Newsletter 34

Contents

NFBR Editorial

NFBR Annual Conference : As we go to print the 2006 Annual NFBR Conference and AGM, in association with the Biological Records Centre, has just taken place in Birmingham on the 5th and 6th of May. Attended by over 80 delegates the conference focussed on six themes central to current and future biological recording, including land use & landscape change, climate change, alien species, species as indicators, communities and assemblages, and an assessment of the effectiveness of conservation/planning policies & plans. The final speaker, taking a critical but humorous look at the plethora of biodiversity action plans, asked ‘how many dormice do you really want?’ The response from a delegate for ‘two each’ generated much amusement at the end of a very interesting day. Workshops on the Saturday concentrated on long term monitoring, recording in the wider countryside, public outreach recording and the funding of biological recording. A report on the conference will be posted on the NFBR website shortly.

A future role for NFBR : NFBR Council have spent some time discussing its future role, particularly with regard to the imminent formation of the Local Records Centre Association. NFBR needs to re-visit its terms of reference established in its founding Constitution, and to re-state both its strategic aims and its medium term objectives. A Workshop was held in June 2005, and the paper given on page X is derived from these discussions and from subsequent examination by its Council. Your views on how we should prioritise and take forward areas of work will be gratefully received. Please send to Paul Harding at pha@ceh.ac.uk

Changing times : These are changing times in the world of biological recording. On the one hand more emphasis is being given to the need for good quality data to inform the planning process (see the article of PPS9 on Page 10), whilst on the other, stringent cuts in the budgets and workforce of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology may hamper its long term research programmes and much more. An update on the planned cuts and their implications for the BRC at Monks Wood is given on page 14. This comes at a time when the recent publication on the “State of Britain’s Larger Moths” (see page13) reveals that “two-thirds of species have declined, many at alarming rates, and the total number of moths in Britain has decreased by a third since the late 1960s”.

New technical forum : A new internet forum is to replace the Recorder Smart Group which has become increasingly unreliable recently. It is anticipated that the new forum will be broader than just Recorder and will include other aspects of the NBN, particularly the Gateway. However, according to Steve Wilkinson at JNCC, you will have the facility to choose exactly which topics or interest areas you subscribe to. Instructions on how to do this (and other help with the forum) have been provided on the new site and can be viewed at http://eim.metapath.org/wiki/index.php?title=Help_with_the_forum. The new forum can be reached either through the Recorder website (http://www.recordersoftware.org) or by going directly to http://forums.nbn.org.uk.

Don’t forget the following NBRR egroups can also be used for communicating on a variety of issues; LRCs Technical Forum - http://forum.lrcs.org.uk/ Contact Charles Roper CharlesRoper@sussexwt.org.uk NFBR Members group - nfbr@smartgroups.com Contact Craig Slawson at craig@salticus.org.uk LRC members - NFBRLRC@yahoogroups.com - open to all members of NFBR who work within local records centres – contact Mandy Rudd at mrudd@wildlondon.org.uk

Finally many thanks to all those who supplied articles for the newsletter, including those snippets of news which inform and remind us of the things we should be doing! The next newsletter is planned for Autumn 2006. Please send me any articles or ‘news in brief’ which you feel would be of interest to fellow NFBR members by the end of September. I would also welcome any letters (!) or feedback

Best wishes for a summer of fruitful biological recording! Nicky Court, Newsletter Editor Email : nicky.court.hbic@hants.gov.uk

A future for the National Federation for Biological Recording

Charles Copp/Paul Harding/Trevor James

Introduction

The National Federation for Biological Recording was formed in 1985 to foster and help secure long-term resources for the newly-recognised business of biological recording. Since its foundation, NFBR has focused on several areas which have needed action:

  • Gaining recognition for biological recording as a legitimate activity in its own right, requiring institutional support.
  • Pressing for and assisting with the development of the “Recorder” database software system.
  • Setting up the Co-ordinating Commission for Biological Recording, which examined the needs for biological records, their sources, supply and dissemination.
  • Setting up the National Biodiversity Network, which helps to integrate the mobilisation of data between suppliers and users.
  • Assisting with the recognition and development of local records centres.
  • Assisting with and encouraging the establishment of a Local Records Centre Association.

Following success in most of these areas, and now with the imminent establishment of a Local Records Centre Association, the NFBR considers that it needs to re-visit its terms of reference, established in its founding Constitution, and to re-state both its strategic aims and its medium term objectives. A Workshop to consider these was held in June 2005, and the following is derived from these discussions and from subsequent examination by its Council.

The Aims of the NFBR

The existing Constitution lists four “Objectives”, which equate with key aims. With the increasing complexity of biological recording, as a business and as a process, NFBR Council feels that it now needs to redefine these aims. The Federation should focus on generic issues concerning biological recording, rather than engage mainly with particular constituencies.

Strategic aims

1. Identifying the needs for biological recording and records. 2. Maintaining a review of and defining standards for making records. 3. Maintaining a review of and encouraging standards in data management. 4. Promoting the use of biological recording and records. 5. Advocacy for biological recording and its support.

Objectives

Derived from each of these strategic aims are several medium term objectives, which should be periodically reviewed and updated.

Under each strategic aim, objectives, together with some headline actions, have been identified:

1. Identifying needs for biological recording and records

To improve support for data and their use, it is necessary to move on from the traditional model of recording, which NFBR and its partners had inherited. This model was based on the ad hoc compilation of data from disparate sources, often in an essentially un-focused way. Organisations that take part in biological recording may need to re-examine what they do, and to reconsider both their capabilities and their methods, whilst respecting the interests of their constituents. To clarify this need for change, the NFBR should review and update existing research on the need for recording and records.

Objective:

  • Review the needs for recording and records in current circumstances, within present capabilities, and identify future opportunities.

Potential actions:

  • Conference and workshops to consider these issues and identify implications for recording.
  • Consultation project to review changes since the Co-ordinating Commission for Biological Recording’s report “Biological recording in the United Kingdom: present practice and future development”.
  • Review the outcome of conference, workshops and consultation, and promote identified actions.

2. Reviewing and identifying standards for recording

A clearer perspective of the potential end uses of records should inform the processes of recording. However, recording involves many inter-related activities, including identification, verification, fieldwork methods and maintaining written records and voucher material. To assist in raising standards across all these areas requires better knowledge of needs, gaps and opportunities. The following medium-term objectives have been identified:

Objectives:

  • Keep under review the definition of standards for making biological records.
  • Explore the implications of needs for new or more detailed kinds of data from biological recording.
  • Work to promote the improvement of standards in recording, such as through training.
  • Promote, including through partner organisations, the importance and application of standards in making biological records relevant to their work.
  • Promote the support of ancillary activities related to making valid biological records.

Potential actions:

  • Review training in identification of species and habitats, with partners, and report.
  • Review field methodologies in selected areas, relevant to the needs for new or extended data, and report.
  • Produce a strategy to promote better recognition of, support for and use of biological collections and other facilities, especially in museums, in relation to recording.


