Record Centre News

3 Million Records

Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita

Here at the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre we are pleased to announce the 3 millionth record entry into our database.

Over the past six months we have been lucky to have two part-time data entry officers ploughing their way though our data-entry backlog. They have entered 30,000 records, which have included entering data from amateur naturalists and professional ecologists, and has been for many different species groups from lichens to mammals and moths to fungi. As we gradually crept closer to the 3 million mark, a huge data import of 92,000 bird records from the Sussex Ornithological Society tipped the numbers over the edge just before Christmas.

Our millionth record, which was in April 2006, was of a Peregrine Falcon – quite appropriate, we thought, as we sped ahead into the future. The Marmalade Hoverfly marked our two millionth record in October 2008, a common but beautiful species.

The 3 millionth record is of a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, a type of leaf warbler which is widespread in Sussex as a summer visitor and passage migrant with a small number over-wintering. The Chiffchaff’s name is onomatopoeic and refers to the repetitive chiffchaff song that we all love to hear during the spring and summer. The Chiffchaff moves restlessly though foliage in search of insects; sometimes you can see it briefly hovering to snap up an insect in flight. You could say that this is how the record centre works. We are constantly foraging for data, gleaning it from reports and working with recorders to gather their records up, and every now and then we are able to hover in cyberspace and ‘snap-up’ datasets from national schemes and societies.

Thank you to all of the biological recorders who send their records in to us, as always we greatly appreciate the time and effort that goes in to the collecting, digitising and sharing of your data. Keep up the good work!

Photo: © DAVE KILBEY 2008/Sussex Wildlife Trust

A Major Milestone

Marmalade Fly - Episyrphus balteatus - by André Karwath

We don’t often get the chance to shout about our achievements here at the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre. The great rafts of biodiversity data we deal with on a day-to-day basis, although immensely interesting to us here in the office, don’t make for terribly thrilling public announcements.

But this is one of those rare occasions that gives us the very great pleasure of being able to announce something that is, perhaps, genuinely exciting to those who do not work in a record centre. Okay, perhaps that is wishful thinking, but it nevertheless excites us. It is the biodiversity data equivalent of the passing of the millennium, only without the fireworks, the parties, and the arguments about when the millennium actually is (the last one was on 1 January 2001, incidentally, not 1 January 2000 as most people were incorrectly informed).

So, it is with a great sense of pride that we announce this major milestone in the history is SxBRC:

We have reached two million records.

Here’s to the next two million and beyond. As always, profuse and sincere thanks are extended to the biological recorders of Sussex and beyond, without whom there would be no Record Centre. Thank you one and all.

The actual record that became our two millionth is that of a marmalade fly, Episyrphus balteatus, recorded by Gordon Jarvis at Peasmarsh church. It is a common species, especially in late summer, but can be found at any time of year. Often it comes across the Channel in some numbers.

The larvae feed on aphids and the species is therefore a good friend to gardener and farmer, and, of course, the Record Centre. The photograph above is by André Karwath. More pictures of the marmalade fly can be found on Wikimedia Commons.

Bird Inventory Launch

Closeup of Jay's feather

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the Sussex Bird Inventory.

Working in partnership with the Sussex Ornithological Society, SxBRC now holds over 800,000 bird records ranging from 1990 to 2005, with further records being added on an annual basis. These bird data are now available to you in our desktop biodiversity reports. It should be noted that while these reports are richly populated with bird data, they do not include breeding season records of Wildlife & Countryside Act Schedule 1 birds and several other sensitive birds. A full list of these excluded species and their breeding seasons can be downloaded as a PDF.

Birds are important indicator species of key habitats and can be more easily monitored than many other species groups, so we are confident this information will aid developers, consultants and members of the public in making better informed decisions.

The Bird Inventory searches can be based on a particular site and its surroundings, and will present all bird species recorded in that area, showing the first and last date it was recorded on, and how many times it has been recorded. Other helpful information within the report includes:

  • a contextual statement for each bird species explaining the type of habitat and food sources it requires and its status in Sussex;
  • an icon to show if it is a Schedule 1 species.

More information about the Bird Inventory is available on our Species Inventories page.

Development Plan

[SxBRC Development Plan PDF Download] (1.3MB)

Local Record Centres have a complex spread of relationships and it is important that we plan ahead and stay on top of the heavy demand for information and maintain the flexibility that we need in order to provide a useful and dynamic service for our data users and providers. To this end we have written a three year Development Plan, spanning from 1st April 2006 to the 31st March 2009.

This plan will help us stay abreast of the multitude of issues that need consideration when developing an LRC. Consultation for this document has taken place through our Steering Group, the Sussex Committee for Biological Recording and the Trustees and Heads of Department of the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

We would be very pleased to receive any feedback.

[SxBRC Development Plan PDF Download] (1MB)

Adastra Recording Day in Brighton

Following two successful recording days, one at Powdermill Wood near Battle in East Sussex, and one at Petworth Park, we are pleased to announce another recording day in conjunction with Matthew Thomas, Ecologist at Brighton & Hove City Council.

The recording day will be on Friday 2nd June 2006, from 10am to 3pm at Preston Park and two adjacent private gardens for comparison. It is an opportunity to learn more about the urban environment; meet with record centre staff, volunteers, county recorders, expert recorders and beginners; and be part of Brighton and Hove Goes Wild week.

The data collected will help to influence the management of the gardens and the park and will be used to develop planning policy to protect urban green space.

Meet at the main entrance to Preston Park, at the junction of Preston Road and Stanford Avenue (TQ308057 – View a map of the area).

As always, please bring appropriate clothes for all British weather eventualities, sun protection cream, all your own recording equipment such as binoculars, hand-lenses, nets and pooters, packed lunch, drink and so on.

If you would like to attend the day please contact Matthew Thomas on 01273 292371 or drop him an email.

Please get in contact if you have any queries about the proposed field trip. As always please pass this on to anyone else that you think might be interested.

We hope you can make it.

1 Million Records

I am absolutely delighted to announce that we recently crossed a major threshold in the development of the record centre: we’ve broken the one million records barrier. Due to the recent agreement signed with the Sussex Ornithological Society to hold a large part of their dataset, we have seen a rapid increase in the size of our database. When we have finished the import (we’re currently about half way there – it’s a painstaking process), our database should stand at around 1.5 million records; that’s double the records we held pre-SOS.

In case you’re interested, the millionth record was a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), seen flying south-west at Pulborough Brooks, West Sussex in 2000. A fine record indeed.

New Website Launched

Our long-awaited website redesign has finally launched (you’re looking at it now) and we’re currently engaged in applying the finishing touches and ironing-out any wrinkles after the transfer from our old server. This should be the first of many improvements we will be making to our web presence, but for now have a browse around the new site.

Unfortunately, your route into the new site via the search engines such as Google may present you with an error page; but worry not, nearly all of the old content is here in one form or another. We’ll have to wait until the search engines update their indexes before we see the back of the error pages. Hopefully this shouldn’t take more than a few weeks.

For those interested, the new site is designed with web standards and is much more accessible than the old one. This, we feel, is in keeping with our mission of making data as easily accessible as possible.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, or have some suggestions for improvements, do get in touch with me, Charles Roper, IT officer here at the record centre.