LEARNING TO IDENTIFY SPECIES: Why not book a course? – Mike LeRoy

You can try to teach yourself, or you can learn with others and with experts. It can be frustrating how slow it is to learn to identify species on your own. But it takes time, and most of us need help.

Another way forward is to book on a course. I used to go on weekend courses at FSC field centres every year. They were my annual holiday. The benefits were: residential field centres that served excellent food, a group of friendly people all keen to learn, a skilled tutor, and enjoyable practical sessions out in the surrounding countryside. Over the years I enjoyed courses at Field Study Council centres such as at: Flatford Mill in Suffolk, Preston Montford in Shropshire, Juniper Hall by Box Hill in Surrey, and Kindrogan in Scotland.

Flatford Mill FSC centre is in the old mill alongside the pond that is in the famous painting by John Constable, The Haywain. In the background is Willy Lot’s Cottage: that was where I had my room for one of the courses. Beside the river was the meeting place where we had introductory talks and worked at learning, with a knowledgeable tutor on hand.

The FSC has branched out from field studies centres in three important ways:

  • It continues to publish those excellent fold-out cards that are a useful introduction to various species; some of us found the one about grasses worked well at the MKNHS meeting on 19th September:
    FSC publications: https://www.field-studies-council.org/shop/

A more local range of options is the excellent day courses run each year by the BCN Wildlife Trust (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire). A decade back, two of us from MKNHS went on a series of evening courses about Ground Beetles, led by Brian Eversham the CEO of BCNWT, who has given fascinating talks at some of our MKNHS meetings. I have much enjoyed their day courses and training workshops, mostly in Northamptonshire.

Even more local is a series of courses in Buckinghamshire, starting soon, entitled ‘An Introduction to Invertebrate Recording’. These are supported by the Bucks Invertebrate Group and BMERC, the County Environmental Records Office, and will be run at BBOWT’s Dancersend Nature Reserve near Tring. There are four sessions: on 22 and 29 October, and 19 and 26 November. There will be no charge, but donations to BBOWT will be welcome to help cover costs.
Buckinghamshire Invertebrate Group – Training courses (google.com)

There are other courses available across the UK and online. Some are free: for most there is a fee. Think of it as one of your holidays.

If you would like to discuss possibilities, do have a chat with me at an MKNHS meeting.

Mike LeRoy