3. Reviewing and encouraging standards in data management

The National Biodiversity Network Trust has undertaken much work in this area in recent years. Nevertheless, the NFBR has an important role, as an independent body representing practitioners, in influencing the ways in which future developments are taken up or promoted.

Objectives:

  • Monitor and review the uptake of developing data management systems.
  • Promote continued refinement of data management and communication mechanisms.
  • Represent the interests of recorders in the development of data management standards that might affect their rights or the way they work.

Potential actions:

  • Carry out survey of data management systems in use by partner organisations and groups, and report.
  • Work with JNCC and others to enhance the “Recorder” database system, including production of better user guidance, and seek ways to integrate its use with other database systems.
  • Review the use of and training in ancillary data management tools, such as GIS and analytical tools, and report, with a view to potential further action.
  • Develop a strategy, with partners, to promote the take-up and support of data management standards.
  • Maintain NFBR representation on appropriate committees and development groups.

4. Promoting the use of records and recording

Some awareness-raising work in this area has already been carried out under the auspices of the NBN Trust, as well as by some organisations with a focus on one or other aspect of the use of data, such as the Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management. Apart from further enhancement of the use of data in existing areas, there appear to be two main strands of work which need action: a) the development of guidance in and “tools” for the use of those employing biological records in different ways; b) enabling the broader public to engage with biodiversity information.

Objectives:

  • Promote the use of biological data in relation to planning and conservation.
  • Promote better use of biological records within and by relevant organisations.
  • Review options for expanding the use of biological records and recording in relation to the public, e.g. community development, public outreach action.
  • Seek to expand awareness of potential further uses for and sources of biological data in academic and applied research.

Potential actions:

  • Work with partners to develop off-the-shelf “tools” and guidance for the use of biological records in selected fields (e.g. reserve or wildlife site selection; site management monitoring).
  • Use the NFBR’s own publications and website etc. to publicise examples of innovative ideas and techniques for disseminating information and encouraging its use.
  • Seek to enhance awareness of the use of biological records and recording through the journals of relevant organisations, e.g. planning, conservation, teaching.
  • Explore opportunities for the use of biological recording in relation to public engagement with the environment, such as BBC “Spring Watch” programmes.

5. Advocacy for biological recording and its support

Support for biological recording has grown substantially since the NFBR was formed, but ensuring an understanding of the complexity of the process, coupled with longer-term support remain elusive. The NFBR potentially has a vital role, as an independent body, in advocating the needs of biological recording generally. To succeed, NFBR will need to work closely with potential supporting organisations and with the wider recording community.

Objectives:

  • Seek secure support for the widely-based processes of biological recording across the UK, and across the range of organisations involved.
  • Seek to integrate the use of biological records and recording within other human activities wherever relevant, including the promotion of public wellbeing .
  • Represent the interests of the broad biological recording community within official and other bodies.

Potential actions:

  • Produce a campaigning strategy for the promotion of biological recording.
  • Maintain representation in all relevant fora concerned with biological recording and its uses, particularly in relation to government agencies and departments and the National Biodiversity Network.
  • Ensure representation within the Federation for relevant organisations with a broad interest in biological recording.


Generic actions

In addition to the key objectives outlined above, the Workshop and Council meeting identified the following as central to the successful continuation of the NFBR’s campaigning role:

  • Maintain and improve communication through the NFBR website, possibly including upgrading the site, depending on resources and capabilities.
  • Maintain and enhance the periodic newsletter, especially to reflect its broad aims, with a view to making this electronically available.
  • Maintain its independent conferences and workshops on subjects of current relevance to biological recording generally.
  • Promote the benefits of NFBR membership for both individuals and organisations, and particularly expand membership to include as many as possible of the main biological societies with an interest in recording.

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“Focus on Wildlife” - NBN Conference 2005 : Summary and feedback

Trevor James, NBN Development Officer

Last year’s annual NBN Conference for (mainly) the national societies and recording schemes was again held in The Natural History Museum, on 18th November 2005. About 90 delegates and NBN partner representatives attended this year, a bit down on previous years, but partly because a contingent of dipterists was at their own gathering, which unfortunately clashed.

Although the event is especially aimed at encouraging the voluntary sector to take part in the NBN, there is always a danger that the NBN can seem to be “top down”, so this year the theme was deliberately focused on the recent work of some of the schemes and societies themselves, some of which has been aided by funding provided by Defra through its contract with the NBN Trust. We also tried to include at least a few of the schemes that are not supported by large societies with staff etc., although it is always difficult to do this, because they often have not even got time to produce a presentation!

Monitoring an alien: recent work of the Ladybird Surveys

The first “small” scheme was the Ladybird Recording Scheme. Until not long ago, there was limited activity on the ground with this scheme, because the Scheme Organiser, Dr Mike Majerus, is a busy main in the Genetics Department at Cambridge University. A bit of chance funding through the NBN from Defra, on the back of an invading alien species, changed all that, and Dr Helen Roy, of Anglia Ruskin University, who has been helping with the project, gave us a talk on the work during 2005 to set up a monitoring programme aimed at capturing data on the arrival of the Harlequin Ladybird from Europe. Helen explained the threat this poses to native species, and gave up-to-the-minute information on its occurrence, derived from the on-line data capture facilities developed at the BRC and supported by a project officer, Peter Brown. All this not only demonstrated what could be done with a publicly accessible group of insects, but also what could be done with a bit of cash to provide the wherewithal!

Transect walking: developing UK butterfly monitoring

Tom Brereton of Butterfly Conservation gave the second talk, focused on recent work to integrate all the butterfly monitoring that is going on at BRC with the monitoring carried out by the Society. As butterflies appear to be going to the wall rapidly in many areas through habitat loss, intensive agriculture, and, more recently, the effects of climate warming, with up to a 70% loss estimated for some, there is an urgent need to expand and upgrade the existing effort to include more of the wider countryside. The existing BRC monitoring scheme and the Butterfly Conservation’s own scheme have therefore now been merged to become a bigger, integrated package: the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, with extended sampling strategies and new data capture software.

The Spider Recording Scheme: phase 2 aims

The second “small” scheme was supplied by Peter Harvey’s talk on next steps in the Spider Recording Scheme. Not that it is really as small a recording scheme as all that, although it is perhaps more typical of many in that it has not got enough people on the ground to have a local organiser in each County. The recently published national atlases are backed up by over 500,000 records, and the plans are for the next phase of recording to be supported by data entry through the scheme itself, rather than relying on BRC. This is to enable a more comprehensive and accurate review of exactly what is “scarce” and what isn’t, as well as developing data on the ecology and local occurrence of species, which then can be of more direct use for local conservation. The Spider Recording Scheme was one of the first to put its detailed data on the NBN Gateway for this reason, and it aims to update this later as recording progresses.

Future directions in the BSBI

The recently appointed Development Director of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, Dr Gabriel Hemery, gave us a run-down of the plans for the Society’s development. Its database of upwards of 9 million records remains the largest single dataset contributed through the Gateway, but, as Gabriel pointed out, the Society has upwards of 15 million more (mostly local) records potentially available, and aims to increase their accessibility through a programme of data capture and mobilisation. In addition, there are plans for the development of a dedicated “plant unit”, which will include co-operation with outside bodies over survey and monitoring, and on the acquisition and maintenance of plant data. Since the talk, Gabriel has announced his imminent move from the Society into forestry related work, which is his speciality, but the work towards these goals will continue.

