1. Connecting Communities through Action (CCA)

CCA03 Big Washlands Watch

Challenging schools, families and individuals to identify species in our landscape.

Project Summary

This project encompasses a range of events and activities to engage a broad-range of people to provide them with support and resources to be able to identify and record species.

  • Citizen Science recording: we are working with the Field Studies Council to produce a bespoke self-guided identification pack featuring a number of species found within the Trent Valley. It can be used by families, schools and community groups who can then share their findings with us.
  • Specialist group recording: we are engaging with specialist groups such as West Midlands Ringing Group to deliver training and information talks, as well as give us species level data which can be submitted to Staffordshire Ecological Records (SER) and Derbyshire Biological Records Centre (DBRC) to increase the quality and quantity of biological records in the Trent Valley.
  • Bioblitz events: public events are held across the year at key sites providing an opportunity for the surrounding communities to have access to a range of subject area specialists such as mammal group, butterfly group etc. We are running training events to increase identification skills for volunteers and the public.
  • Families engaged will have a greater knowledge of habitats and ecology. They will have learnt about species present in the landscape, how to identify them, record them and provide data to the biological recording centres to assist with mapping and planning requests in future. Understanding how different species fit together in a complex ecosystem will make sure that they know how disruptive human’s influence can be – e.g. pollution incidents and how it can have far reaching effects on a healthy ecosystem.
  • We will leave behind a network of experienced recorders with wide knowledge of sites and species within the Trent Valley, with good contact links and networks between specialist groups and the ecological records centres.

Project Lead

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (Scheme Lead Partner)
Support Staffordshire

Nicola Lynes
Community Engagement Officer
Support Staffordshire

Transforming the Trent Valley


Big Washlands Watch Blog

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Protecting your Local Environment - A Guide to our Resource Pack

Spotting wildlife - birds, butterflies or even plants - is something we all find a little joy in doing. But what if finding and snapshotting the species we see could have a big impact on how our environment is treated? Well, it does. Our upcoming wildlife resource pack tells you how to identify a variety of species from a Brown Hare to an Emperor Dragonfly, and how best to help them thrive in the Trent Valley area, and we are offering it to you for use in the Trent Valley for free!

The pack includes just two things. Your foldable Identification Guide and the Big Washlands Watch Survey Booklet.

Identification Guide: What is it?
The guide tells you everything you need to know about the 32 species Transforming the Trent Valley is trying to learn more about. One side lists all the species we're looking for, from mammals to birds to insects, with a hand drawn illustration to accompany each. The guide's flipside matches each species with helpful identification facts like their size, characteristics and where best to look for them. Say, you found an orange-tip butterfly in your garden and want to find more, the guide tells you the most common plants to start looking for their caterpillars.

Survey Booklet: What's Inside?
The booklet goes hand in hand with the guide and tells you exactly what you can do to help us understand more about these 32 species in our area. Chances are, you're probably doing most of it anyway!

Its 14 pages are split into 3 main sections:

  • A Big Washlands Watch Introduction - this tells you all about the pack and how to turn a few minutes of wildlife spotting into a data record that contributes to our valuable nature conservation work!
  • Target Species - this features colour-coded maps for all 32 species found in the Identification Guide to help you decide where to look for each species. Each has a quick note on what your photos should include when making a record, as well as showing the best areas to look in the Trent Valley.
  • Activities for Children - protecting our local environment is something everyone can get involved with, so our tree spotting guide and species hunts help with just that. If kids can find the wildlife then mum, dad, teachers or activity leaders can make and send a data record to preserve the sighting for generations to come.
The more wildlife we spot, record and upload, the more we can do to protect our wildlife and environment. Will you help us preserve our natural habitats and everything that lives within?

Created by the Field Studies Council Publications, and thanks to our funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, you can order the ID guide and survey booklets for free to use in your setting. This may be a primary or secondary school, youth group, Guides or Scouts, 'Friends of' volunteer groups, or a family group.

The resource pack can be ordered from Monday 19th April onwards by contacting Nicola Lynes at 07837 127165 or by email. Please state how many copies you would like (maximum of 50 per setting), what group you are from, and the best way to receive the packs - we can either deliver, or we can arrange pick up from our offices in Rugeley or Burton.

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I've seen some interesting wildlife - what should I do next?

How many times have you been out on a walk and seen an interesting animal, bird or plant, and managed to take a half-decent picture on your phone? You bring it home, do a bit of research and see that you've spotted quite a rare species for your area! Then what do you do? You probably tell your family and friends, but who else wants to know?

We do - we want you to tell us about your wildlife sightings!

Let me explain.
When you tell your family or friends about that species you've seen, you'll likely tell them where you saw it, when you saw it, who you were with, and what the species was. These four facts combined create a 'biological record', and this is a recognised scientific piece of data.

There are organisations and groups who want to collect as many biological records as possible, and Transforming the Trent Valley is one of them. In the Trent Valley area, there are also groups called Staffordshire Ecological Records (SER) and Derbyshire Biological Records Centre (DBRC). These organisations collect records on a database, a hugely important resource for wildlife and nature conservation.

