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Notes on Living Record

My 1st Speckled Wood record of 2012

Wildlife recording technology is constantly changing and a new tool has recently become available, called Living Record.

It has much to recommend it as a data capture, display and download tool, and continues to be developed further, so I am happy to promote it via the BNHS website for entry and download of Bedfordshire records if you wish to use it. (As the tool works for all of England, Wales and Scotland don't restrict yourself to entering only Beds data if you happen to wander).

Adding records is a simple two-step process. You firstly click on the map/aerial photos to define a location and then you attach records to that location. Further records can be attached if you see more things at the same location.

Records can be interrogated and mapped in a many ways, including 10km squares, 1km squares and full resolution for a particular species.

You can download your records at any time into an Excel spreadsheet for your own personal record keeping and for sending in to the County Recorders. County Recorders are expected to continue to use their own existing databases for long-term storage. This tool is more for personal data capture and download.

County Recorders may be interested to know that records can be verified (accepted, queried or rejected), locked against change (batched), and downloaded at any time for specific observers, or for all observers, allowing incremental extraction of verified records, or mass extraction in one fell swoop. Batch downloads under the control of the County Recorder are ideal for extracting a season's records and for preventing duplication of records.

Until the County Recorder(s) for your records adopt these procedures please download your own records and send them in at the end of the season. Please ensure that you don't send in the same records more than once.

The Bedfordshire and Luton Biodiversity Recording and Monitoring Centre (BRMC) will also have a portal on its website to get into the system. (All Living Network portals you may encounter on different websites access the same nationwide system but may have a local branding, as ours has. Your user ID will work on all these websites). The BRMC may well provide some local administration of the system (as resources permit) but as this tool is new for all of us we'll be feeling our way together somewhat on this.

As its not actually a BNHS or BRMC product it doesn't come with an official BNHS or BRMC endorcement, however I've been entering most of my 2012 data into the system, inputting records for butterflies, bees, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, and its all gone well so far. I'm in regular contact with the developer, Adrian Bicker, discussing and evaluating the enhancements that he is making - it is being developed by recorders, for recorders.

Dorset Dragonfly records

One novel aspect of the tool is that it allows collaborative recording. You can see what I've already recorded via the distribution maps (though full details of records are not disclosed) and as others join me on the system we can see our collective observations. This will allow areas with gaps to be determined and targetted via this useful form of "social network", however some sensitive records might be better left out for this reason, to minimize species disturbance. (I've been discussing with Adrian how these may best be handled by future developments).

Take a look at the distribution maps for Dragonflies in Dorset for which there is already a lot of data in the system. This will give you an idea of how useful the collaborative recording can be.

Living Record was initially developed for dragonfly recording in Dorset in 2010 and now contributes around 40% of the national dragonfly records sent in to the British Dragonfly Society - from Hants to Yorkshire, Radnorshire to Cambridgeshire. It has since been extended to cover many species groups, with more checklists on the way. There are currently 53,000 records in its database from more than 600 observers. The goal for Living Record is to enable everyone to record pretty much any wildlife that they see anywhere in England, Scotland or Wales.

Please give the tool a try. As you will want to play at first there is a species checklist of Harry Potter dragons called "Dragons (for training)", at the bottom of the species groups lists, which you can use to get the hang of things. Only real data should be entered for other species groups, but don't worry, locations and records can be edited and deleted if you get anything wrong.

The panels may seem a bit daunting at first, but they are logically laid out. With a bit of thought, and reading of the helpful notes, you will soon get to grips with things. It is really quite a powerful system once you find your way around.

Once logged in you will also find a "Getting Started" guide in the Help section, and a more extensive "User Guide" which is well worth reading.

If you have any feedback for Adrian there is a "Contact Us" form on the login/home page. (You have to be logged out to get at this).

I have some administration rights for the "Bedfordshire & Luton Recorders" team, so if you join this group, which you will do if you use the BNHS-branded portal to sign-up, then I may be able to assist if you have problems with your account. (If you however wish to join a different team you can subscribe using an unbranded version of Living Record at, but I won't then be able to provide you with any support).

There is a leaflet summarizing Living Record HERE.

One final point, there's no charge for you to use it!

Keith Balmer
7th April 2012