Progress with Riverflies

The “Camstars” Group, set up through the initiative of the Natural History Museum in particular, has been one of the success stories of the last few years. Two small, existing freshwater recording schemes: for Caddis-flies and Mayflies respectively, were joined by a newly-created third scheme: Stoneflies, to form the joint “Camstars” Group. Each recording scheme remains separate, but they collaborate to carry out training and field survey. Ian Wallace, the scheme organiser for Caddis-flies, gave a lively presentation on the development of the collaborative group, its attaining support from the Environment Agency, its partnership with the Field Studies Council, and the role the Natural History Museum in particular has played in its development. As Ian said, riverflies generally are the “canaries of water quality”, and so their recording and monitoring is important. But Ian also used his talk to point out some shortcomings. In particular, he expressed concern about the validation of records for such groups coming from third parties, and he also pointed out strongly that more real (financial) support on a long-term basis is needed if we are ever to get past first base with recording.

The Key Sites for Dragonflies Project

When the Conference programme was put together, it was hoped that news might have been forthcoming of more financial support to take forward the work of the Dragonfly Recording Network. Dr Graham French had been appointed during 2005 to carry out a stop-gap exercise, with some Defra money, collating “key sites” data for dragonflies, and making this available at a detailed level. This work was originally envisaged as a part of a larger project – to identify these key sites, digitise their boundaries, and make them available through the Gateway so that organisations like local records centres could integrate them with their own wildlife site boundaries etc. Unfortunately, money for the second stage was not forthcoming, so Graham had to be content with showing us what had been done – the data collation bit, and what was hoped might be possible in the future, linked to work on other freshwater sites in the UK. Further work to help the Society seek funding for its larger “Dragonflies in Focus” Project is also in hand, but this, too, is languishing for want of resources, despite dragonflies being extremely important in aquatic habitat monitoring, and being very much a charismatic group.

In summary

Jim Munford of NBN Trust wound up the session by reflecting on the fact that data from these schemes is a highly useable resource for others; and also that the schemes themselves are variable entities at different levels of “maturity”. The fact that volunteers don’t come entirely “free” was also a strong message.

The Conference as a whole was a lively and enthusiastic gathering, and the lunch-time displays also proved worthwhile, not least because we had a poster about the forthcoming NBN web-services, Recorder 6 was on display, and so was the Aditsite database from Adit Ltd., who had also just taken over BioBase from Thurner Automation. This was Adit’s first encounter with the NBN, so hopefully will be profitable for both.

The NFBR Wiki - what is it?

Darwyn Sumner

In effect, a Wiki is an on-line encyclopaedia which evolves by utilising contributions from a number of interested persons, all of whom make contributions to the text on the site. The NFBR Wiki was set up by Charles Copp following the Edinburgh conference and is restricted to NFBR members.

So far the text placed on the NFBR Wiki is of greatest interest to those involved with the Local Records Centre association - namely accreditation and the original “ Running a Local Records Centre" files from 2001.

So what use is this information now? Well the idea is for members to pick away at some of the topics and try to bring them in line with modern developments by adding their own comments or changes. No harm can be done to the "originals" which can also be seen as pdfs on the NFBR website. The outcomes should serve to flag issues which are concerning us most these days and provide a more useful "workshop manual" than the 5 year old one, excellent though it undoubtedly was at the time.

Contact Charles Copp for your account and login details. The Wiki can be accessed at http://eim.metapath.org/wiki/index.php?title=NFBR_Main

NEW Planning guidance gives greater weight to the need for up-to-date ecological information

The long awaited replacement to PPG9, Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 9 : Biodiversity and Geological Conservation was finally published in August 2005 by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (see www.odpm.gov.uk) with the accompanying Good Practice Guide (ODPM/Defra/EN) out last month.

Key principle One of PPS9 states that “plan policies and planning decisions should be based on up-to-date information about the environmental characteristics of an area”, and that these characteristics should include the relevant biodiversity and geological resource.

The Good Practice Guide goes on to state that “with environmental information held across many disparate organisations, both public and voluntary, an LRC is the most effective and sustainable mechanism for facilitating access to this”, and that… “it would be good practice for all local authorities to contribute to the establishment and running of an LRC as a cost effective way of providing a publicly accountable ‘one-stop shop’ for comprehensive and reliable environmental information upon which to plan”.

Changes in the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology,

and potential implications for the Biological Records Centre and biological recording in Britain

Trevor James, NBN Development Officer

The announcement in December 2005 that the Natural Environment Research Council was planning to scale down CEH to four centres, and in particular was planning to close four of its main research stations, was a bombshell to most people in the biological recording world. The closures were reported to be as a result of a re-focusing of funding within NERC towards universities’ ‘blue-sky’ research, as well as an endeavour to balance the books in CEH, which has had a yearly deficit for some time. However, the shortfall of about £1.5M per year is going to cost £45M over 5 years to put right.

A relatively short consultation exercise, coinciding with the Christmas and New Year break, was extended into February, during which a very large negative response was evident from not only across Britain but across the world. Despite this, NERC announced in March that it was sticking to its plans, and would be closing the stations at Monks Wood, Banchory, Oxford and Winfrith; that its headquarters would be moving from Swindon to Wallingford in Oxfordshire, and that there would be some changes in focus in its science programmes. Closures of sites would be staged, but the process will be completed in 5 years.

Assurances were given that key elements of existing programmes would be retained, but details of exactly what those science programmes would include have not yet been specified, although it is known that some areas of work, such as environmental monitoring are going to take severe staff reductions. The Biological Records Centre is to be re-located to Wallingford, although it is uncertain whether some staff will move in 2007 or whether it will move as a whole in 2008.

The most obvious impacts on biodiversity-related work are: the interruption of very long-term research programmes and monitoring on a number of sites which seems inevitable given the loss of key staff (predicted internally to be as much as 50% of scientists), and the move away from current research locations. The closure of the four stations will also mean that 85% of CEH’s current biodiversity-related facilities will be lost, and although there are plans for some of these to be re-developed elsewhere, it will take years for this to come to fruition.

For biological recording, the main concern must be the impact on the UK Biological Records Centre. This has a staff of 13, of whom there are three subject specialists, three people involved in database management, and another three working full-time on computer systems underpinning both the BRC and the development and operation of the National Biodiversity Network Gateway. Given that some of these staff may be unable to move to Wallingford, if only for cost reasons, it is possible that there will be a major hiccup in the way the BRC can work with the biological recording community.

The long-term implications of this remain unclear. Much of the way the BRC has to work depends on trust between long-established staff and especially the voluntary sector with which they have been working. Networks of both expertise and collaboration have been developed over decades. The BRC also works closely with partners in the JNCC and English Nature/Natural England in particular at Peterborough, as well as with Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin Universities nearby.

