BTO and COVID-19

BTO and COVID-19

30 Jun 2020

BBS volunteer. Photograph by David Tipling

This statement was updated at 11.00 on 30.06.2020.

The spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is having a significant impact on our lives and is likely to continue to do so over the coming months. BTO is taking this threat seriously, with utmost concern for the health and well-being of our staff, volunteers and members, and those landowners and communities with which we interact.

It is vital that our staff, volunteers and members follow the latest government advice in order to prevent the spread and transmission of infection. The monitoring work undertaken by BTO staff and volunteers makes a valuable contribution to society and to their own mental well-being, but these are exceptional times and the government advice provides the framework by which we should direct our activities. Although volunteer fieldwork is disrupted this year, BTO staff will work to maximise the scientific value of the data that can be collected. 

BTO surveys

BTO’s senior leadership team has reviewed the government guidance and other relevant advice for England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland. We have also consulted with JNCC and NGO partners about the implications for our volunteer surveys.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the programme of BTO volunteer survey work remains partially suspended. Volunteers can continue to survey only if they are following all government guidance in their geographic region regarding outdoor activities, and they are maintaining social distancing and appropriate health and safety procedures at all times. This means that whilst survey work was permissible in England from 13 May, many BTO surveys are currently fully suspended in other countries (see below) and all surveys have some restrictions on how they can be carried out (reflecting the requirements to maintain social distancing and to follow appropriate health and safety procedures at all times). The latest guidance on travel restrictions should be consulted for the relevant part of the UK before engaging in any survey work.

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.

Please be sensitive to the feelings of landowners and your impact on local communities at this time; give houses, farm buildings, vehicles and people a wide berth. Help foster good relationships with local communities for the future. Inconsiderate actions will be damaging for all of us. As with all fieldwork, please ensure that you have appropriate landowner permission to visit.

England

You may carry out survey work for the following surveys within England, so long as you follow government advice and any additional survey-specific guidance provided by BTO: Breeding Bird Survey, Waterways Breeding Bird Survey, Wetland Bird Survey, Heronries Census, Woodcock Survey, Garden BirdWatch, and Nesting Neighbours. BirdTrack remains open.

Ringing and nest recording can be undertaken at sites outside the boundary of the property in which you reside, provided that you adhere at all times to government guidance, and the additional BTO guidance provided to ringers and nest recorders.

Bailiwick of Guernsey

You may carry out survey work for the following surveys within the Bailiwick of Guernsey, so long as you follow the Guernsey Covid Phase Four restrictions and any additional survey-specific guidance provided by BTO: Breeding Bird Survey, Waterways Breeding Bird Survey, Wetland Bird Survey, Heronries Census, Woodcock Survey, Garden BirdWatch, and Nesting Neighbours. BirdTrack remains open.

Bailiwick of Jersey

You may carry out survey work for the following surveys within the Bailiwick of Jersey, so long as you follow the Jersey Covid Level Three restrictions and any additional survey-specific guidance provided by BTO: Breeding Bird Survey, Waterways Breeding Bird Survey, Wetland Bird Survey, Heronries Census, Woodcock Survey, Garden BirdWatch, and Nesting Neighbours. BirdTrack remains open.

Isle Of Man

You may carry out survey work for the following surveys in the Isle of Man, so long as you follow Government advice and any additional survey-specific guidance provided by BTO: Breeding Bird Survey, Waterways Breeding Bird Survey, Wetland Bird Survey, Heronries Census, Woodcock Survey, Garden BirdWatch, Nest Recording and Nesting Neighbours. BirdTrack remains open.

Ringing and nest recording can be undertaken at sites outside the boundary of the property in which you reside, provided that you adhere at all times to government guidance, and the additional BTO guidance provided to ringers and nest recorders.

Northern Ireland

You may carry out survey work for the following surveys within Northern Ireland, so long as you follow government advice and any additional survey-specific guidance provided by BTO: Breeding Bird Survey, Waterways Breeding Bird Survey, Wetland Bird Survey, Heronries Census, Woodcock Survey, Garden BirdWatch, and Nesting Neighbours. BirdTrack remains open.

