When posting sightings on the Latest News page, it saves the London Natural History Society (LNHS) much time and effort if you adhere to its standard format, thus enabling the automatic extraction of observers' records into its database.

These are the basic requirements:

  1. Begin with the name of the site or district, followed by a colon
  2. Tally the notable species (total number before name), separated by commas, and briefly including anything of interest to others while trying to avoid any further use of punctuation marks
  3. End with the observer’s name (not just initials) in parentheses (round brackets)

Please do not be annoyed if you later find your entry has been edited to facilitate automatic database extraction.

More detailed guidance follows:


To assist the automatic compilation of your records into the database, please try to follow the standard contributors' format outlined above. (NB: Posts that do not adhere to the 'comma-separated values' (CSV) data format used by the extractor may be edited or even omitted.) In general, this means:

  • Do not over-punctuate, e.g. type '2m 3f' rather than '2m, 3f' because the extractor interprets commas as separating different species' records
  • Use generally-recognised names for species and birding sites, spell correctly, avoid abbreviations and be consistent
  • Include an Ordnance Survey (OS) Grid Reference for any new site
  • Add postcodes for street sites (e.g. Waxwing sightings)

Birding sitesEdit

Preferred names Use generally-accepted site names, avoiding variations or additions. The LNHS Gazetteer has an authoritative list (including Ordnance Survey grid references).

Ambiguous names Avoid imprecise site names such as 'Lee Valley Park' or 'Epping Forest'. If your site has a namesake elsewhere in London (e.g. 'Jubilee Park', 'Park Farm') then append its surrounding-district name. For example, 'Park Farm, Enfield' is more useful to readers than just 'Park Farm', a name shared by several sites in London.

Alphabetical order Please insert your sightings alphabetically by site name, under the correct date.

Links to site pages For the convenience of readers, please link your observation site to its description page, if available (the up-to-date list is on the Local Patches page). There are various ways to do this:

  1. If you can find the site link in a previous day's posts, simply copy and paste it.
  2. If you are unsure whether the link exists, then either
  • highlight your site name and click the chain-link icon at the top of the page. This brings up a panel headed 'Create or edit a link' and containing two text boxes. If 'Page exists' appears above the right-hand end of the highlighted, 'Target page or URL' text box, then click 'OK'; if instead 'Page does not exist' appears, then either the site does not yet have its own page or you have entered an unrecognised site name (the Local Patches page lists acceptable ones); or
  • click the 'Source' tab at the top of the page, add a double square bracket '[' before your site name and a space after it, and click the desired name if it pops up.

What to reportEdit

Keep it interesting The main purpose of the Latest News page is to help London birders and the compilers of the annual London Bird Report by alerting them to interesting sightings in the London area. These would include reports of rarer species, plus those of commoner species if they appear in unusually large numbers, are seen in unexpected places or exhibit uncharacteristic behaviour. The page will be of little use if it gets clogged up with trivial site records such as '20+ Woodpigeon, c4 Magpie' but you are welcome to keep such records elsewhere on the wiki; e.g., appended to a Local Patches site page, on the General sightings page, or on a wiki page you have created for personal use.

Scarce breeding birds In contrast, DO NOT post details of breeding by species included in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended as this might prompt visits by reckless birders or even egg-collectors, and it is an offence under the Act to disturb such birds and their young at or near the nest. Instead, report such sightings immediately to the appropriate LNHS bird recorder. (You may also wish to alert trustworthy local birders so they do not disturb the birds or unwittingly draw attention to them.)

Documentation of rarities As detailed in the Guide for Contributors from the LNHS Ornithological Records Committee, observations of rarer species will be considered for inclusion in the LBR only on receipt of a formal written description.

Under-reported species Report all:

  • Tawny Owl observations
  • House Sparrow colony sizes (annually).

Escapes, interesting wildfowl in collections, feral Report all:

  • obvious escapes
  • pinioned and other exotic wildfowl (annually)
  • Record semi-established and feral populations
  • more . . . b_e, ah, as,  pse edit  [dt]

Species namesEdit

Preferred names Please use the official names in the BOU checklist; e.g., Little Grebe rather than Dabchick, Dunnock rather than Hedge Sparrow.

Capitalisation Follow the standard birding convention of using a capital initial for each word, except after a hyphen.