A major potential problem rests with the longer-term support and maintenance of the National Biodiversity Network. This has grown largely out of the joint need between JNCC and BRC to enable third parties to gain access to the voluntary-sector data that have been accumulated. Its technical development has depended on the very special skills that key staff in the BRC have been able to bring to it. If these staff leave, which is possible, then the NBN Gateway’s continuity and reliability may be threatened.

The JNCC and NBN Trust are in discussions to reduce these threats, and the management of CEH are keen to stress that the BRC is seen as a highly important element of its work. The biological recording community outside may have, so far, not entirely realised just what this change might bring. Given that many voluntary recording schemes still rely on the BRC for computer data entry work, and that others rely heavily on technical support from its computer staff, this may mean a disruption of their capacity to take forward major recording programmes, or at least make life very difficult. The BRC has also been a conduit for providing funding from Government agencies, including Defra etc., to help these organisations do their work, and the understanding BRC has of which organisations are in a position to benefit from this, as well as the project management skills it brings to the negotiations, is often crucial. Finally, and probably most important, the voluntary organisations and other biological recording organisations, even including local records centres, over the years have had substantial support in terms of strategic planning, technical support and project development of their work as a whole. If this were to be jeopardised, the danger might be that biological recording effort in the country could fragment, and its coherence and ability to provide data in support of conservation policy could diminish. We can only watch what happens over the coming months.


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UPDATE ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION REGULATIONS : Further guidance on the interpretation of the Environmental Information Regulations relating to EXCEPTIONS on the release of volunteered data and sensitive data is available on the NBN website. This guidance has been produced by the Countryside Agencies Open Information Network. See www.nbn.organisation.uk under Guidance; Standards & Tools ________________________________________________________________________________

Report back on the NFBR-LRC conference held in Edinburgh, November 2005

Mandy Rudd at mrudd@wildlondon.org.uk

The 2nd Local Records Centre conference ‘Biodiversity Data - Improving Management and Delivery’ was extremely well attended with 64 delegates from 44 organisations coming from all corners of the UK.

There were two main themes running throughout the 2-day conference: managing a successful local records centre and managing and delivering robust data and products. Topics included: ‘How does your data flow? – processing data in a local records centre’ and ‘LRCs working regionally – structures and issues’. There was also a well attended workshop on the proposed Local Records Centre Association, which created enough interest to warrant a second workshop the next day to establish an LRCA Steering Group to take forwards the development of the Association. Ideas for the remit of the LRCA included:

  • To guide, support and promote LRC standards and services
  • To seek collective solutions to funding, resourcing and sustainability of LRCs
  • To cover the professional development of LRC staff, with the endorsement of a training route into the profession to aid recruitment and boost professional development
  • To work towards an LRC accreditation system
  • To raise awareness of LRCs through national courses in biological recording etc.
  • To strengthen the links between LRCs and national schemes and societies
  • The provision of networking opportunities
  • First point of contact for consultation exercises that may affect LRCs such as EIRegs guidance

Development of the LRCA is underway, and will be done in consultation with the all LRCs, largely through the NFBR’s LRC email group, so if you’re keen to have some input to the process, make sure you sign up! The conference was a credit to the hard work put in by Sara Hawkswell and her team of helpers, and has set a high standard for the (in)voluntary organiser(s) of the next conference.

New status reports for butterflies and moths

Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation

The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland

N34 StateBFlies.jpg

This important new reference, due to be published in May, provides the first assessment of butterflies in the 21st century. It updates The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies of Britain and Ireland, making use of 1.6 million new butterfly distribution records (for the period 2000-04) and the newly created UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme data set of over 1000 transects, to provide new analyses of distribution and abundance change since the 1970s. The colourful maps and charts, and stunning photographs belie a dismal picture of ongoing decline for many species. There are good news stories too: conservation successes such as the Silver-spotted Skipper and Heath Fritillary, and continuing, rapid range expansions of butterflies such as the Peacock and Comma. There is much of vital interest for butterfly enthusiasts, conservationists and policy makers alike. Copies of this c.120 page, softback book can be ordered from Pisces Publications www.naturebureau.co.uk/shop or 01635 550380 at a pre-publication price of £9 (+ P&P) until 12 May (thereafter £12 + P&P).

N34 StateMoths.jpg

The State of Britain’s Larger Moths

Although the poorer relation in the eyes of the public, British moths are much more diverse and more important in ecosystems than their butterfly cousins. This report, launched in February by Sir David Attenborough, presents the detailed results of three years of research into the population trends of hundreds of common and widespread moth species. Two-thirds of species had declined, many at alarming rates, and the total number of moths in Britain has decreased by a third since the late 1960s. The decline of these common insects is a significant finding, indicative of the problems facing biodiversity and a worrying development for the many bird, mammal and invertebrate species that rely on moths and their larvae as food. The report also summarises colonisations and extinctions during the twentieth century and progress towards the conservation of UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority moths. This full-colour publication (which runs to 33 pages) is available from Butterfly Conservation (0870 7744309 or www.butterfly-conservation.org) for £5.00 (+ £1.50 P&P).

Recorder Fragmentation at a Time of Faunal Volatility

Colin Howes Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery Email: Colin.howes@doncaster.gov.uk

Time was when keeping tabs on the region’s biodiversity was relatively straightforward. Ok, there were always territorial tensions of rivalry v co-operation between local, regional and national recording organisations but that was human nature. Here in Yorkshire you joined the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union, automatically received all its publications and had access to the network of county recorders of more taxonomic groups than you realised existed.

Fragmentation

Today things are much more complicated. As the various natural history specialisms have blossomed at each of these geographical levels, some even bifurcating into conservation/ recreation versus recording/research versions of the same subject, two major difficulties have arisen. Firstly, these layers of specialist, ultra-specialist or lifestyle organisations are expensive and complicated to keep up with and secondly, the phenomenon of proliferation and fragmentation threatens the general membership base and viability of new groups and ‘parent’ organisations alike.

In the case of Yorkshire, for decades the YNU regularly consisted of around 30-40 general local natural history societies, then from the late 1940s local birding groups began to appear, becoming extremely popular though sometimes haemorrhaging membership away from the local general Nat. Hist. Socs. By 1991 the editors of the YNU bird report had to obtain and collate data from some 37 ornithological groups. But as the cycle progressed further fragmentation was occurring with some birders being attracted to the sporting tendency of the twitchers, some to the RSPB/conservation support groups and others to the militant tendency of local bird ringers or new coastal bird observatory groups. Meanwhile, the member base of the once mighty county bird group is now insufficient to support programmes of meetings and some of the larger local groups are no longer able to undertake studies or publish their records.

N34 OrniGroups.jpg

Even with a minuscule taxonomic group like mammals, sub division has gone extreme, with emergence of ‘single species’ organisations. Some local nat. hist. socs. have their own mammal groups, there is a well established county mammal group, four regional bat groups, up to thirteen badger groups, a deer ‘discussion’ group (!), the Environment Agency record water voles and mink (though only on ‘main’ rivers) and finally the County Wildlife Trust has waded in with high profile otter and water vole monitoring projects. On top of all this, gathering cetacean records is a nightmare with the websites of numerous sea mammal and seabird organisations to trawl.