Ringing and nest recording can be undertaken at sites outside the boundary of the property in which you reside, provided that you adhere at all times to government guidance, and the additional BTO guidance provided to ringers and nest recorders.

Republic of Ireland

You may carry out survey work for the following surveys within the Republic of Ireland, so long as you follow government advice and any additional survey-specific guidance provided by BTO. Ringing and nest recording can be undertaken at sites outside the boundary of the property in which you reside, provided that you adhere at all times to current government guidance, and the additional BTO guidance provided to ringers and nest recorders. BirdTrack remains open.

Please note that there are no travel restrictions in the Republic of Ireland. Previous requirements, such as the need to obtain current access permission and maintain social distancing at all times, remain in place.

Scotland

You may carry out survey work for the following surveys within Scotland, so long as you follow government advice, consult the latest SOAC guidance and follow any additional survey-specific guidance provided by BTO: Breeding Bird Survey, Waterways Breeding Bird Survey, Wetland Bird Survey, Heronries Census, Woodcock Survey, Garden BirdWatch, and Nesting Neighbours. BirdTrack remains open. Ringing and nest recording can be undertaken at sites outside the boundary of the property in which you reside, provided that you adhere at all times to current Scottish government guidance, and the additional BTO guidance provided to ringers and nest recorders.

The Scottish Government has published guidance on safe working in support of restarting outdoor forestry and a range of environmental management activities, including peatland restoration, wildlife and nature reserve management, and ecological surveys and research. We have confirmation that survey and monitoring work by volunteers is categorised under 'ecological surveys and research'. This means that, with the exception of BirdTrack (which, whilst producing a wealth of information for research and conservation, is not a formal survey), voluntary work under the monitoring schemes operated by BTO can now proceed outside of the 'broadly 5-mile' threshold that remains in existence for other outdoor leisure activities, as long as the FISA guidance and any other survey-specific guidance issued by BTO is followed. 

Whilst this special dispensation provides greater freedom to visit monitoring sites, we strongly encourage all BTO volunteers to act fully within the spirit of the broader guidance published by the Scottish Government, ideally staying within a short distance of your local community and "travelling by walk, wheel and cycle" wherever possible. If in any doubt about whether any survey or monitoring activity might lead to increased risk of COVID-19 transmission for yourself or others, please refrain from that activity.

Wales

You may carry out survey work for the following surveys within Wales, so long as you follow government advice and any additional survey-specific guidance provided by BTO: Breeding Bird Survey, Waterways Breeding Bird Survey, Wetland Bird Survey, Heronries Census, Woodcock Survey, Garden BirdWatch, and Nesting Neighbours. BirdTrack remains open. Ringing and nest recording can be undertaken at sites outside the boundary of the property in which you reside, provided that you adhere at all times to current Welsh government guidance, and the additional BTO guidance provided to ringers and nest recorders.

Please note that Welsh government guidance only allows surveys to be undertaken broadly within five miles of the volunteers’ place of residence, for which access permission has been granted.

We urge you to exercise good judgement at all times. Please respect the regulations, including the social distancing rules, and act fully within the spirit of the current guidance.  ​We will continue to monitor and review relevant advice and will update this statement accordingly. We will continue to provide updates to our survey volunteers on anything that relates to specific surveys and projects.

BTO offices and working arrangements

We have put steps in place to minimise disruption to our work and core charitable activities. Please note that our staff are now working from home, but can be contacted by email or through our website. We have also put in place mechanisms to enable people to contact the BTO over the telephone. Our online sales operation remains open, and we will continue to receive and fulfill orders placed through our website.    

The health of yourselves and your families is important. If you or those close to you are impacted by the virus, we wish you a swift recovery. Whether you are entering old birdwatching records from your notebooks into BirdTrack, or are watching or recording the birds as permitted in your country, please stay safe and keep well.

The BTO Team


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