The third in a regular feature where we ask people in our area to talk a little about what motivates them to record wildlife and send their records to NESBReC. All photos by Toni Watt.
Local Recorder Profile #3 – by Toni Watt
Why do I record what I see? Like many people who send in records to NESBReC I think I have always been interested in wildlife. Certainly as a child I was always bring home things from family walks including irresistible dead starfish washed up on the beach which inevitably were later re-discovered in the house by the smell!
So, what has changed? Well I still find wildlife totally absorbing and I am very much involved in recording various groups of wildlife. This year with lockdown and then being furloughed for several months gave me more time to walk and discover more in my local patch.
So why record wildlife, and why is it so important to send records into NESBReC? There are of course many reasons but one of the main ones for me comes from my work with children’s groups and schools. The children are always very keen to “save Scotland’s rare wildlife”, which leads us on to asking how we know what is rare, and how we know if it needs saving, which is always a tricky one to answer until we talk about the importance of recording wildlife, not just the rare species but the common ones too so we can see what changes there are over the years. Suddenly it all makes sense to the children and they are ready to start.
I try to do the same myself but, like everyone, I do have certain groups which appeal to me more and so I end up recording them most of all. It is also very much a two-way process as NESBReC helps with identifying unusual finds. I am very much involved with the Portlethen Moss Group and walk on the Moss most days, recording insects, birds and fungi. This year I saw a huge fly which looked very obvious but was completely new to me. Luckily it obligingly stayed for a photo which I sent in to NESBReC and had a confirmation on my amateur identification. It was Tachina grossa or the Giant Tachinid fly (see photo below).
On Portlethen Moss I am also trying to record a complete list of fungi, which is my other passion. I lead Grampian Fungus Group and in a normal year I would be encouraging you to come out with us on our forays all over Aberdeen City and Shire to hunt for and record fungi. This year has however been different in every way and we are not running forays just now but do hope to get going again next year.
In a normal year members of Grampian Fungus Group meet on a Saturday and head out to new sites or familiar haunts to record as many different species of fungi as we can. When I started, I could only confidently identify a few common fungi, such as the Fly Agaric (see photo below). However, over the years, by attending workshops and with all members of the group helping each other our collective and individual knowledge has increased, such that we now have a very enthusiastic group of recorders and photographers of fungi. When we are fully up and running again, we will advertise and anyone is most welcome to join us.
I think fungi also perfectly demonstrate the importance of long-term recording as every year is different. Not every fungus will produce fruiting bodies each year so to get a good idea of what is present on a site you need to do repeat visits over several years.
I also record dragonflies and damselflies and have done for many years both casually and taking part in regular surveys at Castle Fraser, a National Trust for Scotland property near Kemnay which is a British Dragonfly Society priority site for dragonflies, in particular the Northern Damselfly (see photo below).
Finally, I record casual wildlife on my daily dog walks, an ideal way to see changes in a local area over the course of a year, and indeed over many years. We tend to walk along the coast from Portlethen and you never know what you are going to see. Recently there have been beautiful views of stonechats and wheatears which are very photogenic and earlier in the year we were very lucky to see a Blue Headed Wagtail which again I sent to NESBReC to confirm for me. It is definitely a two-way process