Get to know what’s on your doorstep
Before you start taking action for wildlife you first need to find out a bit about the habitats and species that you already have in your area. You don’t want to plant trees on a grassy bank that looks uninteresting in the winter but will be full of wild flowers in spring.
Start by finding out what has already been mapped
Devon Biodiversity Records Centre collects, manages and makes available wildlife records. They manage a database of over 5.5 million species records as well as data on habitats (County Wildlife Sites and priority habitats). DBRC is one of a national network of Local Environmental Records Centres across the UK. Contact them to find out what information they have in your patch.
Devon County Council’s Environment Viewer provides lots of layers of ecological information such statutory designations (SSSIs, LNRs etc), County Wildlife Sites, Ancient Woodland and Special Verges. The Viewer also shows information on public rights of way, historic environment, landscape character, flooding etc.
Natural England’s MAGIC website provides lots of information on the natural environment.
The National Biodiversity Network has over 200 million wildlife records – take a look at the data on their Atlas for your area.
OS maps will highlight key habitats such as woodlands and streams.
Devon County Council commissioned a series of Parish Biodiversity Audits in 2010. Have a look to see if there is already an audit for your parish – and then update and improve it!
Dartmoor National Park have created a nature challenge, Time for Nature, to mark 70 years of the national park. The idea is that now is the time for nature, to connect with it and protect it. Watch their YouTube video explaining further.
Carry out simple surveys
This need not be an exhaustive or in-depth process. Start with a simple audit of the different habitats that have public access or can be seen from public rights of way. Note down some of the species you spot along the way. Is that dark green bit on my map actually woodland or is it a bramble thicket? This is what ecologists call a Phase 1 Habitat Survey.
You might then start to note down wildlife features like nest holes or the areas of habitat that appear to be most rich in wildlife. For example which corners of the park have most butterflies and which hedges are tallest and thickest? Remember to go back at different times of year – wildflower meadows and woodlands change hugely through the seasons.
The most important thing to remember is that the more information you can gather, the better you’ll understand your area and what can be done to improve it for wildlife!
Map what you find
Over time, you’ll start to build a picture of your area – a network of different habitats and areas, like a patchwork quilt. Producing a Wildlife Map which shows habitats (including any designated areas), species, nature reserves, special verges etc will help you to understand the distribution of wildlife in your area, and may give you project ideas.
A simple way to start mapping your patch and sharing records within your community is using iRecord.
Recording and surveying
If you want to get a really good understanding of exactly what species are around, you could take things a step further and conduct one or more species surveys. Of course, some species groups are more challenging to survey and identify than others and you may need specialist help. For example, there are lots of resources to identify the birds that visit your park and basic plants but you may need a specialist to help carry out an insect or detailed botanical survey.
Explore the links below to find useful guidance on how to survey and identify different species or species groups. You’ll also find links to different national recording schemes to get involved with. These are often part of wider citizen science projects that help conservationists understand how particular species or groups are doing.
If you feel you need some help or would like to pay a consultant or specialist to do a survey for you, check out our contacts.
This is national recording scheme run by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species which you can get involved with and learn how to identify different types of hedgerow structure and condition.
This is a technical PDF document to help you understand the exact types of grassland plant communities you have. This is really only for those who are very confident with their plant identification skills.
Amphibians and reptiles
English Nature (Natural England) Dormouse Handbook (p21 for survey guidance)
Please share your wildlife records
Collating wildlife and habitat records is critically important in order to know more about what we have, where it is and how it is doing. All this information helps us all to better protect and manage Devon’s environment. There are several easy ways to submit your wildlife records but we recommend that you start with DBRC.
- Email them directly to the Devon Biological Records Centre (DBRC)
- Submit them through the iRecord website
- Submit your records to a relevant natural history society or recording scheme. See out Contacts page for links to Devon groups.
Make sure any record contains four key pieces of information, as follows:
- Name of species / species group
- Location (ideally a grid reference or co-ordinates)
- Name of recorder (the person who made the observation)