Beginners Guide to Recording


This is a short guide on recording bird species. I’ve called it the beginners guide but I hope everyone will read it! I am not going to write about any particular recording method or scheme, just the basics of recording bird species from my own point of view.

What to Record?

I’ll start with the rant and get it over and done with. Many people use the excuse of not recording because they either claim to not know what to record or that there were “no birds”. I find these excuses both frustrating and insulting, I won’t tolerate it, be warned. Rant over.

“So what should I record then?” You may ask; well the answer is EVERYTHING! Typically common species are hugely under-recorded. I do understand and fully appreciate that most walks out on the Ashdown Forest can be depressing and seem pointless when all you can find is the odd Robin and a Blackbird each time, but its these records which are the most important of all. Who knows in 10 years time Robins may be on the critical list!

“But I can’t record because I’m not very knowledgeable”. Rubbish. I am not asking for everyone to send in records of ultra rarities. If you can identify common garden birds then you can record, it doesn’t matter that you don’t know a Dartford Warbler even if it hit you in the face! Actually once you start walking a patch regularly you do start to learn about the bird species in that area, and the more you actively look for birds the more you’ll find.

If your not sure what something was then don’t record it, better to be accurate than guessing and getting it wrong.

How to Record
Now that we’ve ascertained that we need to record everything, how should you go about it?

  • Equipment – There is one important thing you need to take with you when going out to do some recording, and that is a map or GPS to get a six figure grid reference for the location of the bird. And don’t forget your notebook and pen!
  • Location, Location, Location – You can record anywhere on the Forest, thats not a problem, roving records are still useful. However having a patch on the Forest that you walk regularly gives consistent records.
  • Consistency – It’s the name of the game. The more consistent you are with visits to your patch the better and more “honest” the data that you produce becomes.
  • The frequency of visits to your patch is entirely up to you but a minimum of one visit per month (12 visits a year) will suffice if your time is limited.

    Send in your records using the ABG Recording Form. A guide to filling out the form is available (HERE).

    Every species you record MUST have a six figure grid reference with it. I know it’s tedious and laborious to do for every Blue Tit but the BTO/SOS require everything to have grid references. Please also make use of the Behaviour Codes to tell us what the bird(s) were doing, including any breeding information.

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