Saturday, 31 August 2013

Local groups

I was in contact with a Flickr user yesterday who asked me whether I had thought of setting up a local group to improve coverage of a poorly recorded area. At the time I thought that I was probably doing as much as I could (the HRS, DF Field meetings, Training events and of course this group), but is there more that could be done?

Well, realistically, I doubt I can take on much more, but we do know that local groups can be helpful. For example Northamptonshire was an empty space on the maps until John Showers got interested and organised a local group. His group is now pretty active and Northants is now one of the better-recorded areas. So, is there scope for doing the same elsewhere? There are plenty of possibilities - what is needed is local interest.

Are there potential leaders out there who would like to stimulate improved levels of recording? Even well-recorded areas will need a new generation of recorders as our stalwarts are aging and not being replaced. Does anybody have any thoughts? There are active groups in Northants and a newly created group in Devon, together with an active group based around Preston Montford.

For those who want to get a feel for weak areas of recording, the maps on the HRS website are useful.

Obvious challenges are parts of Wiltshire, Buckinghamshire, South Lincs and the Fens, North Lincolnshire, Herefordshire, North and East Yorkshire, Northumbria and many parts of Scotland. Why is this? Well, I think one reason is maps tend to show where people like to go – and who wants to wander the barren wastes of the Fens? I have done this for about 10 years on and off – and it can be very boring. So at least in part, maps show where there is good habitat. But even in these areas there are little gems that the outside recorder does not know about.

It is also very noticeable that the bulk of recorders come from southern counties – why is this? Bearing in mind the historic legacy of the Workers Educational Institutes and numerous microscopy societies that abounded 100 years ago, surely this is not an area that is free of interest in wildlife recording?

What is needed is a network of 'shakers and movers'. They don't have to be experts but an ability to organise and motivate is really important. I have written on the subject from time-to-time and it does worry me that the most obvious group does not seem to be coming forward. These are recent graduates looking for a way of getting experience and making themselves stand above competitors for jobs. When I was in my formative years the local NHS was crammed full of young enthusiasts - me, Graham Collins, Jim Porter and Steve Church, Roger Hawkins, David Baldock, and led by inspirational people such as Ken Evans. That same society has no young members and I gather that meetings rarely comprise more than 3 people!

Food for thought?

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