Identification difficulty

It is perhaps obvious to state that some species are easier to identify than others, but if you are unfamiliar with all the species in a given group how would you know whether there are other very similar-looking species? Our RED/AMBER/GREEN (RAG) traffic light ratings aim to give you guidance on how easy, or difficult, it is to identify each species.

However males and females can be very different so may need separate ID ratings. Also, where the species can be recorded from a juvenile, gall and leaf-mine we have also given an ID rating for these life stages. Where there is more than one ID rating for a species you will see an exclamation symbol next to the RAG rating on the gallery image and you should visit the species page to see the full information.

The table below describes what is meant by the RAG rating.


  • the species is relatively easy to identify and is unlikely to be confused with anything else.


  • the species can be identified with care but there are similar species that it could be confused with.


  • detailed examination of the specimen is needed to identify the species (a photograph alone is not normally sufficient because key features are too small or hidden).
  • and/or there are one or more similar species and confusion is common.

Recording advice

In addition to the RAG rating we have added RECORDING ADVICE for many groups and species. This guidance aims to provide specific help on the evidence needed for a record to be accepted. The RECORDING ADVICE generally works hand in hand with the RAG rating, for example GREEN rated species usually require the least evidence whereas AMBER and RED rated species generally require a photograph and may also ask for a comment describing how you identified the species. There are exceptions to this however. For example, a species may well be easy to recognise and shouldn't be confused with anything else (Green rated) but if it is rare in our area then more checks are needed before the record can be accepted. In such cases the RECORDING ADVICE will provide guidance on what addition information we would like you to provide.

Both the RAG rating and any RECORDING ADVICE will appear on the Submit Records form when you select a given species to remind you of what information to submit with your record so it is helpful to always check these when you are entering your species records.

Verification of your record

To be accepted as a credible, scientific record, each submission has to be checked by an expert to confirm that the identification is correct. This process is called verification. AMBER and RED rated species, plus those that are uncommon or rare, require more detailed checking so the evidence you provide with your submission is key to having your record accepted. If you have had your specimen identified by a recognised expert then this will usually satisfy the verifier as acceptable evidence.

Is a photograph necessary?

As interest in digital photography grows, more people are taking images of wildlife and this offers a really useful way of both identifying and recording different species. Taking a photograph of a species observed is a very helpful memory-aid which can then be easily emailed or uploaded to a website like NatureSpot for identification help. The image then provides evidence to support the sighting.

As a general rule, all records for AMBER and RED rated species should have a photograph attached.

It must be stressed that it is not possible to identify every species from even the best photograph. Some are just so similar that they can only be distinguished by microscopic examination or by dissection. It must also be recognised that species can grow and change dramatically through the seasons and through their life stages so it may be necessary to get a photo of the right feature at the right time of year for identification to be reliable. There is also considerable variation in some species which throws up another challenge. NatureSpot is all about helping people to identify and record the wildlife found in Leicestershire and Rutland and relies heavily on photographs for identification. However if your record isn't accepted then don't be down-hearted, just see it as a learning experience. Our verifiers usually try to explain why a record hasn't been accepted and you can always ask for more information if you would like to know more.