Making Bird Atlas 2007–11

Bird Atlas 200711 is one of the most ambitious volunteer projects ever undertaken, to map all British and Irish birds in both winter and the breeding season from every inch of Britain and Ireland. 

Bird Atlas volunteers

Atlas volunteers going the extra mile to record

every inch of Britain and Ireland.

Who was involved?

The Bird Atlas Team worked alongside 40,000 volunteer observers and dedicated Regional Organisers and in partnership with BirdWatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists' Club for over six years to produce the Bird Atlas.

How we did it

Data were collected over four winters and four summers and we worked hard to get comprehensive species lists for all 10-km squares and to reach our targets for Timed Tetrad Visits.

Volunteers pulled out all the stops to get their local areas covered with many venturing much further afield when their patch was well covered. Some volunteers arranged week-long expeditions to fill in gaps, whilst others organised local 'blitz' days to achieve the required coverage.

“Achieving such comprehensive coverage was one of the most satisfying parts of the job. The commitment and enthusiasm shown by volunteers often amazed me. Thank you”. Dawn Balmer, Bird Atlas Co-ordinator.

Dawn Balmer and colleagues looking at the Bird Atlas

Dawn Balmer (left) and colleagues taking their first

look at the Atlas

Making the book

Following the completion of the fieldwork in late summer 2011, the Regional Organisers and teams of local experts worked tirelessly to check all 20 million records submitted to the Atlas. This was an enormous task and we thank them for their hard work.

The Atlas team drafted 296 species accounts, chapters and spent time working on layout and design.

We received the proofs in early September 2013 and the first box of atlases arrived on 12 November 2013.

An emotional delivery

“Six and a half years after I started work on the Bird Atlas and here it was. I got quite emotional opening that first box with my colleagues...and yes, a tear was shed!” Dawn Balmer, Bird Atlas Co-ordinator.

Bird Atlas authors past and present

Atlas authors past and present, from left to right:

Tim Sharrock (1976 breeding atlas), Dawn Balmer,

Brian Caffrey, Peter Lack (1986 winter atlas),

Simon Gillings, David Gibbons

(1993 breeding atlas), Bob Swann,

Rob Fuller and Iain Downie

We received many emails, letters, cards, tweets and phone calls from volunteers who had taken part in the fieldwork and were proud to have contributed to the Atlas and were delighted with the book. It is so rewarding to see 'your' dot on the map!

Atlas celebration

We hosted an ‘Atlas celebration’ event at the Royal Society in London on 21 November 2013 where we were able to spend the afternoon with just a few of the thousands of people that had made the Bird Atlas possible.