FAQs about online surveys

Frequently Asked Questions about the online surveys

The Frequently Asked Questions below are a selection of topics where users of BTO Online surveys have benefited from further explanation. If you have any specific topics that are causing you trouble yet you cannot find any information in the FAQ, please write to web.support [at] bto.org and we will try to help as best we can and add it to the FAQ - this may help other birdwatchers use the BTO Online surveys more easily.

General Online Questions

What are cookies?

Cookies are small pieces of text that are stored on your computer that allow the BTO to recognise who you are. They are only used to store your BTO username and password. This facility, if enabled on your computer, makes it easier for you to access the surveys as they do not have to login while moving between different surveys, nor should you have to login again if returning to the site after some time.

Why should I register?

Anyone who wishes to take part in any of the BTO surveys online must first register a BTO website account by selecting a unique username and password, and providing some contact information for the purposes of adminstrating surveys. You will then need to 'sign-up' to specific surveys that you wish to participate in. You cannot access any online surveys without first registering.

Why do you want my email address?

We email all our online recorders regularly with updates on our existing projects and news of new surveys The email address also allows us to correspond with you quickly and to help you with your problems.

Will all BTO surveys be run on the web in future?

Not necissarily, although this is usually the case. Some new surveys still allow data collection on paper, but increasingly you will find online data entry to be the default means of participating in BTO surveys.

BirdTrack Questions

Why is BirdTrack Internet only?

BirdTrack is designed to draw large numbers of people into the fun and value of systematic recording, including people who do not normally take part in surveys. We chose the web-based approach for three reasons:

  • Use of the Internet is an efficient way of getting large numbers of records from large numbers of observers.
  • Rapid feedback is important in BirdTrack, observations are incorporated into the public outputs every night.
  • There are people who would be interested in a web-based project but not a paper-based one.

It would have been nice to be able to allow people also to submit data on paper but we do not have the resources to set up what would in effect be a parallel project. We apologise to those who, as a result, feel excluded. When you are entering records online your data goes directly onto the BirdTrack database. This saves us valuable administrative time and costs, and gives us the opportunity to provide rapid results, for example the daily results pages and the animated maps. It also makes your records immediately accessible to local bird recorders, providing you have given permission for us to make your records available in this way.

I am a teacher - can my class be involved?

Yes. BirdTrack is a great project for getting children enthused about birds and migration. Register your school grounds as a site and record the birds that you see and hear. There are already a number of schools participating. You could also encourage pupils to watch out for migrants on their way to and from school.

I've only just heard about BirdTrack - is it too late to start submitting data now?

No. We welcome records from any time during the year. Ideally we would like recorders to submit records throughout the year. The system will also allow you to enter data for earlier years.

I've only just started birdwatching and don't recognise many of the species that I see. Do you need to be an expert to take part in BirdTrack?

No. You can submit a Casual Record for just the species that you do know. You can also use the list recording system to record lists of the species that you are able to identify. However, if you are seeing substantial numbers of birds that you can't identify please don't check the box to say that the list is complete.

I am not very confident about identifying some of the species. Should I make a guess?

Please only record the species that you can confidently identify.

I travel all over the country for my job, can I keep notes on everything I see and enter these?

Yes. Often the best approach is to use the Roving Records Form. This allows you to enter one-off records. Complete lists from individual sites are very valuable even if you only make a single visit. Ideally we would like you to make regular visits to a site as this provides the most valuable information. Remember that whatever data you can contribute will be combined with that from other birdwatchers to improve our knowledge of birds.

What regions have you used to display your results?

We have adopted the Government Office Regions to present our regional results. For more information read this guide.

I can't find my county on your list?

We have adopted the counties that are described by the Local Authority Districts, Counties and Unitary Authorities (1998). These counties are not necessarily the same as those used by county bird clubs. These counties are used mainly to check for serious errors in grid references. Provided that you supply us with a reasonably accurate grid reference we will be able to conduct analyses based on other boundaries in the future.

There appears to be someone already recording in the 10km square where I live, is there any point in me recording as well?

Absolutely. It is unlikely that someone is recording in exactly the same place as you. Even if there is more than one person recording from a well-known nature reserve such as Cley Marshes, we are able to identify this (from Grid References) and only use the record once. You might actually record more birds and different species during your visit! If you go birdwatching in a group we would prefer it if only one copy of your list was entered into BirdTrack.If you would like us to help you set up a group account, please contact the BirdTrack Organiser.

How can I update my e-mail address?

You can update or correct the e-mail address you originally registered with from within the BirdTrack system. Once you have logged in as yourself, click on the MyDetails button (above 'Your options'). Then simply enter your new e-mail address in the box provided.

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