Moorhen by John Harding

Your birdwatching skills can really help in the conservation of the UK’s birds.

For just two mornings a year out of your birding calendar, you could contribute to bird conservation by taking part in the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) or Waterways Breeding Bird Survey (WBBS). These surveys only take a few hours and are often completed by 9am, leaving the rest of the day for your normal birding activities – warmed by the knowledge you’ve just contributed to the monitoring of the birds we spend the majority of our time enjoying (or sometimes getting frustrated by!).

These two long-term monitoring schemes contribute directly to research and publications such as Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) – flagging species in real trouble, or showing how policy and land management can improve population status. Thanks to long-term monitoring informing the BoCC lists, Greenfinch has been flagged as being of high conservation concern, having moved to the Red List in the latest BoCC assessment. Possibly more surprising, Moorhen has moved from the Green List (not meeting the criteria for Red or Amber Lists) to the Amber List – flagging up this species as needing some attention. Thanks to their favourable conservation status, White-tailed Eagle and Bittern moved from Red to Amber. Being able to track species population changes in this way is essential in order to target conservation effort and policy. Drawing attention to those in trouble can only help to protect these birds. And this is where you can help by taking part in either, or both the BBS and WBBS.

Data from these surveys also contribute to European population monitoring and scientific research, ranging from single-species studies, to landscape change, to future predicting, to steering policy decisions and conservation efforts and much, much more. Examples of research using BBS and WBBS data can be found in the annual BBS Reports available to browse on the BBS publications website. Yet, such research, publications and assessments aren’t the primary use of BBS and WBBS data – the main reason is to track population trends over time and trends for 117 species are calculated annually using the data from these two early morning survey visits.

To find out more about these two important, long-term but low time commitment surveys, and to take part, please visit the Breeding Bird Survey and Waterways Breeding Bird Survey webpages, get in touch and get that warm fuzzy feeling from counting birds for conservation – then go birding some more!

For a short-term commitment, but more adventurous option, why not consider a one-off visit to an Upland Rovers square!

The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey is a partnership jointly funded by the BTO, RSPB and JNCC with fieldwork conducted by volunteers. This partnership also incorporates the Waterways Breeding Bird Survey (WBBS).