The fifth instalment in an occasional 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 Aileen Salway.
Local Recorder Profile #5 by Aileen Salway
My interest in wildlife has been with me all my life. As an eleven year old I was given a butterfly book and I identified the green-veined white butterflies in my garden and nearby waste ground. As a young child on trips to the countryside I would guddle about in ponds and find newts and other treasures. That fascination has never left me and now I will sit in my garden in Banchory having a cup of tea and watching the bees and hoverflies on the marjoram at my feet or settle by my little pond watching the pond skaters and enjoying the sight of the incumbent frog. Recording wildlife for NESBReC feels like a natural extension of this interest and I record a range of species that I can identify confidently. I need to improve my photography skills so I have a better chance of identifying those quick insects such as hoverflies!
Photo 1: Southern Hawker newly emerged from at the garden pond in Banchory
The coronavirus pandemic has encouraged me to record locally. I walked along the River Dee and various other local paths much more frequently and was able to record flowering plants in areas which weren’t mown as much as normally. Watching my bath-tub sized pond each day I was surprised to see a southern hawker dragonfly emerge and found the shed skins, or exuviae, on the emergent vegetation. In this case the dragonfly was easy to photograph as its wings were still drying and NESBReC was able to send the photo to a local expert for verification. This species is more common in the south of England but seems to be expanding its range north.
I am very involved with bats, both working as a bat surveyor and as a volunteer with the NE Scotland Bat group (NESBats). Survey information goes to NESBReC and becomes a useful resource for the conservation of the seven species of bat found in the area which are all under-recorded. Bat detectors are becoming a bit more affordable but the bat group also has kit it can loan out. Passive bat detectors are a bit like camera traps in that you set them up and they do much of the work for you, recording all bats passing for up to a fortnight. Lazy bat watching! Better recording equipment has led to more records of rarer species such as Nathusius’ pipistrelle, Leisler’s and Natterer’s bats but simple records of unidentified “bat” are still useful records for NESBReC, especially where they emerge from buildings or trees and may contribute to the conservation of roosts.
Photo 2: Stranded juvenile Soprano Pipistrelle at Finzean
Travelling to and from bat survey sites at night/early morning lets me record a good number of other species such as woodcock, owls, hedgehog, badger, fox and brown hare. After a late night, sometimes the challenge is to remember exactly where on the road you spotted something but I can log records at a 4 figure grid reference if necessary. During lockdown I used a bat group bat detector to record bats as I drove to surveys with a resultant web of bat records along the north-east road network! There were no issues with remembering locations there since the detector had built in GPS to record presence, thankfully.
Both of my children enjoyed recording wildlife for NESBReC as part of their Duke of Edinburgh volunteering. They did a mixture of bird watching, plant ID, camera trapping and pond dipping and found out a bit more about their local wildlife – making their own discoveries. As you observe wildlife you learn more. I think the key is to find something that you enjoy recording, that fits into your routine and gives you pleasure!