The Mountain Bird Survey

Upland bird recorders. Photo by Chris Wernham.

Taking part in the Mountain Bird Survey is a great way to add another dimension to your hillwalking while helping with conservation science.

The survey is designed with an enjoyable walk in mind. Where you go is up to you. You can enjoy your walk as normal whilst contributing to the monitoring of upland wildlife.

If you are worried about your bird identification skills you needn't be. Even if you can only identify a handful of species your sightings are still useful. Plus our free  Identification Guide (PDF, 678.89 KB) makes things easy - view online or request a hard copy.

Why is this survey so important?

Ad hoc bird sightings, such as those collected using BirdTrack, help us to understand where different species occur and how their distributions change over time.

In addition, it is also very important that we monitor how bird numbers and communities change over time. Are some species declining, for example? To monitor these changes, we also need information collected in a more structured way.

Monitoring change in high mountain habitats is particularly important because both climate and land uses are changing, which may affect the special birds that live here. This is where the Mountain Bird Survey comes in. It is designed to complement the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) which provides annual monitoring coverage in more accessible areas of the UK.

So what is involved?

A mountain walk, basically. We are interested in the birds that you see while you are above 750m altitude, in Scotland. Simply take a Mountain Bird Survey Recording Booklet out on the hill with you and use it to record what you see (and what you don't) in each 1km square of the Ordnance Survey grid. The survey is flexible, allowing you to provide information on just the species that you feel confident about.

The core period for recording is May to July, though we warmly welcome completed booklets from throughout the year.

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So how do I take part?

To take part you'll need a Mountain Bird Survey Recording Booklet. We can post these to you, free of charge. Alternatively, if you have a home printer (and you're good at origami) you can print out a copy (PDF, 374.72 KB). To request booklets, and/or our free Identification Guide, email whatsup [at] bto.org, giving your name and postal address.

Then, just go for a walk, filling in the booklet as you go. The more mountain walks the better!

Once you are home, you can either post the booklets to us or, ideally, fill in this Excel spreadsheet (XLS, 40.00 KB) and whatsup [at] bto.org (email it to us). This will help us to process your records quickly and accurately.

That's it. Simple, but no less effective for it.

Downloads - quick links

Can I take things further?

If you are confident in your identification of upland birds and willing to make a commitment to visit the same site three times in a year, then yes! To complement the Mountain Bird Survey we are looking for volunteers to walk Calibration Transects of high upland sites. These Calibration Transects will play a very important role in helping us to correctly interpret and analyse the information collected by hillwalkers. Please whatsup [at] bto.org (email us) if you would like to know more.

Safety and responsibility

While undertaking survey or recording work volunteers are encouraged to follow the BTO's Health & Safety guidelines.

Please be considerate and courteous towards landowners and take all reasonable steps to avoid disturbance or harm to wildlife.