Introducing Joe Beale | Identification Trainers for the Future

Following on from our last post where we said farewell to our first cohort of ID Trainers, our next few blogs from the Identification Trainers for the Future project will be introducing our new group of 5 trainees. They started on 1 March and have had a very busy first few weeks settling into their new roles. The first to introduce themselves is Joe Beale.

Growing up in south-east London, green spaces have always been my escape from busy city life. Since I was 7 years old I have been obsessed with wildlife and kept a wildlife diary, recording wildlife sightings and behaviour. This obsession about wildlife is still as strong as ever almost 30 years later, but it has evolved into involvement with various community groups and wildlife societies, a few publications and reports about wildlife, a local wildlife blog and even some natural history book illustrations.

Photo showing Joe in the far east standing in front of a waterfall beside two post boxes, one red and one green
Joe Beale is in our second cohort of ID Trainers for the Future.

I am interested in all aspects of natural history, but my main passion is birds and butterflies with increasing forays into other groups such as moths and flowering plants, as I try to learn more about the range of wildlife around me. Keeping records of wildlife is important to me. I send my records to the London Natural History Society (LNHS), Butterfly Conservation and others for their databases and annual reports. At a local level, I used many of these records when co-authoring The Birds of Greenwich Park 1996-2011, and I am in the process of updating and greatly expanding this for a second edition.

The value of recording became clearer to me recently when I realised that local butterfly records had not been fully updated for several years. There have been some notable changes since then, so to try to address this I looked at my own data I had collected over recent years, examined historical records for comparison and sourced various experts’ contributions, advice and sightings.

This all went into my first nature journal paper, on local butterflies, published in the 2015 London Naturalist. As a keen wildlife photographer I was happy to be able to supply my photos to illustrate the paper. Now I’m looking forward to getting involved with a London-wide butterfly atlas project organised by the LNHS.

Besides submitting records to major databases, I also actively engage in conservation volunteering involving groups and communities. For example I have written about local wildlife for community group newsletters, given talks for community group AGMs and university students, run birdsong workshops, wildlife quizzes and organised Big Butterfly Counts, as well as attending numerous meetings about site management or planning applications.

Recently I wrote and illustrated a public information board about wildlife for a community group, the Friends of Mycenae Gardens, to raise awareness of nature conservation. This particular group is becoming more and more enthusiastic about wildlife the more they discover! I also volunteer with the Friends of Westcombe Woodlands and joined enthusiastic volunteers in transforming a fly-tipped site near a railway into a carefully-managed, welcoming community woodland hosting regular events and volunteer days for all ages. I also survey birds and lead regularly bird walks for the LNHS and have blogged about wildlife for 5 years. You can find our more on my blog about Greenwich wildlife.

For me it is important to share my enthusiasm about our environment and wildlife with people and community groups, not only to protect the environment but also because it is a fascinating, free resource for everyone to enjoy! IF we know the natural wonderfulness of our area then we will value it more and strive to keep it safe for future generations. People with species identification skills are vital to support community groups, policy-makers and developers make the right decisions about development and management, and this is one of the many reasons I wanted to join this traineeship.

Photo of a page in Joe's notebook showing sketches and notes about insects and spotted flycatchers
Joe’s enthusiasm for wildlife was apparent even at a young age, as his notebook from 1991 is testament to.

The action-packed first Identification Trainers year involved a stimulating schedule of field trips, site visits, identification workshops and work experience. I am really looking forward to this exciting opportunity to absorb everything I can and learn about extraordinary but under-recorded species groups. I aim to improve my skills to help raise awareness of biodiversity and the need for a sustainable balance between humans and the rest of nature.

Joe Beale
Trainee – Identification Trainers for the Future