Species Data Chit-Chat

House Centipede
House Centipede © P Masters

article written by Ellen Lee, TVERC Data Manager

Over the last three months TVERC has received and logged 124 data sets, mostly containing species records. As usual, there has been a great variety in the amount and the nature of the records they contain. The largest data set contained a little under 40,000 records and the smallest, a single record. Often the small data sets from individual recorders and members of the public arrive with photos or videos and I always enjoy these, although very shaky photos of butterflies, the tail of an otter disappearing out of shot or an unidentified creature head butting a trail cam at high speed all provide a challenge! The worse thing is when I have to break the news to somebody who is very excited about seeing something rare (an adder, a water vole), that they have (in fact) seen something very common (a grass snake, a rat!). Luckily that doesn’t happen very often. Nowadays with so many resources available through the internet and ID apps such as “Seek”, most people know what they’ve seen.

So back to the last three months. Our 124 data sets were split fairly evenly between records and reports from consultants and those from everyone else. We get consultancy data from three sources: the consultants themselves, Local Authorities and through TVERC volunteers scanning Local Authority planning portals. The consultancy records are not huge in number, but contain a disproportionately high fraction of important legally protected and otherwise notable species records. The rest of the data sets come from utility companies, wildlife organisations, national charities, local wildlife groups, individual wildlife recorders, members of the public and, of course, TVERC itself via LWS and other surveys.

I always find it exciting opening my inbox when I start work on a Wednesday morning because I never know what will turn up. Recently we had two strange and surprising records sent to us by members of the public. Firstly, we were sent pictures of a nightjar roosting in someone’s pot of tomatoes on their patio in Hungerford! If that weren’t strange enough, a few days later we received pictures of a house centipede that had turned up in Chinnor. The latter is a Mediterranean species which could well have arrived in the country on imported produce and presumably decided to move indoors as the night temperatures started to drop. It has 125 pairs of long legs, can run up walls fast and eats other creatures in your house. I wish one would come and visit me!

I don’t want to give the impression that I crave rarity and novelty though! Every record TVERC receives is valuable and improves our understanding of local wildlife and enables better, more informed decisions which affect our environment to be made. It’s becoming apparent to us that there is starting to be momentum behind valuing and protecting our road verges and managing them more appropriately. I’m not sure whether the recent lockdowns have anything to do with it, but it does seem that people have become more aware of the riches they contain, and we have had a bumper summer for orchid records, especially pyramidal orchids. These seem to be doing really well, especially on urban verges. TVERC holds many records from the road verges of Oxfordshire and Berkshire (just under 24,000). Some records are old and provide an interesting baseline and lots more are recent. Our prediction is that there will soon be a re-evaluation of both roadside verge management and the designation of Road Verge Nature Reserves (RVNRs). So, it’s important that we hold as comprehensive data on verges as possible. If you have road verge records that you haven’t sent us, please think about doing so. Also, if you know of good road verges in your area and you think they might be under recorded, surveying them would be a perfect project for 2022!

Posted: September 30, 2021