Where to start when creating a new nature reserve

Recording first, and what platforms to use.

When creating a new nature reserve either on a large scale, or just creating a wild area in your garden, or improving a wild area, it is best NOT just to get stuck straight in!

To truly know if your conservation project is working, or not, you need to record. Preferably you need to have before and after records, even on specific areas on the site. This data can also then be shared by local authorities and conservation groups so that sites can be protected in the future, and so that they know how individual species are fairing. Even something common can become rare e.g. Wall butterfly.

Two recording platforms are here to consider:

iRecord & Living Record


An easy to use site and without a doubt the most popular. The record is entered, mostly with a picture if you have one, and a county recorder for that species verifies it. Specific projects can be created, or just ad-hoc records added.

Benefits: Verified by an expert, picture records of all your finds stored, easy to use on your mobile if out and about. Can record all wildlife.

Disadvantages: No time of sightings unless you add this to the notes section (can be important for knowing the flight time of certain insects like moths/ dragonflies), downloading your records although can be done is tricky and not compliant with all operating systems.

Living Record

Mostly a southern county used database. Map easy to use and very details. Projects and areas can be set, including by authorities that wish to know specifics for their area e.g. nature reserves, borough boundaries. No picture uploads

Benefits: Records are very easy to download. This is particularly good for moths, butterflies, and dragonflies. It is very good for plant records, not only recording the species but also its abundance which is important for county surveyors. Don’t need to photograph everything.

Disadvantage: No independent verifier of your record by photo. Only question unusual records. Only covers a few subject groups, but this is growing.

Personally, I use Living Record for Butterflies, Moths, Vascular Plants, Mammals, Dragonflies/ damselflies, and iRecord for everything else.

Leaf Miners

This is an important area to survey. Some species, especially smaller moths can only be identified by dissection as adults. However, as young, they can be separated by their feeding patterns or food plants. In the case of flies, you might never see the adult, but the young are sometimes easy to find. Occasionally they may need rearing, but on the whole, a good backlit picture of a mine is enough to record species on the site. They can be moths, flies, or beetles.

The following two sites can be useful for this:

http://www.leafmines.co.uk/ – Moths

http://www.ukflymines.co.uk/ – Flies

In addition to this you might come across galls created by wasps, aphids, fungi, and mites which are also worth recording:


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