We’re pleased to announce that our database has recently reached 5 million records. This is a significant milestone and an opportunity to thank the thousands of people who have contributed to this over the past 15 years.
Our new total of 5,089,874 has come around much quicker than was expected, taking less than 12 months to accumulate the last million records. When you compare this to the first million, which took nearly 4 years, the pace of change has definitely increased. This is partly because we are better connected to where the data are stored and the army of experts and recorders who collect or manage the data. It is also because an increasing amount of data are held digitally, with more and more being submitted online. Our Data Management Team, (Aisling, Catharine and Jen), should also take some credit, as they have adapted to the pace of change by developing efficient methods for receiving, processing and managing the data. This dramatic accumulation of records wouldn’t have been possible without those who love wildlife continuing to submit their records. Over the past year this has not always been easy, and it will be interesting to see in years to come if we detect a COVID trend in the data, as we did in 2001 with Foot and Mouth Disease.
It was difficult to pick a few stories to illustrate the change in our database, but three immediately sprung to mind.
Around 5 years ago we distinctly remember looking at the numbers and wondering why bird data featured so little, less than 10%, in the database. Thanks to online submission through BTO’s Birdtrack, massive recording effort to create the North Wales Breeding Bird Atlas and the ongoing collation work carried out by County Bird Recorders, today bird data accounts for over 40% of the database, which is probably about where it should be considering the effort made to record these species.
It wasn’t many years ago that the submission of a Pine Marten record was met with some suspicion. At the time many recorders were going to great efforts to prove they existed in North Wales. Following reintroduction in other parts of Wales, we soon detected increased sightings and were delighted in March 2016 to have our first reliable sighting from trail cam footage. Since then the number of records, especially with photographic or video evidence has increased. Even though the number of records in the database still only stands at less than 150, the most recent one submitted in June, showed fantastic video footage of a Pine Marten in one of its strongholds, demonstrating how the species is starting to take hold in North Wales.
We’ve known for some time that invertebrates have been poorly represented in our database, with much of the data heavily skewed by moth records. In 2020 we began work to source more invertebrate data, so that it could be used to identify invertebrate assemblages on protected sites. With focused effort we successfully gained access to large quantities of invertebrate data, meaning that by the end of 2020 invertebrates had overtaken birds in the number of records in the database. This demonstrated to us that there was still much data that we were not accessing, but with a concerted effort people were happy to share new data with us.
Cofnod needs to respond to the large volumes of data being generated and stored digitally, or new ways of making records such as trail cams or eDNA. We also need to seek out more obscure data to ensure that we continue to build the most comprehensive species database in North Wales. Thank you, to all of you who continue to contribute records and we wonder whether 10 million records is too ambitious a target for our next significant milestone.