Recording your sightings

The success of BirdTrack relies on your birdwatching lists. We need to gather a large number of lists at all times of the year from throughout Britain and Ireland. We prefer complete lists of birds you have seen because the proportion of lists with a given species provides a good measure of frequency of occurrence. Incomplete lists and casual records can also be entered so as to provide a comprehensive record of what you have seen.

It is very important for us to know whether the list that you have recorded is a complete list of everything seen or heard during your visit. If it was please check the box near the top of the species list form. It doesn't matter if you missed species that were present - we only need to know that you have recorded all the species that you encountered and confidently identified.

You can either simply record the presence of a species using a tick box or give a count - the choice is yours!

When you first enter records for a site you will be presented with a list of about 200 species. These are the species we consider you most likely to come across in your day-to-day birdwatching. The remainder of the species on the British and Irish Lists will be accessible from a drop-down menu at the bottom of the page and you can add these onto your list. Simply enter counts or tick the boxes for the species you have seen. Next time you enter records for that site you will just see the list of species that you saw on the first visit. You can add in more species by using the drop-down menu. The idea is to build up a list unique to each site, so you will just see the species that you have recorded at each site over time.

The lists also contain a selection of the most regularly reported escapes such as Black Swan and Bar-headed Goose. We are keen for you to record escaped species on your lists. If you see an escape (or any other species) that is not on the list please let us know by emailing the birdtrack [at] bto.org (BirdTrack Organiser) and we will add it in.

Count Accuracy

Golden Plover by Tommy Holden

Providing counts of birds are of more value to us and to local bird recorders. It may be difficult to make an accurate count. In these circumstances please record that the count was approximate by using an accuracy code of circa (c) or plus (+). Please only use ONE measure of count accuracy.

Within BirdTrack we suggest using circa to mean 'best estimate' eg c300 Golden Plover and plus to mean a minimum estimate eg 250+ Golden Plover. The c and + codes should be entered in the count box alongside the numbers as shown here.

Casual Records

You can record your sightings that you make on a casual basis – even if you haven't made a complete list – via the Casual Records Form. This allows you to enter records with the standard information such as site, date, species and count, as well as any optional details. Examples of records suited to this format might include a one-off sighting of a raptor flying over your garden or an unusual species seen on a very brief visit to your local patch, when you were unable to collect a complete list.

Comments and breeding status

The BirdTrack system includes the facility to enter comments and breeding status against each individual species record. Comments might include information about unusual plumage, moult or behaviour, or anything else that you think is of interest. The comments facility is provided mainly for the use of individual observers but any notes that you add will also be passed on to local bird recorders (where you have given permission for your records to be forwarded). The breeding status is very useful for Atlasing projects at a local and national scale, and should be included when possible during March–July.

Specific information about age/sex/plumage, habitat, activity, direction of flight, 6-figure grid references, remarkable and/or sensitive sightings, and the numbers of each species involved in each type of breeding behaviour can be added via the Optional Details facility.

Optional Details

A major development to BirdTrack is the facility to record much more detail about the birds you see without having to type so much in the comments box.

Extra Visit Details for Species Lists

 you can now choose to record a seawatch or visible migration count when entering a list; simply click the button and the Direction of flight optional details box will appear automatically for any species you record. You can also add Weather notes in a separate box to any general comments about your visit.

Optional Details in Casual Records and Species Lists

The way to enter optional details in either a casual record or a list is outlined below:

1) Click

2) Click on the relevant Optional Details button e.g.

 from the alternatives; the button will go white e.g.
 and a box will appear for you to record the details.

3) In most cases there is drop-down from which you can choose; select your choice and add a count if applicable.

4) If you have other details to add, click on another button. The buttons for any options for which you have already added information will turn orange e.g.

.

5) When you have finished you can choose to hide the optional details you have added by clicking

.

There is a hover help in each option with more information about what to record. Simply move your mouse over 

 to read the help text. Below is a brief summary of each option:

Remarkable – flag any remarkable sightings by clicking 

next to the record. The star then turns orange
.

Age/Sex – select from the drop-down menu to record the plumage details of the individual(s) you saw. Click 

 to add more rows.

Activity – chose from the drop-down menu to note what the bird(s) were doing. Click 

to add more rows.

Breeding – allows you to add counts of individuals involved in different types of breeding behaviour. Select from the drop-down menu. Click 

to add more rows.

Pinpoint sighting – record the 6-figure grid reference of a particular sighting. Useful for pinpointing nests, song-posts, unusual sightings etc. Click 

to add more rows.

Direction of flight – add counts of birds seen flying in different directions during e.g. a seawatch or visible migration count.

Habitat – type in details of the habitat that the birds were using.

Sensitive – click 

 to flag a record as sensitive (e.g. rare local breeder or seen on restricted access land) and prevent it appearing in Species By Location. Note that the use of all BirdTrack records is governed by Rare Breeding Bird Panel (RBBP) guidelines. Records flagged as sensitive will remain available to local recorders, RBBP, the BirdTrack Organiser, Bird Atlas 2007–11 and designated individuals in the RSPB and the country agencies. To ensure that records can be used to maximum benefit, please avoid using the sensitive flag unless absolutely necessary.

Recording sites

Download instructions