Seeing the Big Picture

With all this tightly parochial and taxonomically focussed endeavour it is easy to lose sight of the ‘big picture’. However, at a recent YNU Entomological section meeting one thing that emerged from the succession of county recorders reports was a rising awareness of what seems to be a sudden volatility of Yorkshire’s invertebrate fauna. This was triggered by so many new county and vice-county records of species that had previously been restricted to continental Europe or the southern counties or brought in by the horticulture industry. Peter Skidmore (who many will know) commented that having spent most of his working life building up a pretty good working knowledge of the invertebrate fauna of Yorkshire, he returns after a seven year absence to find that everything has changed. Species and groups rare or unheard of in Yorkshire a few years ago are now here, widespread and abundant!

Case study in co-operation

One new arrival which indicated a climate related expansion is the Greater Wax Moth Galleria mellonella. A recent museum enquiry (a Lepidoptera larva in a jar of honey comb) from a department store customer care manager, revealed that the Greater Wax Moth had at last reached Yorkshire bee hives. Realising the scarcity of North of England records from the entomological literature, I canvassed the network of Yorkshire beekeeping organisations and after a week buzzing with email exchanges, built up a hitherto unappreciated invasion timetable and distribution pattern. Sharing this information with the very different network of moth trappers quickly showed that the county had indeed been colonised as early as 1995 since when its presence had escalated to the status of an agricultural pest.

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The accompanying graph, showing the timing of the recent status change, and the distribution map demonstrating geographical spread, have only been possible by pooling information from two mutually exclusive interest groups (the beekeepers and the moth trappers), this little episode being just one of many recent examples of climate-related faunal change.

Recruiting and Training Future Generations of Field Naturalists.

Simon Pickles, North & East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre

Numerous recent reports have drawn attention to a serious deficiency in trained and experienced practical field workers able to undertake biodiversity surveys and produce professional reports and assessments as well as undertake monitoring of species and communities

In September 2003, the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union held a conference with the aim of addressing this subject. A Proceedings was published in early 2004 and NFBR distributed a copy of the journal to all our members.

How have we taken this forward? A meeting was arranged with The Head of Department of the School of Coastal studies at the Scarborough Campus of the University of Hull in May 2004. During the course of this meeting, it transpired that as part of the degree course, the University would welcome assistance in training students in field natural history skills by competent field naturalists. The University supplied a key-skills syllabus, which YNU Secretary, John Newbould, realised would fit comfortably into the design of the module used for CPD training of Pharmacists. Training is conducted either by distance learning or evening tutored course work.

The modules require a ‘student’ to undertake a pre-workshop task to provide background information also allowing a participant to identify gaps in knowledge before the tutorial. These pre-workshop modules were allocated around one and a half to two hours. An evening tutorial would take around 2.5 hours and there would be a post-workshop task of around 1-2 hours, which tests knowledge gained.

For our natural history courses, we modified the system slightly. In a pre-workshop task involving botanical identification skills, we asked the students to go and pick two very common flowers from waste ground or a hedge bottom and identify them. We asked the students to look at a hedge and write down what they had observed. Health and Safety instructions are sent out with the pre-workshop task and we ask everybody to be familiar with the issues involved before the workshop. We allocated around 3 hours to a pre-workshop task.

On the day of the workshop, we open with Health and Safety issues and then the course is designed to provide hands on training rather than lecturing to people, as advocated by Margaret Pilkington in Science in the Countryside (published in 2005 by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education [£18.95]). Margaret Pilkington advocates a hand-on approach of active learning science, solving problems through student learning, rather than knowledge acquisition. We ensure initially that the students understand the basic principles involved in generating a viable biological record (what, where, when and by whom).

On the hedgerow training days and the woodland training days, we initially select a small sample to demonstrate the methodology of recording. The students are all given standard recording sheets, which, for the demonstration we tell them how to fill in. The students are broken into small groups of two or three and given a selected different area to record. However, the tutors will assist with identifications and demonstrate the use of keys to get to the end result. During the course of the day, we ask the students to produce their pre-workshop plant samples to check initial identification skills. At the end of the day, each student is asked to record a pre-worked sample, which is marked against the tutor’s record sheet. For invertebrate recording more time is allocated at the start of the day, to ensure that the student becomes familiar with body parts. As part of the training, students are encouraged to send data to their local biological records centre and also to join their local natural history society to continue to develop field skills. We encourage students to understand the value of peer-review of records.

At the end of the day, the student is presented with a post-workshop task, which should take a further 6 hours. This includes an element of recording and a reflective essay of around 1000 words to ensure that the student has improved his/her recording skills from the pre-workshop task. Completion of four of these courses to an accredited standard leads to a University of Hull, Foundation Course Certificate, which can, in the future, be used as evidence of suitability for entrance to a University Course.

Trainers send the technical part of their courses to Simon, who adds the common skills, which we aim to deliver on each course. The main difficulties, which have arisen, are due to students either not being present at the University or taking examinations during key natural history recording times. However, the Union has also entered into a partnership with the Yorkshire and Humber Museums service to deliver six of these courses in conjunction with Museums across Yorkshire to train key members of staff and other trainers who deal directly with the public.

Two other new courses offering qualifications in biological recording in association with their local biological records centre :

MSc in Biodiversity Survey, University of Sussex - new from October 2005

This one year full-time course is designed to provide post-graduate training in biodiversity survey and specifically aims to equip students with the taxonomic and organisational skills and the confidence necessary to carry out field surveys and produce high quality professional biodiversity assessments.

It has two main elements: the acquisition of identification skills and competence in the organisational and legislative structure of conservation. There is a heavy emphasis on laboratory-backed field experience in the taxonomic parts of the course supervised by experienced field ecologists. A distinctive feature of the course is the requirement that all students develop a specialism in a particular taxonomic group and a particular habitat. This will equip you with an additional highly marketable skill.

Theoretical elements of the course are delivered by specialist topic-based lectures and seminars with additional input from professional bodies, such as the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre.

If you would like to know more about this MSc programme within the department of Biology and Environmental Science at Sussex, please contact Karen White, Graduate Centre Co-ordinator, School of Life Sciences, John Maynard Smith Building, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9QG. Tel: 01273 872774 email pglifesci@sussex.ac.uk

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Certificate in Wildlife Biology at University of Bristol – new from October 2006

The Certificate in Wildlife Biology is a 2 year part-time course that has been developed especially for mature people interested in wildlife conservation and management. The course will be starting at Bristol University in 2006. Teaching will take place on Wednesday evenings and on two Saturdays per term so that anyone can attend, even if working full-time. The aim of the course is to give people the knowledge and skills needed to work with wildlife with special emphasis on its conservation in the UK. Lectures and field trips will cover mammal and bird biology, amphibians and reptiles, plant ecology, biogeography, animal behaviour, evolution, habitat ecology and the principles of nature conservation. Training will be given in fieldwork and identification skills..

