Recording cards

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Naturalists nowadays have a wealth of tools at their disposal for noting down what they have seen. Apart from the traditional notepad and pencil, there are custom-designed forms which can be printed for use, custom-built spreadsheets which can be used in the field or at home for transferring handwritten records to a digital format, phones which will record spoken notes, and a handful of smartphone apps which will accept biological records and (usually) submit them to a local records centre.

The BBS provides custom-built forms and spreadsheets for different areas of the country, and these are the preferred methods of recording to ensure all the required information is entered, and valid species names are recorded. Forms can be ordered as printed cards, or printed at home. Completed cards and spreadsheets should be sent to the local Regional Recorder or the National Recorder, and it is appreciated if these are in digital format although printed cards will be accepted.

Recording resources

BBS recording cards

The current recording cards were last updated in 2023 by S.R. Amy, replacing the RP37 (SE England), RP38 (Middle Britain), RP39(NW Scotland) and RP40 (Ireland) cards updated in 2015 from those originally designed and engineered in 2005 by M.O. Hill.
The nomenclature of the current cards follows Blockeel et al (2021) with some additions and amendments (e.g. to Leucobryum, following Ottley, 2023).

The four cards that are now available are numbered as follows:

In general, the most frequent species in the vice-counties listed are included on the record cards. S.D.S. Bosanquet, R.L. Hodd, N.G. Hodgetts, O.L. Pescott, S.L. Pilkington and G.P. Rothero also advised on species inclusion.

Normally the appropriate card to use will be given by the vice-county list above, but there will be exceptions. Recorders in arable lowlands or the chalk wolds of S.E. Yorkshire (VC61), for example, might find that the SE England card is more suitable than the Middle Britain card.

Ordering printed cards

Cards are available free of charge to bona fide recorders. Please order via the Biological Records Centre by emailing, or write to: Biological Records Centre, CEH Wallingford, Maclean Building, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 8BB.

Please specify:

  • The code number of the cards you want (RP41 etc)
  • The number of cards you require. Please don’t just ask for ‘a good number’ of cards or ‘enough to keep me going for a year or two’!
Printing your own cards

Alternatively, the following PDF files can be downloaded and used to print your own cards. Each of the 4 PDF files consists of a front and back page.

BBS recording spreadsheet

The recording spreadsheets are designed to mirror the printed card format and are written in Excel. There are 4 spreadsheets corresponding to the 4 areas as described above.

Header information (date, location, recorder details etc) is completed once on the first sheet, and species ‘crossed off’ by entering an ‘x’ against species’ names on the 2nd sheet. This generates a set of records in the 3rd sheet, each of which contains all the information required for a biological record and are suitable for sending to the Regional or National Recorder.

The spreadsheets are intended to record a single site / single day, as are the printed cards.

Download the relevant spreadsheets here:

Old (2015) recording cards

The previous (2015) versions of the cards and spreadsheets are available here, should they be required.

Completing recording cards

The printed cards and spreadsheets contain some tips on data entry, however for a more detailed description of how to complete the cards, please refer to the BBS Recording Handbook, which you can download below.

Composition of aggregates on the cards

Aggregates are indicated on the cards and spreadsheet by an asterisk, or brackets for those most recently superseded by a narrower definition of the species (e.g. species according to Smith, 2004); the components of the aggregate are detailed on this spreadsheet.

BBS Recording Handbook


Blockeel, T. L., Bell, N. E., Hill, M. O., Hodgetts, N. G., Long, D. G. , Pilkington, S. L.  & Rothero, G. P.  2021. A new checklist of the bryophytes of Britain and Ireland, 2020, Journal of Bryology, 43:1, 1-51, DOI: 10.1080/03736687.2020.1860866

Ottley, T.W., Kucera, J., Blockeel, T.L. and Langton, J. 2023. A molecular and morphological study of Leucobryum in Britain and Europe: the presence of L. albidum (P.Beauv.) Lindb. confirmed Journal of Bryology 45: 1-29