Scotland’s upland birds need outdoor enthusiasts

01 Jun 2013 | No. 2013-20

We need the help of hill walkers, estate workers and other outdoor folk in order to monitor upland birds. These are uncertain times for Scotland’s upland habitats but by taking the simple step of submitting bird sightings volunteers can make a real difference.

More than half of Scotland is upland. Our beautiful mountains and glens are special places for both people and wildlife. Land use and climate are changing but the impact of these changes isn’t well understood because not enough people are looking.

The 'What’s Up?' project is simply asking for sightings of birds in upland habitats, along with a date and grid reference. This can be done by email, website or phone app. Keen volunteers can take their interest further by walking upland ‘transects’.

The project is being co-ordinated by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) from their offices in Stirling. Project Manager Ben Darvill explains:  “I’m a keen climber and hillwalker myself and my experiences in the hills are enriched by the sounds, colours and movement of our upland wildlife. I suspect the same is true for many other outdoor folk.

Sadly, species such as Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting could be threatened due to climate and land use changes. We urgently need to improve monitoring of our upland birds, and to do this we need the help of people who are active in upland areas.”

Head of BTO Scotland, Chris Wernham, added: “In order to conserve our wildlife, we must first understand it. Up until now we have largely relied on a small number of skilled enthusiasts to record wildlife in the uplands. Sadly there are simply not enough of them to cover the whole of Scotland – we need the help of many more eyes and ears.

We want to encourage more of the people who routinely work or spend their leisure time in the uplands to help. There are opportunities to suit everyone, regardless of skill level and available time, with free training on offer. Hopefully we can inspire keen people and increase numbers of upland wildlife enthusiasts.”

Andy Douse, SNH ornithologist, said: “Helping to identify and record birds can make an uplands walk even more enjoyable. It’s also a great way to help conservation of rare upland birds during the Year of Natural Scotland, which highlights how important Scotland’s wildlife is to us all.”

All bird sightings are welcome, but the charity has drawn up a target list of birds which people should keep a special eye out for. The list includes Snow Bunting, Ptarmigan, Curlew and Wheatear.

For more information about the project, free training and for details of how to get involved, visit:

Notes for Editors

  1. BTO Scotland is based at the University of Stirling where a small team of staff oversees the important work that is carried out by our dedicated volunteer network in Scotland.
  2. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.
  3. The ‘What’s Up’ project will run until the summer of 2015 and has been generously funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club. A large number of other partner organisations have helped to shape the project and are kindly supporting in its delivery.
  4. The public are being asked to submit sightings of the birds that they see in the uplands, by email, website and mobile phone app.
  5. Charismatic upland species that the public may see include Dotterel, Snow Bunting and Ptarmigan.

Contact Details

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

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Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2013-20

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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