To request a brochure please contact Sue Fletcher, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UG Tel: 0117-9289035 Email: sue.fletcher@bristol.ac.uk http://www.bio.bris.ac.uk/conted/crtwldlf.htm

News in brief from LRCs around the UK

Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre (BMERC) www.bucksmkerc.org.uk

Martin Harvey (mcharvey@buckscc.gov.uk)

After a gap in staffing at the beginning of 2005, BMERC are now back up to a full staff complement of one officer and a part-time assistant. As well as responding to around 300 enquiries and data requests during the year, specific projects have included:

  • Contributed data to the recently published “Checklist of the plants of Buckinghamshire” by Roy Maycock & Aaron Woods (available for £2.50 from Roy Maycock, 17 Osborne Street, Bletchley, MK2 2LU).
  • Organised a successful recorders’ seminar, with nearly 100 people attending.
  • Set up an egroup for recorders in Bucks to exchange information: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BMERC/
  • Data exchange agreement signed with BBOWT; further agreements drafted and under discussion with North Bucks Bat Group and Butterfly Conservation.
  • Updating and improving GIS data for County Wildlife Sites, and making this data available to the public via Bucks OnLine at www.bucksonline.gov.uk/portal/bucksmaps/index.jsp and the MK Observatory at www.mkiobservatory.org.uk
  • Use of MapMate database to collate data from volunteer recorders and others, resulting in c. 75,000 new records over the year. Two MapMate workshops run for volunteer recorders plus out-of-county training also provided for RSPB and Leicestershire County Council.
  • Design and implementation of a database to capture habitat survey data.
  • Design and implementation of a database for recording ‘grey literature’, i.e. unpublished site survey reports and other
  • documents. Data being added by volunteers at BMERC.
  • Commissioned review of RIGS (geological sites) in Milton Keynes, in order to update local plan/local development framework.

Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre (KMBRC)

Guillaume Marchais guillaume.marchais@kmbrc.org.uk

‘KENT GOES WILD!’ in Kent : KMBRC in partnership with Kent County Council is pleased to announce the second big recording weekend on the 5th and 6th August 2006 at Shorne Wood Country Park nr Gravesend. Over the weekend, the public will have the chance to participate in and learn about surveying for small mammals, reptiles, moths, dragonflies, bats and many other species. Many of the county’s species experts will be available to identify specimens, photos and wildlife artefacts and to chat to the general public. “Kent Goes Wild” is aimed at :

• Increasing the public’s general awareness of wildlife and its recording • Promoting all recording groups or societies in the county • Promoting Natural heritage and increase the records of species in the Country Park area

Co-ordinating ecological work in Kent : There is a considerable amount of ecological work going on in Kent each year, much of which involves some form of species and habitat recording. A section of KMBRC’s website : http://www.kmbrc.org.uk/ecolowork.htm will be used to publish a brief outline of proposed and ongoing work in an attempt to improve communication between the various parties involved in recording and ecological survey work.

Anyone planning to undertake any ecological work in the county will be asked to e-mail the details of their work to the record centre for inclusion on the website. The advantages to publishing these details include the possibility of obtaining help and/or knowledge from volunteers, communicating and exchanging ideas with other individuals or groups who have recently conducted similar work, and the possibility of requesting other people conducting surveys to record additional species that you might be interested in.

KMBRC hopes that by acting as a “focal point” they can increase the effectiveness of the ecological work in the county. See their website for ongoing projects.

Recording field trip to Nord Pas De Calais: Within the framework of the cross-border project ‘Transmanche Bio-Data’ and following the last Kent Wildlife Conference, KMBRC is organising in conjunction with their French counterparts a recording field trip to Nord Pas-de-Calais. It is anticipated that the trip will take place on the 3rd & 4th June 2006 and will be a good opportunity to build contacts between wildlife recorders on both sides of the Channel.

Interactive map online using GOOGLE MAP® : Google® recently launched Google Local® which is an online service enabling people to plot on an interactive map anything they are looking for such as companies addresses, professionals, cinema theatres, etc. Google® decided to release this map facility to the open source community without any charges or publicity until now. Thus, several attempts led the way to build an interactive map containing wildlife records with the road network and/or basic-quality photo-satellites as background. It is then technically possible to publish records stored into a database like RECORDER® using PHP/MySQL technology. Basically, the map displays little icons which open a ‘bubble window’ containing records details when clicked on. The map can be browsed very easily using the pan arrows on the top left corner.

On top of that, a dynamic form can be added in order to involve the public to submit their records online. It is hoped that the instant interactivity will encourage people to pass their wildlife observations onto their local Records Centres. See for example : http://www.kmbrc.org.uk/maps/plot.php

 

Guernsey Biological Records Centre www.biologicalrecordscentre.gov.gg

Charles David gsybiorec@cwgsy.net

The Guernsey Biological Records Centre was founded in 2003 jointly by the States of Guernsey and La Société Guernesiaise (the local natural history, conservation and local study society). The web site has many pages on local natural history, particularly 'Interesting Plants of Guernsey' , 'Interesting Fungi of Guernsey' and 'Interesting Guernsey Insects & Spiders' . There are live maps of the distribution of species in the Channel Islands and links to other local natural history pages. GBRC are grateful to receive any records from the Channel Islands or the adjacent French coast.

GBRC has also recently published a new book, 'Checklist of Guernsey Plants', which is the first step to writing a new flora of the Bailiwick. Details are on the web site.

A new website for Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum and the Cumbria Biological Data Network

Stephen Hewitt, Keeper of Natural Sciences SteveH@carlisle-city.gov.uk

Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum operates as LRC for Cumbria in partnership with Cumbria Biological Data Network (CBDN). The Network consists of seven partner organisations: Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, English Nature, Lake District National Park, Cumbria Naturalists Union and Tullie House Museum. Last August it launched a new interactive web site “The Virtual Fauna of Lakeland” which can be found at www.lakelandwildlife.co.uk .

The website provides information on the wildlife of Cumbria and draws on the Museum’s database of over 300,000 wildlife records, some of which date back over 200 years but with the vast majority having been collected since 1990. The Museum has been busy entering the records onto computer with the help of members of Carlisle Natural History Society. Cumbria County Council’s Local Agenda 21 Fund and English Nature have both grant-aided the new web site.

The site is called “The Virtual Fauna of Lakeland” in honour of one of the first major works on the wildlife of Cumbria “A Vertebrate Fauna of Lakeland”, written by the Rev. H.A. Macpherson in 1892. The web site is a natural progression of the work that he began over 100 years ago and allows the user to quickly gain access to a large body of wildlife data and information for Cumbria. People are able to look up photographs and information on particular species of mammals, butterflies, dragonflies etc, discover where they are found in Cumbria and find out when the species are seen. There is also an interactive map of Cumbria, which enables people to see what wildlife has been recorded from each different parish in the county. People can also send in their own wildlife sightings via the web site.

Tullie House Museum works closely with its CBDB Partners to monitor the status of the wildlife in Cumbria and for planning and conservation purposes. It is keen to feed back this information to the individuals who supplied it in the first place and sees the Virtual Fauna web site as a good way of doing this. The web site is fun to use as well as informative and will encourage more people to get involved in recording the wildlife they see.

Greenspace Information for Greater London (GIGL) and NBN project

Mandy Rudd mrudd@wildlondon.org.uk

GIGL, the open space and biodiversity records centre, has recently embarked on a Defra-funded partnership project involving London Natural History Society (LNHS), the London Boroughs of Redbridge and Wandsworth, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the National Biodiversity Network (NBN). The aims of the project are varied, and include:

• GIGL becoming LNHS’ data custodian, testing various approaches to data collation and standardisation in the process. This should increase access to LNHS’ extensive data collections and their expertise. • The London Boroughs and GLA having input to the development of the NBN’s web-services, including enabling desktop access to the NBN Gateway via GIS. • Building the NBN Gateway functionality into a new website for GIGL to enable Londoners to access data via the internet, in accordance with the data providers’ access agreements. • The development of a suite of data delivery services that GIGL can offer its partners within their service level agreements. • Completion of plant and habitat data coverage for all open spaces in Greater London.

The project is just about to get underway, and is providing an exciting opportunity for the partners to steer the development of both GIGL and the NBN’s services, whilst ensuring that their own needs as partners in the records centre are met.

News from Wales

Janet Imlach (BIS) janet@b-i-s.org

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Full Local Record Centre (LRC) coverage of Wales is now well under way. BIS (Powys and Brecon) was the first LRC in Wales and has demonstrated successfully that an LRC can function as an independent business whilst providing vital biodiversity services to its partners. It is the role model for the three other LRCs, which together with BIS, will provide a seamless service to the whole of Wales by 2007.

Former BIS manager, Adam Rowe, is now managing the SE Wales Biodiversity Record Centre (SEWBREC), which became operational in August 2005. The North Wales LRC (COFNOD) is now in its development stage to become operational in Spring 2007. For West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre see overleaf.

The Wales Biodiversity Group (WBG) is extending advice and support to developing LRCs in Wales through the experience of Adam Rowe. The four LRC managers are already working closely together and although each LRC will reflect needs of the local data providers and users, we will work to similar policies and procedures. Working together will ensure national partners get a similar level of service across the county boundaries and facilitate easier data exchange with recorders.

West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre (WWBIC) : Vacancy

Rob Davies, Manager (rob.davies@wwbic.org.uk)

Our region in West Wales spans Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and most of Carmarthenshire (excluding a small portion of the Brecon Beacons National Park which is served by BIS).

After a fledging period with the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, the West Wales LRC has now been registered with Companies House as a non-profit company called “West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre Ltd”.

Dr Rob Davies was appointed Development Officer in July 2005 and completed the development plan for WWBIC in September 2005. Rob is continuing in the role of Manager during the establishment phase.

A vacancy now exists for a Biological Records Officer. WWBIC is looking for someone with experience in this field, with a good grasp of natural history and with communication skills to be responsible for the collation and management of species data records. The candidate must have good computer literacy and be familiar with the interchange of data in varying formats. Training in relevant software will be available. A full job description has been posted on the WWBIC website at http://www.wwbic.org.uk/

You can access our first newsletter and other documents from this web address.

BRISC Biological Recording in Scotland

Patrick Milne Home: patrick@milnehome.org

The most important activity from BRISC’s viewpoint over the last few months has been the development of the Wildlife Counts Project under the direction of Dr Claire McSorely – see below BRISC also held its Conference and AGM on the 8th April in the wonderful setting of the Tweed Horizons Centre, overlooking the Tweed Valley at St Boswells. The theme for the day was Wetlands Recording and Monitoring with speakers covering a wide range of subjects which included Using Freshwater Biota to measure water quality, Mud Snails, River flys and the more expected sessions on Wetland Habitat and their Monitoring. The day had been organised by Dr Jon Mercer of the Scottish Borders BRC with Sponsorship from Borders Regional Council and SNH.

Make your local Wildlife Count! The BRISC Wildlife Counts timetable of FREE wildlife recording workshop events is now available!

This three year project aims to provide an introduction to Wildlife Recording by increasing peoples understanding of local wildlife and the longer term benefits to be derived from the systematic recording of wild life

A timetable of FREE local wildlife recording workshops for people who want to learn about the wildlife on their doorsteps has recently been launched. These varied workshops include wildflower and butterfly identification, counting insects, surveying bats using a bat detector, and much more!

All events are taking place in local greenspaces throughout the districts of Falkirk, Stirling and North Lanarkshire in Scotland.

The events started with three indoor introductory workshops in late April, one in each region, which provided some background into how wildlife recording is done and why. The rest of the workshops, each focusing on recording different groups or species, will run from May until October 2006. They will all have an outdoor session and will offer people the practical skills and knowledge to enable them to become wildlife recorders. Please see the timetable below.

Learned skills will include what to look for when identifying a species, such as: the song of a bird; the pattern on a butterfly’s wings; the number of petals on a flower or gills on a fungus. We will also tell you what methods you can use for counting these species including quadrats, transects or just when out taking a walk.

North Lanarkshire Sat day 13 May Introduction to wild flower identification Airdrie Sun hday 21 May How to identify British breeding birds Motherwell Sun day 9 July Bugs and beasties of parks Airdrie Sun day 23 July How to survey for butterflies Newmains Sat hday 12 Aug How to identify trees Wishaw Tue eve 29 Aug How to survey for bats Cumbernauld Sat day 28 Oct Introduction to lichens and fungi Motherwell Stirling Sat hday 6 May How to identify British breeding birds Cambusbarron Wed eve 10 May How to survey for bats Cambusbarron Sat day 10 June Identifying wild flowers Stirling Sun day 11 June Identifying wild flowers Stirling Sat day 17 June ‘Common plant survey’ training day Plean Sun hday 18 June Small mammals in Scotland Thornhill Sun day 6 Aug Common bugs and beasties Thornhill Sun day 20 Aug How to survey for butterflies Fallin Falkirk Sun hday 14 May How to spot birds and mammals Bo’ness Sat day 3 June Introduction to wild flower identification Stenhousemuir Sat day 1 July Wildlife walk - wildlife of the Lade Stenhousemuir Sat hday 8 July Bugs and beasties of the woods Polmont Sat day 19 Aug How to survey for butterflies Bo’ness Tue eve 22 Aug How to survey for bats Falkirk

In addition to species identification we will guide people through the recording process, from health and safety to equipment to how to fill in a recording form. We will also provide advice on local and national recording schemes and offer support to groups and individuals who want to become involved in wildlife recording.

People are welcome to come along to all, some or just one of the workshops. All workshops are free but you must fill out a registration form to attend. The registration form and timetable may be found at www.brisc.org.uk or from Claire McSorley brisc-wcp@btcv.org.uk or 01786 474 061.

The Wildlife Counts Project is supported by: BTCV Scotland, SNH, HLF, Stirling Council, Falkirk Council, Falkirk Environment Trust, North Lanarkshire Council

Publications

Development of a veteran tree site assessment protocol.

