Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some commonly asked questions but if you cannot find an answer to your query please contact us

Getting started

WeBS Counts

WeBS Online

WeBS Data Requests


Getting started

1. How do I get involved in WeBS?

First you need to contact your WeBS Local Organiser.  Please use the "Contact Your Local Organiser" section on the left to  them a bit more about yourself, listing any sites you might be interested in counting.  An email will be sent to your Local Organiser who will be able to tell you if there are any vacant sites in your area.  If you are not sure which region to choose, simply leave the region section blank and the email will be sent to us in the WeBS Office.

2. What will I get when I join WeBS?

When you become a counter, you will receive a counter handbook which is a folder of leaflets explaining more about the scheme.  You will also receive the annual WeBS Report and Newsletter.

3. Can I choose which site I would like to count or is the site allocated to me?

If you have a site in mind then we will aim to allocate this to you but it will depend on whether or not somebody already carries out counts there.  You can view details of all the available sites by using the "Find vacant sites" button on the left.  If your chosen site is already counted, we will be able to suggest other site local to you as an alternative. 

4. Can you set up a new site for me?

Yes.  All we need is a map showing the boundary of the area you will be counting and a six figure grid reference.

5. Do I have to show proof that I am a WeBS counter and will I need to get permission to access private land?

Being a WeBS Counter does not allow you to access private land.  We can however provide you with a letter to show a landowner to verify your involvement in WeBS when asking for permission to access their land.

6. What are the differences between standard Core Counts and Low Tide Counts?

Core Counts are carried out at high tide when birds are gathered to roost.  Low Tide Counts by their very nature are carried out over the low tide period to assess distribution of birds which complements the Core Counts.

7. Am I entitled to claim travel expenses?

 No.  Unfortunately, there is no money in the WeBS budget to be able to pay travel expenses to counters.

8. Are there any courses I can attend which will introduce me to WeBS counting?

 The BTO runs several WeBS Training Courses across the country each year, please visit the BTO Training Programme page for more details.

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WeBS Online

1. Do I have to submit my counts online?

No. Although we do encourage counters to submit their counts online, forms are available for volunteers without access to the internet. 

2. How do I enter my counts on-line?

First you will need to register.  Once you have registered please contact your Local Organiser or us at webs [at] (subject: Please%20set%20me%20up%20for%20WeBS%20Online, body: %20) with your username and the name of the site(s) you would like to enter data for to be set up on a site. Please see the for more information.

3. Why does WeBS Online look different?

On 7th August 2019 we launched an updated version of WeBS Online. This included some new features and the layout of the data entry pages changed. Please see the documents and the and the online tutorial videos for more information.

4. I already have a BTO username and password - why can't I log into WeBS?

Before you can log-in you need to register for WeBS online, please visit My BTO. Under the "Register for Projects" heading you will find the WeBS logo, please click on the orange "sign-up" button below the logo.  Please read through and agree to the WeBS Terms & Conditions and then you'll be able to use WeBS Online (you may need to re-enter your username and password).  You'll only need to do this once, then you should be able to login from using the orange "Go to data entry" button.  If you do not yet have a site assigned to you, please contact either your WeBS Local Organiser or the WeBS Office at webs [at] who can assist you.

5. I've forgotten/lost my 'Log In' details - can you help?

 Please contact us at webs [at] (subject: WeBS%20Online%20log%20in%20reminder, body: %20) with your name and address and we will be able to help.

6. Am I able to access counts for different sites / areas etc?

 We are able to give you access to different sites/areas but only under certain circumstances.  Please contact us at webs [at] (subject: WeBS%20Online%20Access, body: %20%20) with your request giving details of why you need access.  Alternatively if you require data for commercial use these are only available as a data request.

7. I've input data incorrectly - can this be rectified?

 Yes.  Please use the "View/edit submission" button on the WeBS Data Home page.  This is only available for counts entered within the current WeBS year, if you spot an older mistake please contact us at webs [at] (subject: Changes%20to%20WeBS%20data, body: %20) with the details.

8. I've entered my counts but one or more of the species have been flagged in amber with a warning - does this mean I've done something wrong?

Not necessarily.  Counts can be flagged for a number of reasons, A) unusually high bird count; B) rarer species; C) out of season or D) the bird is a non-WeBS species. These may be genuinely very interesting records that we would like to receive or they may be data entry errors. Please check the whole list carefully. Review the flagged records and do not submit them if you are doubtful about the reliability of your observations. If you have made a mistake just edit your count to correct it. If your data entry is correct please ignore the flags, we check all of these warnings and we'll contact you if needed. 

The threshold levels for certain expanding species can be set too low, which can cause these species to be flagged repeatedly; if you think this is the case then please contact us and we will consider changing the threshold for your region. 

9. The boundary outline of my site is incorrect/missing, how can I change this?

Please send us a map with the correct outline clearly marked and we will correct it for you.

10. I have submitted some counts on paper forms and have lost my copies - will it be possible to access my data online or get a copy of the data I have submitted?

