How do I know which species of bird is in decline, that the population is stable or increasing?. How do I and almost every other writer on the subject of birds in the U.K. acquire the facts? My main source of information is the British Trust for Ornithology {B.T.O.}, an organization that has been in existence since the 1930s. At that time Max Nicholson recognized the need of co-operative bird watching to inform conservationists of the trend in bird populations, and in 1933, he and others founded the Trust. From these humble beginnings the Trust came to the forefront of bird conservation publishing the first Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland in 1968-72, this set the standard in what was to come.

The B.T.O. was originally based in Herefordshire but has now found its current home in a beautiful converted nunnery in Thetford, Norfolk. They are currently undertaking the fourth complete stock-take of Britain and Ireland's birds with Atlas 2007-11. The Trust is registered in England and Wales as a charity {no,216652} and they also have offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Their long term monitoring data on the status of U.K. birds as set the standard world wide for understanding the effects of environmental change on wildlife. It is an independent scientific research trust, investigating the populations, movements and ecology of wild birds in the British Isles. They specialize in the design and implementation of volunteer bird surveys.

The 40,000+ volunteers are, in my opinion, the unsung heroes behind bird conservation. They are made up of all ages and from all walks of life, who put their knowledge and observation skills to good use. They regularly and efficiently report their sightings using survey methods devised by the B.T.O. scientists who then collate and analyse them before they are published, naturally the findings make a direct and important contribution to bird conservation in the U.K. It enables the relative decision makers to set priorities and to target resources.

The robin is a familiar sight in most british gardens 

Courtesy of Pierre-Selim {Flickr} CC BY-SA 2.0 License.

Volunteers unsung heroes of bird conservation.

A by-product of the data is the that an insight is revealed on how the environment is changing or has changed. The surveys and the way they are carried out by the many volunteers vary both in form and the level of skill required to carry them out. Beginners can contribute by recording common bird species in their own garden or yard. A great deal more skill is required to record birds that are heard rather than being seen. Skilled recorders obtain vital information from nest boxes or even a single nest box. The B.T.O. has volunteers who annually make expeditions to remote sea bird colonies, one can only salute their dedication. Brave volunteers climb to the top of trees in order to record information on the nests of large raptures.

Volunteers can also be trained by the B.T.O. professionals on how to safely capture wild birds for the purpose of fitting uniquely numbered rings, which are a vital way of obtaining information about bird migration and survival rates. Any one who feels they can contribute to the surveys, no matter what level of skill they may or may not have, can find all the information they need by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page. It is a very worth while and important contribution to the conservation of our much loved British birds.

It is an amazing fact that the B.T.O. volunteers ring over 800,000 Birds every year. Even more amazing is the fact that the total number of birds that have been ringed exceeds 36 million in the U.K.

One of the most important surveys undertaken is the Breeding bird survey a national survey aimed at keeping track of changes in breeding populations of widespread bird species in the U.K. This survey has involved over 3,000 volunteers who now survey more than 3200 sites across the U.K. which enable the trust to  monitor the population numbers of over 100 bird species. It is of vital importance to bird conservation. These surveys are jointly funded by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, The B.T.O. and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

B.T.O. investigations are funded by the Government, Industry and Conservation organizations.

The B.T.O. garden Bird Watch is the only national survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year. Over 150,000 people participate.

Nuthatch becoming more noticeable in wooded gardens. Image courtesy of Pawel Kuzniar CC BY-SA 3.0 License

The BTO is 80 years old in 2013

Eighty years ago on July the first 1933 a group of bird watchers wrote to the Editor of the Times announcing the formation of the British Trust of Ornithology, and asking for public support for ' A scheme of research over an initial period of five years" The original report can be viewed at the BTO website as can a report of the last 80 years success of the BTO. Click on the Links banner on the top of this page. Scroll down to the BTO box. Click, this is a direct link to the BTO website home page.

The B.T.O. Nesting Neighbours Survey

NEST BOX CHALLENGE--- the Latest ongoing survey to be carried out by the volunteers is the Nest Box Challenge where nests in gardens in the counties of the U.K. are monitored and recorded. An example from the counties of northern England  may be found on the associated page CONSERVATION UPDATES.

I urge anyone who love the birds of Britain to do two things Join the B.T.O. by clicking on the link below. Or/and  to take part in surveys where possible see link below.



For survey information click on www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys