Breeding Bird Survey

Important Notice re COVID-19

Following the change in government guidance for England, which came into force on 13th May 2020, you may now leave your home to take part in the Breeding Bird Survey.

Before conducting a survey please read the latest BTO guidance here. Remember that the health of our volunteers is very important to us, as are our relationships with the landowners who so generously allow us onto their land. No volunteer should feel under pressure to carry out fieldwork if they do not feel comfortable doing so, or if they are concerned about the impacts of carrying out survey work on relations with landowners or other members of the public.

An Ongoing Annual Survey

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is where thousands of volunteer birdwatchers make standardised counts on randomly located sites during the breeding season, enabling the BTO to monitor changes in numbers of over 100 widespread bird species   

Interested and able to identify common birds by call, song and sight? Taking part is easy – following is some more information.

The Time of Year for the survey

1st April to 30th June

Yellowhammer, by Tom Streeter / BTO

What the survey involves

Make three visits to a 1-km square, the first visit being to record habitat and to set up a suitable survey route (although if a 1 km square has been surveyed in the past the route will already be set up and a map of the route provided).  On the second and third visits you walk two transects (each usually 1 km long) and record birds are seen or heard while walking along the route.  The birds are recorded in distance bands either side of the route.  These distance bands are 0-25 metres, 25 to 100 metres and over 100 metres.  In addition any birds flying over are recorded.  You can also record mammals seen during the survey.

Separately, if you wish you can go back to the 1 km square again in July and August and collect data on butterflies (following the same route but using only one distance band of 5 metres).  This survey is called the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS).

When do you do it?

The first visit to check habitat and route can be before 1st April at any time of day.  The second visit is between 1st April and 15th May.  The third visit (at least four weeks after the second visit) is between 16th May and 30th June.  The second and third visits should be early in the morning.

More information on why this survey is being run

Wild bird populations are an important indicator of the health of the countryside, and knowing to what extent bird populations are increasing or decreasing is fundamental to bird conservation.  The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is the main scheme for monitoring the population changes of the UK’s common and widespread breeding birds, producing population trends for 117 bird and nine mammal species. BBS started in 1994, and a report is produced every year containing these population changes and other results from the scheme.  Here is the latest report.

What skills are required?

You need to be able to identify British breeding birds of bird by sight and sound (both song and call) so this is a survey for experienced birdwatchers.  Knowing birds by sound is especially important because, during the third visit, the presence of most species, if you are amongst trees, will only be ascertained by hearing a song or call.

If you are not sure if you have the necessary skills why not come along to a BBS Practice Course to learn more about what is involved and have a practice session.  Here are details of the next event.

You can complete paper forms and send them in to the BTO but the majority of surveyors enter results online. Here is a link to the BTO website where all the BBS survey forms and instructions can be downloaded if you would like more information.

Where are the survey sites in Surrey?

Here is a list of all the sites in Surrey (whether covered or not) and here is a list of the sites in Surrey that need covering.  Can you help with one of these sites?

How do I get involved?

If you are interested in helping with the survey or would like more information please contact the Regional Organiser (RO) for this survey.  The RO is Penny Williams email