Why is it important to share my wildlife records?
Say a developer comes along and wants to build a lot of houses on the site you saw your rare species. If you've submitted your record to a regional database like SER, they will use this information to ensure the developer puts in proper mitigation to protect these species. Biodiversity and preserving wildlife are important things for developers to consider. If SER has a large list of rare species, it may be enough to deny building permission entirely.

It is hard to share my records?

Not at all! It is really easy to make and share a record. In fact, you've already created it if you write down the 4Ws:

  • where (post code or grid reference)
  • what (what is the species)
  • who (who saw it - this is your name!)
  • when (what date)
That's all you need!

Submitting can be done in many different ways but they all get to the same place in the end.

The more records we have, the more we understand the green spaces around us, whether this is a local park in town or the wider countryside. The more information we have, the more we can work to protect our wildlife and environment. Will you help us with this?

More information about our project to record more wildlife sightings can be found on our website or contact Nicola Lynes by email at Nicola.lynes@supportstaffordshire.org.uk or 07837 127165.<

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A morning birding at Croxall Lakes Nature Reserve

Our Wildlife Recording Volunteers are an enthusiastic bunch, using their local nature reserves for daily exercise and letting us know what they see. One of our group visited Croxall Lakes recently, a Staffordshire Wildlife Trust reserve, and despite the weather, had a successful morning birding!

We set off from the carpark at 08:00 in light rain but by the time we got half way to the first hide were soaked to the skin! Fortunately the rain eased - after an hour! The wind dried us and the sun came out. Sadly not good conditions for birding. There were the usual assortment of Canada Geese and Mallard on the lake, at the car park end, and several Great Crested Grebes further out. Along with the Canadas there were two Oystercatchers on the island (which I managed to get a photograph of on the way back). The rain made it difficult to see much until we got to the river although we spotted a couple of Herons and a few Teal on the Arboretum bank. The Tame was quiet, a couple of Mute swans, more Canadas and Mallard.

In the winter, when doing a Webs survey, we would normally walk diagonally across the meadow to try and flush and get a count of Snipe. But instead, with the onset of the breeding season, we followed the path by the railway bank then along the fence line toward the second hide.

There were Shelduck on the lake, a single Little Grebe and a small group of Redshank on the edge. Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails were busy in the field. The Redshank spotted us early on and quickly disappeared. The Rooks were very active in the Rookery, we reckoned there were at least twenty active nests. We followed the Mease around the back of the wood, hoping to hear Chiffchaffs but no luck! However the Redshank, five of them had returned and landed on one of the little islands in the lake, they weren't spooked and gave a good view.

Back to the cars under cloudless blue skies (for a while!) Not a huge volume of birds but with thirty-six different species a good morning's birding.

This is what we saw:

  • Canada Goose - 64 (normally in the hundreds)
  • Mallard - 18
  • Oystercatcher - 2
  • Great Crested Grebe - 5
  • Grey Heron - 2
  • Carrion Crow - 5
  • Wood Pigeon - 3
  • Cormorant - 4 (have seen over 60)
  • Blackbird - 4
  • Teal - 9
  • Chaffinch - 3
  • Dunnock - 2
  • Robin - 4
  • Pied Wagtail - 2
  • Greenfinch - 1
  • Song Thrush - 1
  • Wren - 2
  • Blue Tit - 1
  • Coot - 4
  • Great Tit - 2
  • Black Headed Gull - 3 (again a very low count)
  • Pheasant - 2
  • Greylag Goose - 4
  • Shelduck - 3
  • Meadow Pipit - 5
  • Rook - c60
  • Magpie - 2
  • Reed Bunting - 1
  • Redshank - 5
  • Tufted Duck - 4
  • Little Grebe - 1
  • Mute Swan - 2
  • Stock Dove - 2
  • Jackdaw - 2
  • Lesser Black Backed Gull - 1
  • Bullfinch - 2

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Support Plastic Free July with Sisters Against Plastic.

In 2018, my sister and I made a resolution to reduce our plastic use. To achieve that goal we made a year-long plan that worked really well for us. It worked so well in fact that I reduced my plastic use by 91% and Mary managed to reduce hers by 73%!

Here's how we did it...

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RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch.

You might have seen that one of the projects running within the Transforming the Trent Valley scheme is the 'Big Washlands Watch', which is all about citizen science - engaging people with their local wildlife and teaching them how to identify species and submit biological records.

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Call for Citizen Scientists.

Transforming the Trent Valley scheme is launching our 'Big Washlands Watch' project in 2020. This project aims to learn more about the number and types of species living in the Trent Valley area by encouraging local people to get involved in some citizen science activities. We would like to hear from people and groups within the Transforming the Trent Valley scheme area who want to learn more about the wildlife on their doorstep and would like to help us to record it.

Big Washlands Watch Projects

Future Projects

Details of future projects to be delivered by Transforming the Trent Valley and its partners as part of the Big Washlands Watch project will be posted here soon.

Current Projects

Completed Projects