Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Good Recording and Bad Recording - Thank you "Living Record" and "Peter Orchard" for helping me to demonstrate the two Extremes!!

I stated in my Month 2 progress report, that MMNN was due to start mapping out the Local Wildlife Networks, around member sites.

Part of this work has taken me on a tour, albeit it on-line around the beautiful County of Dorset. I have been talking to some amazing groups of volunteers, who have worked tirelessly, to record wildlife and get involved in the hard work on the ground needed to help the Councils manage sites and their fragile habitats.

Whilst conducting this work, I received an e-mail from Peter Orchard, creator of a rather grandly named "The Nature of Dorset" website. Wow!! all the information I would need under one roof!!....or so it seemed!!

I'm not sure where he found out about MMNN but he stated in his initial e-mail that "I record in Dorset and put the data collected on here: www.natureofdorset.co.uk"

He went on to say "It currently has data for 145 sites and over 1,450 species. In paragraph 2 of Peter's homepage he clearly states "Once at the species data you can see where I have seen it" - I being the key word here.

So, twice he has claimed they are his records already!! To all you bloggers and patch watchers out there, I think you will agree, it's hard enough to cover one site well with personal wildlife records. This Guy tells me he can do it across 145 sites!! He must have the legs of a Cheetah.

Anyway, I have been so busy on the MMNN initiative, so I just sent a brief reply praising his identification area, as it supported the young and learning naturalists.

To my surprise, the very next day, Peter sends me an e-mail offering a platform for my members to record wildlife in Dorset, via his site!!! Not only does this guy eat Wildebeest for breakfast, he is also an overnight "Einstein", creating a policy of recording for Bournemouth in a matter of hours.

Alarm bells started ringing. You will see from my article posted on 20/9/13, that I had become aware of the wonderful work of Adrian Bicker at "Living Record", through people who were serious about wildlife, and who were also passionate about the importance of accurate recording, verification and validation. I was also aware that the hard-working team at Dorset Environmental Records Centre were already working with Adrian. Why did Dorset need to start sending it's records into "Peter the Cheetah"??

My instincts got the better of me! I took a deeper look at his website and picked a few LNR's that were about the same size or bigger than my own patch. I was amazed at the number of records for each of the 140 odd sites listed. Not only that but how can you land species like Dartford Warbler, Water-Rail, Wood Cock, Red Kite and Black-tailed Skimmers, on sites where they are rare, whilst spreading yourself so thinly over so many sites.

I e-mailed Peter Orchard, asking how he had managed to visit so many sites and create so many of his own records.

MMNN cares about the need for engagement and participation, and I had noted that Peter had missed a lot of hard-working Dorset wildlife volunteer groups off his organisation and weblinks (I am in the Midlands, he should know them better than me!!). I asked why he had omitted this valuable connection that would add numbers to volunteer events across his home county. 

Incidentally, if any readers are connected to any of the following guardians of UK Wildlife, you may wish to advise them to consider removing their association, and emblems from this site:

Apologies to the RSPB - you have got two because Peter doesn't know the difference between a Podcast service and a stunning wildlife haven! 

Please note that Peter Orchard hadn't even linked the emblems to these organisations/initiatives/reserves, which means that, for example, the amount of Butterfly counts in Dorset, were less than they could have been if he had made his 18,000 annual website visitors aware of the plea for more records, to help protect them.

I received answers from Peter. He has managed to visit so many sites and make so many recordings because "I am retired. I have a car, it is my hobby (no passion!). there are 36 weeks from the beginning of March to the end of October. I started visiting reserves when we moved to Dorset 7 years ago. Two visits each week in that time period over 7 years is around 500 recording visits"

The reason he gave for not including local "Wildlife Warrior" groups of volunteers on his "County site" (that appears 2nd only on google to another volunteer organisation that makes a REAL difference to the state of nature: Dorset Wildlife Trust),  was that in 2009 (within 3 years of entering the county!!), he offered 20 groups a wildlife recording platform and they were not interested.

Peter, if you are reading this whilst rapidly editing your website (I have screen-shots), the reasons why you are in this article are two-fold. First you have placed personal feeling above acting in the best interests of wildlife. Secondly, every day, I hear about Council's on ever tighter budgets with ever-decreasing staff numbers, trying to enhance LNR's, the newly labelled LWS's and other sites. At the same time, I talk to teams of heroic volunteers, passionate about their patches who are trying desperately to help the Council's execute their management plans, whilst also organising events and making wonderful wildlife records.

So let us do some basic Maths. Peter actually states that he has conducted 788 recording sessions in 7 years, although he admits that some of those sessions are from his garden (I am amazed he has got time to maintain a garden!). 
788 visits across 145 sites in 7 years!!! that means that on average, he visited each site less than once a year!!!

When I put this to Peter, he said that "it is not an exact Science" ( I hope the "Nature of Bournemouth" recording platform that he is proposing for the area, is more of an exact science!! Though I don't think it's going to happen now somehow after MMNN's exposure!!).He then said that he is discovering new sites all the time.

