Citizen science
Moth recording at home  Pic Helen Roy

Despite the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 situation, there are still opportunities to enjoy wildlife at home. Here, ecologists at the UK Centre of Ecology & Hydrology offer some thoughts on how you can record your observations of nature and make a vital contribution to scientific research…

The COVID-19 pandemic means that we are all subject to necessary restrictions and outdoor access is extremely limited. However, experiencing nature and observing wildlife can be beneficial for our well-being.

As spring arrives, people often enjoy their first sight of many species as they begin to stir across the UK. Of course, this spring is very different for us all but there are wildlife recording activities that are suitable for gardens, back yards, balconies or windowsills.

Your wildlife observations will contribute to the rich datasets that span centuries and provide valuable information on the current state of nature in the UK. But most of all, we hope they will give you moments of relaxation and joy, and a connection with nature that can be shared with the wider virtual recording community.

We hope that you stay well and enjoy your very own natural world in the spring and summer months (and beyond).

Getting started

You can send sightings and photos of any wildlife you see using general online recording websites and apps.

If you are looking for help identifying the plants or animals you have seen, there are a few things you can try. For example you could post some photographs on Twitter or Facebook asking for species ID assistance. There are a wide range of Facebook pages and Twitter accounts run by groups that cover many different types of species, such as hoverflies, bees and wasps, wild flowers etc. These groups are ideal for getting help with identification and sharing your sightings.

In addition there are forums on websites such as iSpot or iNaturalist, where volunteers are often able to identify species from submitted photographs.

Submit your records

Once you are more confident about what species you have seen, you can submit details of your sightings, including the date and location plus photographs, to iRecord via its website or app. This online platform is tailored to biological recording in the UK, receiving and verifying more than one million wildlife sightings every year.

Dedicated volunteer experts associated with national recording schemes and their regional networks review many of the records and help check identifications. By submitting your data to iRecord you are contributing directly to conservation and research, and records are made available to national recording schemes and to Local Environmental Records Centres. The role of volunteers in documenting the state of nature is inspiring.

insects montage.Brimstone butterfly, a chequered hoverfly and a buff-tailed bumblebee  Pictures: Martin Harvey and Helen Roy

Get involved in pollinator monitoring

When you feel more familiar with different types of species, you could help monitor pollinators at your home location by taking part in the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme. This is gathering data on the status of pollinating insects across the country. You do not need lots of skill in identifying insects – anyone can take part.

If you have any flowering plants in your garden or balcony or window box, and can spare ten minutes to sit and watch insects visiting flowers when the weather is fine, you can carry out a FIT Count (Flower-Insect Timed Count) between April and September. Please see our video guide on how to do this.

For those of you who have previously contributed, it is important to note that, at the moment, FIT counts in public spaces have been suspended until further notice due to the COVID-19 situation. There are still opportunities to engage via FIT counts carried out on private property to which you have access that is not restricted by the current and future government guidance. This includes gardens, yards, balconies and window boxes. See the current guidelines here.

blog montage2A 7-spot ladybird on lavender, left, a Hebrew character moth, and our Asian Hornet Watch app, right     Pictures: Helen Roy

Interested in specific plants or animals?

There are some fantastic apps that support recording specific groups of plants or animals, including the European Ladybird app, Moths – what’s flying tonight?, Butterflies and Nature’s Calendar.

There are also some invasive non-native species that you could look out for and report through the Alert system. The Asian Hornet has been the focus of lots of attention in recent years – please do send any potential garden sightings to the Asian Hornet Watch app (for Android and Apple phones) or online.

You could also join the Cellar Slug Hunt, a survey run by the RHS following concerns that the invasive Green Cellar Slug has caused declines in the native Yellow Cellar Slug.

Get in contact

We would be delighted to hear from you if you have any ideas of activities or would like to update us on your wildlife experiences – please Tweet @___BRC__

There are many other fantastic websites with great activities to get involved with from Every flower counts to Garden Bird Watch and Garden Butterfly Survey. National Insect Week will run from 22-28 June 2020 coordinated by the Royal Entomological Society with the theme of Entomology at Home #EntoAtHome.

Thank you to everyone who has previously been involved with wildlife recording – your contributions have contributed so much to our understanding of the natural world.

PoMS: Flower-Insect Timed Count (FIT count)

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