 Yes.  You can register for WeBS Online (see Q 2. above) and we will give you access to view your data or, if you require a copy of your data, please contact us at webs [at] (subject: Copies%20of%20my%20WeBS%20forms, body: %20) with details of the site name and/or code and which year(s) you require and we will post a copy of your data out to you.  Please note we will only be able to supply data that you have submitted to us, for any other data please contact us at websdata [at] (subject: WeBS%20Online%20Access, body: %20%20) with your request.

11. I have just signed up to WeBS online but the data I returned recently on paper forms are not there - do I need to enter the data?

No.  Data submitted on paper forms takes longer to process and therefore will not appear online for several months.  If you input data that have previously been returned on a form you will be creating a duplicate count.

12.  I have entered my counts online - do I still need to return a paper form?

No.  There is no need to send in a paper form if you have submitted your data online, doing so will incur processing costs for us.  If your Local Organiser has asked you to return forms even if you use the online system then please write "already input online" at the top of each form you return.  This will ensure that they are pulled out prior to being processed.

13. I am experiencing problems with WeBS Online, why am I unable to submit my counts?

Please make a note of any messages that appear and at which point they occur then send us an email at webs [at] (subject: Problems%20with%20WeBS%20Online, body: %20) with these details and we will look into the problem for you.

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WeBS Counts

1. Do I need to be an expert in bird identification?

No.  All we ask that you can identify all the common waterbirds which will be found on your site.  You do not need to know any bird songs or calls to carry out WeBS counts.

2. What species do I have to count?

All waterbirds, which includes ducks, geese, swans, cormorants, herons, crakes and rails, waders and Kingfishers.  The counting of gulls and terns is optional, but please make a note on your form if gulls and/or terns are present and haven't been counted.  A full list of species can be found in the Counter Resources section.

3. How often do I have to count?

WeBS Core Counts are carried out once a month, on or as close as possible to a pre-defined "priority" date. Counts within a complex site with many different sections should ideally be co-ordinated - please speak to your WeBS Local Organiser in this instance. Additional supplementary counts from other times of the month are also welcomed.

4. Why do I have to count on certain dates - why can't I choose when I count?

In order to avoid double counting, we ask that everyone counts on the same date. This is especially important on large sites where birds may move about the area - please speak to your WeBS Local Organiser in this instance. For other sites, counts up to a week either side of the offical count date can be accepted as long as there are at least three weeks between each monthly count.

5. Can I count on the Saturday before the count date if I am unable to do the count on the Sunday?

Yes, counts can be carried out a few days either side if you are unable to count on the Sunday. Counts within a complex site with many different sections should ideally be co-ordinated - please speak to your WeBS Local Organiser in this instance.

6. How long should I allow for each WeBS count?

This depends on the size of the site and the number of birds present.  Small sites could take around 30 mins to complete whereas larger sites could take up to 1.5 to 2 hours. 

7. Do I have to count at the 'same time' on each WeBS count?

Consistancy is preferred so if you can count at a similar time of day each time that would be helpful.  Morning is normally best when birds are most active on inland sites.  For estuarine sites, the timing of WeBS Counts coincides with the high tide time - please speak to your WeBS Local Organiser for times.

8. On summer counts, do I count chicks or very young birds?

No.  Only waterbirds that are at least 2/3 grown should be included.

9. I get a lot of birds flying over my site, should I count these with my WeBS Counts?

Only birds using the habitat for feeding or resting should be recorded.  Species such as gulls which are circling low overhead will be present due to the presence of the waterbody and so can be counted, but birds flying straight over without stopping should not be counted.

10. I cover more than one Core Count site/sector and there's a lot of movement between them - how do I record flocks moving between sites/sectors?

If you have reason to believe that a flock has moved between sites/sectors, please only record them at one of the sites/sectors in an effort to avoid double counting.

11. Can I include counts of birds of prey, owls and non-waterbirds such as Reed Warblers?

We do not analyse data for non-WeBS species therefore we recommend that you record these in BirdTrack. Section 5 of the WeBS counter handbook contains a list of WeBS species that are available within WeBS Online. However, it is possible to record birds of prey, owls and birds commonly found at wetlands in the "Other Common Species" section of WeBS Online if you wish to.

12. Can I just count 'part' of my site if I haven't got a lot of time?

Yes.  If you can not count the whole of your site, please ensure you check the "Count Accuracy" box, be it paper or online, to 'LOW' and tick the box marked 'I did not cover all of my count area'. This way we can account for any undercounts in our analyses which will occur as a result. 

13. Would it be OK for my friend to help me with counts even though they are not a WeBS counter?

Yes.  Please provide any additional counter's details (name and address) in the "extra information" section in WeBS Online.  If they would like to receive their own copy of the WeBS Newsletter and Report please email us at webs [at] with their contact details.

14. I've seen a bird with a colour-ring what do I do?

Many different species have been colour-ringed as part of specific studies into their movements.  If you see one of these birds you can report them to  You can find out who is colour-ringing certain species at

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1. How do I make an official complaint to the WeBS office?

If you would like to make a complaint about any aspect of WeBS please either send an email to webs [at] (subject: WeBS%20Complaint, body: %20) or send a letter to WeBS Office, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU.

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