year I am really looking forward to attending one where wildlife celebrity Iolo Williams will be presenting on 25/3/2019 in Cwmbran. Tickets are already sold out. In October I myself will be presenting a talk entitled a  "Year in the life of Goldcliff - a photographic study."

The meeting rounded off  with a couple of  presentations from GOS members. The first was about a birding trip in Europe that made my mouth water looking at the photographs of some fantastic bird species - the feathered kind of course :)

The second presentation was an an entrancing video presentation by fellow birder and "videographer" John Lawton who I have bumped into on several occasions at Goldcliff.

The video comprised of a collection of bird videos from around Gwent and I must say there was some impressive video recordings of birds to watch. I just wish I could capture some videos of Bearded Tits like John has at Uskmouth ( Newport Wetlands).

 I would encourage anyone to visit Johns You Tube channel ( click on the links) as he has some amazing video recordings. Its a great resource for identification of birds visually so you can see their quirks or "jizz" behaviour characteristics and calls. I was so inspired after watching Johns videos I went out the very next day and tried videoing Dippers. I am not anywhere near Johns standard yet.

The other stand out event at the meeting was when the Gwent Bird Report 2017 book was handed out to members.

The 2017 Bird Report. GOS members get a copy (Phone pic taken of the cover- pic by Keith Roylance of a Rock Thrush)

I was approached last year by GOS and asked if I could provided some photographs for the book. I was delighted to have the opportunity to contribute and have some of my pictures put to good use.

The bird report makes an interesting read. Its very well put together and is the end of result of what happens when people submit their sightings to the recorder.

I think its a fabulous resource on the ornithological and conservation fronts and captures a snapshot of time.

It made me think about how poor I have been in previous years about recording my sightings. I have taken huge amounts of photographs and watched a lot of birds throughout Gwent but these activities, other than the photos and my blog have not been turned into stats for the recorder.

A portion of the blame lies with me being lazy but most of it sits with ignorance. I had no idea how to record my sightings properly or what was the point in doing so was.

Well since the revelation of reading the bird report and seeing the sightings turned into something beneficial I am now a little more enlightened.

If you visit the Gwent Ornithological Society Website you can download a recording sheet that is in the form of a ready made excel spread sheet. There is some guidance on the website but the actual form itself has embedded instructions. Its a clever recording form with lists of birds and locations already in it. All it requires is a little effort and discipline from yourself after a days bird watch.

I have also discovered BirdTrack. This is a a fantastic website to submit your bird sightings to in addition to the Gwent Recorder. It is partnered with organisations such as the RSPB and BTO. All you need to do is create an account and then you can start submitting records. The easiest part is that there is a phone app called Birdtrack and its available for iOS and Android. 

The App makes it really easy to submit records. You can do as you go along bird watching or later when you return home. The website has some great features including cool graphs to display your records and it also totals up your species count. I am have been informed that the Birdtrack records will get submitted to the Gwent County Recorder but you should submit your annual bird sightings in addition.

Bird Track App

What happens once you have recorded your sightings you may well ask? Well you can submit them to the Gwent County Recorder who will collate and analyse the records. I understand that this is normally done at the end of the year but you can send adhoc reports - especially for the "rare species". Its worth noting as well that whilst you can post sightings on the GOS sightings page these are not routinely turned into official records. You should submit them on the recording sheet to the County Recorder.

The end result of people submitting their records is that they will contribute to the county's bird records. They eventually will end up forming the records that get documented and published in the Gwent  Birds Report. They also provide material for study and use for conservation purposes. in some respects they will form a little bit of history.

It all helps to prove what species reside , migrate to, accidentally visit and breed in Gwent . In my opinion it is vitally important that we have these statistics to hand when challenging new road proposals , new housing estates and industrial/commercial developments on our "wild" havens for nature.

That then made me think. If I haven't been submitting records then I know a lot of my fellow photographers haven't either.Whilst pictures and videos make great "records" they don't often get turned into numbers.

There are a lot of "eyes and ears" out there  who are regularly "togging" for photos but not recording their sightings formally. 

 What a great loss that is. All that information and knowledge could be put to good use other than being put on Facebook and Twitter. Record keeping is not just for "Twitchers" and "birder fanatics" ;)

Just imagine how many more records could be submitted.How many sightings are going unreported and just exist as pictures stored on a hard drive.

So my readers , photographers, birders, "toggers" and friends, record and submit your sightings. 

I hope this raises awareness about recording and encourages people to make a contribution to the collective birding knowledge and consider joining GOS like I have.


  1. Excellent reminder to everyone how important biodiversity recording is - well done!
    And, of course, it's not just birds that should be recorded but insects, plants, mammals ... they're all important.
    There are lots of other recording tools too - irecord is one a lot of people use . I enter all of mine in the SEWBReC database - that's the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre - website here: . I personally support SEWBReC because it's the organisation most councils, building developers, etc use for environmental reports prior to the approval of new building and road construction, etc so very important for conservation and scientific research.
    Most of these organisations have data-sharing agreements so, for example, records submitted to SEWBReC will still make it to that Bird Report. You don't have to enter your records twice. :-)

    1. Thanks for the comments Annie and the information. I will take a look at that SEWBReC website for sure.


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