Well I decided to put this to the test. After a little bit of surfing social groups that I need to do for my work anyway, I came across the following flicker link following Peter's visit to Kinson Common LNR:

You will see Peter pictured there, as he appears on his own site. Please note that the flicker feed is dated 2nd April 2013. He comments: "I had a very pleasant morning just getting to know the place"

Lets have a look at the page for Kinson Common on "The Nature of Dorset":

The page tells you to "Click the pic to see my complete species list for this site"

You will note:
1. Peter has Firecrest in his records, calling it a good spot on 31/3/13. Yes Pete,very good spot considering you were over 15 miles away on that day!: I asked Peter in my last email, before breaking communication with him, where he was on 31/3/13 and he told me he was at Stokeford Heath!!, as evidenced by his own site:

The Firecrest was actually found by a well-respected local "patch" watcher. It was his record. How could it be Peter's when he visited the site for the first time, two days later and never mentioned the Firecrest sighting in his Flicker update?

2. Peter's own "Kinson Common species list" states that Dartford Warbler, Water Rail, Woodcock, Red Kite and Black-tailed Skimmer are all "present" there. Anyone who visits this important site regularly will tell you that all of these species are extremely rare there at best!! How damaging is this information to wildlife conservation?

3. The species list for Kinson Common contains endless records from 2011, over a year BEFORE Peter first says that he visited the site.

The evidence is endless, but from it comes some key points that I wish to highlight. This overlaps with reports I have had, and acted upon from Cheshire bloggers; that wildlife recording platforms (thankfully not attached to the U.K's Local Records Centres, but most likely taking up valuable wildlife funding),are holding false and misleading information regarding species present on sites of extreme value to wildlife, in that area.

1. It concerns me that two instances of this nature have been exposed in the two months since MMNN was launched, and  I have only just started mapping local networks.

2. If you are an individual recording wildlife, send your records into your local wildlife clubs and recorders. MMNN is pushing for these groups to be more easily found at information points on green spaces and through Schools, Council Websites and local groups, to encourage participation.

3. If you are one of the thousands of local wildlife, Parish or "Friends of" groups, that exist across the country and you are looking for a recording platform for your valuable sightings, find your Local Records Centre (LRC)via the National Biodiversty Network (NBN) site:

Send a brief e-mail, asking for their advice on the best record entry systems. Please do not call them unless urgent, as they are doing an incredible job on ever-tighter funding, sending quality records onto the National Biodiversity Network, which is used to help create the STATE OF NATURE reports.

4. If you are approached by anyone claiming to have a wildlife recording platform for you to use, be very careful. Send an e-mail to your LRC, asking them to check the product. The Wildlife Trusts are truly wonderful. Contact your local Trusts, and they will provide assistance, as well telling you about other ways to get involved with wildlife locally.

For the people of Dorset, you are in safe hands. Any threat to the quality of wildlife records has been nipped in the bud, and in any case would never have got through the tight controls that exist at the NBN and at the LRC. To this end Living Record is already approved by the Dorset Environmental Records Centre, and I would strongly recommend them for any wildlife group, not only in Dorset, but across the UK, as they are well respected by local experts and recorders, and they share our passion for wildlife.

I have also looked closely at the work of the "Friends of" and other volunteer wildlife groups that exist in Dorset. From what I have reviewed, and mapped so far, I see them, together with the army of wildlife bloggers as being KEY to realising the dream of halting the decline of wildlife in the UK.

If you want to see original and accurate records of what you can see at Kinson Common, please visit:
http://www.friendsofkinsoncommon.btck.co.uk/ - brilliant slogan by the way!!....Protect, Preserve, Promote!!! Well done to you all on your fine efforts.

Peter Orchard - you obviously hold a love, of sorts for wildlife. It's just a great shame, that you didn't use the last 7 years to support all of the incredible groups that exist in Dorset, and who you stole records from, by claiming them as your own, after paying "token" visits. 

How many kids have looked at your site and got mum and dad to drive them over to see a Dartford Warbler and Red Kite, only to find out off a proper wildlife recorder, that they are not there, when they arrive. Disappointment in children is damaging. You could, by now have created so many local wildlife partnerships, which in turn would have created a new army of volunteers in the county, to help the Council's and Wildlife Organisations meet their Biodiversity objectives.

To our members in Dorset, rest assured, MMNN will help them.

Thank you for taking time out, whilst reading this article.

Thank you also to the Centre for Environmental Change & Human Resillience at Dundee University, for recently encouraging people to get involved in MMNN. I am extremely honoured to have had my aims and articles studied by such an Institution. It makes me even more determined to move mountains for nature.

I live in the Midlands, and so at a local level, thanks also to our local blogger "Chaz" at Clayhanger Marsh Log, who provided a testament as to what MMNN is setting out to achieve:

To those that have the power to help this important wildlife site in Walsall, West Midlands (which includes an SSSI) preserve it's biodiversity and safeguard it's future, please contact us at smestowsightings@gmail.com 

Chaz has watched over this site as a true "guardian" for years, so come on everyone, let's give him and the wildlife there a hand!!

Join MMNN today and together, we really can make a difference. Simply e-mail your request to smestowsightings@gmail.com and you will be sent a simple "welcome" form to register the sites where you watch and record wildlife.

If you are a blogger and you support our initiative, please add us to your site links.

Many thanks.

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