Derek Crawley on recording Britain's wild animals during lockdown

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Logo: The Mammal Society

Derek Crawley is the lead author of the Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (D Crawley et al 2020). He is the founder member and Chair of the Staffordshire Mammal Group and a verifier of mammal records. Derek reports on what he has been able to do during lockdown.

Derek Crawley looking through some binoculars (The Mammal Society)
Derek Crawley (The Mammal Society)

“All work on the new publication the Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was undertaken on a voluntary basis and the project is still ongoing, with more records being collected. These records are important and also helped to produce the Review of the Population and Conservation Status of British Mammals (F. Mathews et al 2018) and the production of the IUCN compliant Red List for Britain’s Mammals, as well as contributing to the State of Nature reports produced by the government. Any association with such publications looks great on your CV and shows identification knowledge and commitment to conservation via sharing knowledge!

The lockdowns, both now and last year, have meant that lots of people have been seeing amazing wildlife on their doorstep, however, whilst many reported them on social media, unfortunately that hasn’t translated into many more records being sent in from new recorders.

Asian Short Claw Otter (Derek Crawley)
Asian Short Claw Otter (Derek Crawley)

Whereas previously I have religiously recorded every sign of mammals, during lockdown I also had more opportunities to record insects, birds and plants on my daily exercise. Lockdown also meant that I had time to verify the back log of mammal records from counties that do not have a dedicated verifier and managed to recruit many more people to help with this.

The recording platform we use is iRecord which covers all taxa not just mammals. Verification is important to ensure records are accurate, as some species are difficult to identify by inexperienced people. To gain more knowledge in the identification of species and increase national records I spent more time on Mammalweb where there are thousands of videos awaiting species identification from trail camera projects from around the UK. I also went on where I helped count penguins and even helped with the identification and classification of humpback whale vocalizations! Although some of these activities can usually be fitted in round normal life, with extra free time more could/can be done and this will, in turn, expand your experience and knowledge.

European otter (The Mammal Society)
European otter (The Mammal Society)

Another project I have been involved in is helping the Mammal Society with the re-organisation of its catalogue of photos. This means that it is now easier to find the correct image quickly and correctly. It can be quite surprising and irritating when a caption states European Otter but shows an Asian Short Claw Otter - this happens fairly frequently in news articles.

As the founder and Chair of the Staffordshire Mammal Group, I would normally lead survey activities across the county but, with restrictions in place I, like many others, had the chance to explore in detail my local area. I was spurred on by a 2.6 Challenge fundraising activity of spotting 26 mammals in 26 weeks as part of my daily exercise from home. It makes a nice change looking in detail one area rather the spreading yourself around. This is where the Mammal Society’s Mammal Mapper app works really well, as it follows you round the route you take and you can compare the same route and the mammals signs and sightings spotted each time.

There is a great deal that you can do as a volunteer to gain experience without having to leave your home, whether you’re stuck at home due to the pandemic or fitting activities in around another job before moving into the environmental field.”

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