Wildlife identification resources

Sphagnum identification training day

Sphagna seen on Moors for the Future training day

Along with a team of field surveyors from the MoorLIFE 2020 project, I attended a training day to identify species of Sphagnum (Bog-moss) in the field. Field surveyors will then be able to locate and map these species. This information will then be used to verify classification from remote sensors using new techniques such as multi-spectral sensors placed on UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

Species of Sphagnum are very important as the main species responsible for peat creation, which locks up large stores of carbon. Particularly in the Peak District, many of these mosses were badly damaged by atmospheric pollution following the industrial revolution.

Read more: Sphagnum identification training day

Plant field guides

The Wildflower Key

This link opens in a new window on the NHBS website, where you can either find out more about the book, or buy a copy. I get a small commission if you buy, which helps to pay towards maintaining this site.

The wild flower guide that I use most often is 'The Wildflower Key' by Francis Rose. Although it is possible to just look at the (excellent) illustrations to identify the wild flowers you find, you'll get more out of it if you use the keys to help you make the correct identification.

Keys can seem intimidating if you haven't used them before, but once you get over the initial learning curve, you quickly realise how useful they are. A key will actually make you look at the the way the flower is put together, and teach you to notice features you might otherwise overlook such as the arrangement of the leaves on the stem.

Read more: Plant field guides

Field equipment

This link opens in a new window on the NHBS website, where you can either find out more about the lens, or buy one. I get a small commission if you buy, which helps to pay towards maintaining this site.

Hand lens

One of the most useful pieces of equipment for a field naturalist is a hand lens. These come in a range of magnifications and prices. I would recommend starting with an inexpensive 10x lens, such as this 10 x 21mm Hand Lens, as reviewed by BBC Wildlife magazine.

Double lens

This link opens in a new window on the NHBS website, where you can either find out more about the lens, or buy one. I get a small commission if you buy, which helps to pay towards maintaining this site.

You can also buy lenses with more than one magnification. I use this double lens which has both 8x and 15x magnification.

Probably worth bearing in mind that multiple lenses such as this tend to be heavier and more expensive.

You may find it useful to hang the lens round your neck, ready for use. Whilst you can buy a lanyard for this, I just use an old bootlace.

Other useful field equipment

This link opens in a new window on the NHBS website, where you can either find out more about the notebook, or buy one. I get a small commission if you buy, which helps to pay towards maintaining this site.

It's often useful to have something to take notes on, and something to write with (a pencil will be better if it's likely to rain). A dedicated field notebook is useful, but I quite often just use scrap paper. One possibility if you want to be prepared for wet weather is a waterproof notebook.

Identifying bog moss (Sphagna)

Sphagna are distinctive mosses found in wet habitats in the British Isles, which formed most of the peat found in blanket bogs and raised bogs. This peat forms an important store of carbon.

There are 34 species of British Sphagna, which all share a few basic features:-

  • a single stem ending in a capitulum
  • side branches (both hanging and spreading) coming off the stem in groups known as fascicles
  • ┬ástem and branch leaves made of a network of smaller, green, living cells and larger, clear dead cells which are able to hold a lot of water

Read more: Identifying bog moss (Sphagna)