Recording Standards

Garganeys by Steve Garvie

The Rare Breeding Birds Panel has published recording standards to help bird recorders and individuals to report their data to the Panel. Printed copies have been widely circulated and a copy can be downloaded here.

We hope that this guidance will aid collection of the most valuable information and promote the submission of records. We seek to maximise the quality of the data collected by highlighting what is most useful in determining the number and status of each species.

The key messages behind these standards are (1) that birdwatchers should be encouraged to record and report the location and numbers of rare breeding birds using standardised terminology and accepted definitions of breeding status, and (2) that the use of precise locations maximises the value of the data collected and ultimately the national archive of rare breeding birds held by the Panel.

The confidential archive of records of rare breeding birds in the UK has been maintained by the Panel since 1973, and is the only national source of data for many species, most of which are not well monitored by other schemes. Where possible, the archive contains full details of sites and the number of pairs of each species at each site. These data are thus robust and reliable, and of significant value for conservation. Maintaining this archive helps to fulfil the UK Governmentís legal responsibilities and assists in the protection of the breeding sites and amendments to legislation to protect rare breeding birds.

There are instances of sites being lost, and of prosecutions for wildlife crime failing, owing to the lack of information available on sites and occupancy. In 2008, investigation of an alleged egg-collecting incident was hampered by lack of detailed information on Honey-buzzard territories in one southern county and, in western England, a consultation on a proposed windfarm site was unable to take into account any impact on Honey-buzzards believed to be in the area, but for which accurate locational data were lacking. In contrast, knowledge of the nesting locations of Montaguís Harriers in eastern England has helped to protect pairs breeding in those areas.

For more widespread species, the accuracy of the figures presented in the Panel's reports is compromised if the records are submitted without reference to the area surveyed. Thus, for breeding ducks, grebes and Water Rails (for example), a knowledge of the proportion of waterbodies or known sites for a species in a county covered in a year would help in making comparisons with other counties and with data for other years. The same applies to species such as Hobby which occurs widely in some counties but which is poorly monitored in most.

Only records of rare breeding birds submitted directly to the Panel or, preferably, via the county recorder, can be included in the archive and only then can they form part of any analysis or reporting. All data received from supplementary sources must be matched with those from the recorder network to identify and remove duplicates, allowing the most accurate available figures to be compiled for our reports; this can only be done if sufficient detail is supplied.

It is these records that help to build the picture of the changing status of rare birds and help with species conservation and site protection. We strongly encourage all birdwatchers to heed the advice given in the Panelís Recording Standards and thus make their recording more valuable.