English Nature Research Report 628. EN Peterborough f.o.c.

Living in Dorset, with its many parks and old wood pastures plus many miles of old hedges makes this an important addition to Helen Read’s Veteran Trees (EN, 2000). The report describes field trials to assess site quality for veteran trees. The report provides guidance on what should be considered a veteran tree including coppice and shrubs. The value of old trees for nature conservation has been well documented, but JNCC have advised against designating single trees SSSI.

Appendix 2 gives examples of site survey assessments. By chance, I have worked one Dorset site and one Yorkshire site independently but actually collected much more data than the trials. However, my results and the trial results agree and also statistically my results agree with the trial results.

Regrettably, as far as I can see Recorder does not have a report form capable of picking up the data and analysing the output and my work has been analysed using Excel.

John Newbould, NFBR

Ancient Trees – Living landscapes

Richard Muir. Tempus £25

Although Richard Muir has based many of his studies on the Ripley estate, north of Harrogate this book looks at the oldest parts of our countryside and helps to provide an interpretation with examples from many areas of the British countryside. He particularly deals with hedges showing with examples, medieval boundaries with past and present hedges. He is one of a growing number of authors who demonstrates the myth of Hooper’s rule of using the number of hedgerow shrub species to determine the age of the hedge. For the naturalist interested in the history of the countryside, this book provides a fresh look at some of the concepts developed by earlier generations such as Oliver Rackham’s History of the Countryside.

John Newbould, NFBR

The Wild Flower Key

Francis Rose revised and updated by Clare O’Reilly. Warne £19.95

This new book arrived from Summerfield Books in early April. On opening the packaging, I was mortified to find an A4 sheet of corrigenda and addenda. On opening the book, I was delighted with the clarity of the print with important diagnostic features highlighted in bold. Many families have id tips in coloured panels, an important new use of printing techniques, available from printers in China. The book now only covers Britain and Ireland containing field definitions of 1600 species of plants out of the British list of circa 3500. Quite rightly, the author points the botanist elsewhere for descriptions of rare and difficult plants e.g. Alchemilla.

I have to congratulate Claire Coleman on an important good book for botanists, especially beginners. Importantly the A4 addenda has Claire’ home address for any additional corrections.

John Newbould, NFBR

Flora of Great Britain and Ireland 4 Campanullaceae – Asteraceae.

Peter Sell and Gina Murrell. CUP £100.

Peter Sell worked in the herbarium at Cambridge University on the British and European floras for over 50 years. Gina Murrell is a technician in the department. As an example of the breadth of this work Campanulaceae has been completed re-ordered and expanded to that shown in Clapham Tutin and Moore published in 1987. Galium has some magnificent line drawings of the seeds. How many people can identify the difference between Gallium aparine subsp aparine and subsp agreste? This book should help. Hieracium is covered in full reflecting Peter Sell’s specialist interest in Asteraceae. With some 500 species of Hieracium and 232 Taraxacum, those botanists in the Wild Flower Society will have new heights to challenge. The Flora covers all the species in the Stace Flora and I am afraid that this brief comment cannot do justice to a volume, which reflects not only a highly professional dedication, but also an obvious love of the subject.

John Newbould, NFBR

Engaging with volunteers: setting up and managing volunteer networks

A handbook produced by the Tracking Mammals Partnership and NBN Trust, 2005.

Firstly I need to declare an interest: I was heavily involved alongside the principal editor of this weighty tome, Jessa Battersby of the TMP, in its production, as well as helping her run the two seminars on volunteer networks upon which it was based.

The handbook was produced to meet a need among the Tracking Mammals Partnership’s member organisations, particularly the voluntary bodies, for guidance in their work. Two seminars were set up to explore the issues, and bring together best practice. The first of these explored the broad questions of the advantages of using volunteers, how their work could be directed most effectively, how training needed to be developed etc. The second seminar was more focused especially on dealing with the questions of health and safety legislation in relation to volunteers: what is and what is not relevant, and how an organisation needs to manage the issue.

From these seminars, summary papers and case studies derived from different organisations were drawn together to form the basis of the handbook. As the questions it sought to answer are more general than just the work of the TMP, the NBN Trust considered it was especially worth producing as a guidance document for broader consumption, which is why it has been issued under the joint names of the Partnership and the NBN Trust. If your organisation is involved in volunteer networks at whatever level, I am sure you will find it a valuable reference. It is available as a downloadable document from the NBN website http://www.nbn.org.uk/downloads/files/Volunteers%20Manual.pdf or from Jessa Battersby at the JNCC, Peterborough

Trevor James, NBN Development Officer

Forthcoming BRC atlases

The Biological Records Centre has a full publications schedule for 2006. Four distribution atlases are nearing completion and are scheduled for publication this year:

  • Leaf and seed beetles (Bruchidae, Chrysomelidae, Megalopodidae & Orsodacnidae) by Mike Cox.
  • Millipedes, by Paul Lee.
  • Pyralid and plume moths, by Tony Davies and Colin Hart.
  • Provisional atlas of the aculeate Hymenoptera, Part 6, by Robin Edwards and Gavin Broad (eds).

In addition, two forthcoming books are co-authored by BRC staff and owe much to BRC data:

M.E. Braithwaite, R.W. Ellis and C.D. Preston (2006) Change in the British Flora 1987-2004. London: Botanical Society of the British Isles.

R. Fox, J. Asher, T. Brereton, D. Roy and M. Warren (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland. NatureBureau. For a full description see page 13

Dr Gavin Broad, BRC Monks Wood

The Dragonflies of Herefordshire

Herefordshire, as one of the most picturesque and unspoilt counties in lowland Britain is rich in wildlife. With magical rivers like the Wye and Lugg running through the heart of it and with an abundance of ponds and lakes it is a haven for dragonflies, and yet until 20 years ago it was largely unrecorded.

This book is the product of 20 years of recording in which Peter Garner gives an intimate and personal account of Herefordshire's 27 species of which all but 3 have been proven or are likely to be breeding.

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"The Dragonflies of Herefordshire" will appeal to those who have a general love of the countryside, as well as dedicated dragonfly experts. Hopefully, even those who know more about dragonflies than Peter will still be interested by some of the detail of his observations, by the speculation of his hypotheses, and above all by the distribution of records from what was very likely, the least well recorded county in the country.

Several records are of special note because Herefordshire is on the edge of their range; includes the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, Red-eyed Damselfly, Downy Emerald, Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Golden-ringed, Black-tailed Skimmer, Ruddy and Black Darters.

More than 75 pages of text, 30 of colour photographs and 25 maps.

"The Dragonflies of Herefordshire" is priced £13.99. To order your copy, please send a cheque payable to “Herefordshire Council” to: “The Dragonflies of Herefordshire Booklet”, Herefordshire Biological Records Centre, P. O. Box 144, Hereford, HR1 2YH.

Coming December 2006 – Amphibians & Reptiles of Herefordshire, in association with the Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team.

Steve Roe, Herefordshire BRC

SRoe@herefordshire.gov.uk