Frequently asked 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 don't take part in any structured surveys. We chose the web-based approach (now supported by an app for Android and iPhone smartphones) for three reasons:
1. Use of the internet is an efficient way of getting a large volume of data from a large number of observers.
2. Rapid feedback is important in BirdTrack, with observations being incorporated into the Home page outputs within minutes of them being added.
3. There are many people who are willing to participate in web-based projects but not a paper-based ones.
When you enter records online, or upload them from the BirdTrack App, 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. Whilst it would be nice to be able to allow people to submit data on paper as well, we don't have the resources to accomodate this approach as well. We apologise to anyone who, as a result, feels excluded.
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.
I've only just heard about BirdTrack – is it too late to start submitting data now?
No. Ideally we'd like birdwatchers to submit records throughout the year, as soon as possible after the observation, but all records from any date are very welcome. The system will allow you to enter data for earlier years – indeed these historic records are potentially extremely valuable, if enough of them can be computerised. If you have large volumes of old records and need advice or assistance about how to get them into BirdTrack, please let us know.
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 just submit records for the species that you do know. If you use the species list form to record the species that you are able to identify but are seeing substantial numbers of birds that you don't recognise, please don't check the box to say that the list is complete.
I am not very confident about identifying some bird species. Should I make a guess?
Please only record the species that you can confidently identify. If in doubt, leave it out.
I travel all over the country – can I record sightings away from my home area?
Yes! For one-off sightings such as a Red Kite over the motorway are valuable sightings, but only if you know the accurate location. Complete lists from individual sites are more valuable though, even if you only make a single visit, so it is certainly worth collecting full species lists from anywhere you go birdwatching when you're away from home.
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 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 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.
You can update or correct the e-mail address with which you originally registered from within BirdTrack at any time. To do this, log in, click the 'My details & settings' link (in the options panel on the left) then enter your new e-mail address in the box provided and click 'Update e-mail'.
Still can't find the answer you're looking for?
Here are a few other tips and hints that might help:
For help with getting the most out of the BirdTrack Home page, have a look at the introduction. You can also find guidance about the different parts of the Home page via the 'hover help' in each section, viewed by moving your cursor over the 'i' (information) icon.
Assistance with the BirdTrack App for Android and iPhone smartphones can be found in the app-specific FAQs.
Guidance on using the Explore My Records tool is available here.
If you've photographed a wild bird, please add it to the BirdTrack flickr pool (and remember to log the sighting in BirdTrack too!).
Still can't find the answer you're looking for? Want to talk to a human being?
British-based BirdTrack users can email the birdtrack [at] bto.org (subject: BirdTrack%20query%20(via%20website%20FAQs)) (BirdTrack Organiser).
Irish-based users can email the bcaffrey [at] birdwatchireland.ie (subject: BirdTrack%20query%20(via%20website%20FAQs)) (BirdTrack contact at BirdWatch Ireland).
Our volunteers: the beating heart of BTO data
Head and Principal Ecologist, David Noble, shares why volunteer-collected data are so important for an organisation like BTO.