Full names Don’t be lazy. Please spell out all species names in full. It only take a couple of seconds longer to write 'Great Black-backed Gull' rather than 'GBB Gull' or 'Spotted Flycatcher' instead of 'Spot Fly'. Consistent use of the full name helps when searching for that species on the Latest News page and in archiving the records.

Spelling Try to get the names right, taking particular care with the use or non-use of hyphens. For example, 'Great Crested Grebe' is correct because it denotes a large grebe with a crest, whereas 'Great-crested Grebe' would mean a grebe with a large crest; in contrast, 'Red-necked Grebe' accurately describes a grebe with a red neck, whereas 'Red Necked Grebe' would be a red grebe with a neck.

Other spellings of note include Shoveler (not Shoveller or Shovelor), Sparrowhawk (not Sparrow Hawk), Woodpigeon (not Wood Pigeon), Chiffchaff (not Chiff Chaff or Chiff-chaff), Treecreeper (not Tree Creeper), Whinchat (not Winchat) and Wigeon (not Widgeon).

Sources of confusion

  • 'Redhead' is an American duck so use 'red-head' for female/immature sawbills.
  • Use 'Pied Wagtail' unless you are reporting a White Wagtail. If the identification is contentious use alba Pied Wagtail'. Report all 'chizz-ick flyovers' as 'Pied Wagtail'.
  • 'Peacock' is ambiguous as it could refer to the bird or the butterfly. If reporting the former, use 'Peafowl'; if the latter, use 'Peacock butterfly'.

Other detailsEdit

Location At large sites, for sought-after birds that remain in place, please provide an accurate description of where it was last seen so that others can find it.

Flyovers/Flyaways If the bird was seen leaving the site or was just passing through, state the flight direction (e.g., N/S/E/W if known, or ‘over’ if not) so that readers do not make wasted journeys and birders under the flight path can look out for it.

Time Include the time only if relevant, e.g. for a flyover raptor or flyaway rarity. Put the time after the species name, not before - the data extractor will interpret the latter placement as a species count. Avoid the '@' character. For consistency, the preferred format is '1830' (rather than '18:30', '6:30pm', '18:30hrs', '@18:30', '18.30', etc.).

Number If there was more than one bird, place the total number before the species name. For large counts in the thousands do not use commas as this confuses the data extractor, e.g. type '2000' rather than 2,000. If it's an approximation, use the prefix 'c' rather than 'ca' or 'circa', e.g. 'c1000'; if it's a minimum estimate, add the suffix '+' without a space, e.g. '100+'.

Plumage Record any distinguishing features, e.g. m/f, ad/imm/juv, winter/summer.

Behaviour Note if the bird was doing anything unusual or interesting.

Sex Use 'm' or 'f' rather than the Mars/Venus (♂/♀) gender symbols. Avoid commas if listing the numbers of both sexes, e.g. type '3f 2m' rather than '3f, 2m', and place this gender breakdown after the species name (with the total number in front, for counting purposes).


Observer’s name End each list of species totals with your name in parentheses. Do not use your initials, even if you are well known in the London birding community, because (1) there are bound to be readers who do not know you, (2) there may be other London birders with the same initials, and (3) if you are not clearly identifiable the LNHS may have to ignore your records when compiling the annual London Bird Report.

Multiple observers' names If two or three, list all their names. If more, name only the person who first found the bird(s) or use an accepted generic description such as 'Brent Birders' (Brent Reservoir).

Multiple postings from the same site If your entry follows someone else's, separate the two with a semicolon ';' rather than a full stop, as the latter is not recognised by the data extractor.

General hintsEdit

Unwanted formatting commands If you have cut-and-pasted your entry after creating it offline using word-processing or text-editing software, click the 'Source' tab and delete any surplus formatting commands. (Mac users can prevent this by holding down alt/shift/cmd while pressing 'v' to paste the text into Wikia.)

Dialog/Comment text When commenting on a record, use italics and enclose your name or initials in [square] rather than (round) brackets as use of the latter will cause the extractor to confuse you with the original observer.

Symbols Do not use emoticons, emojis, pictographs or technical symbols; these will confuse the data extractor. For example, use 'm' rather than ♂, 'f' rather than ♀ and 'at' rather than @.