Chat Survey frequently asked questions

Where are the survey sites?

How do I find my survey site on a map?

What if my survey site is unsuitable?

How do I return my data?

I can't log in to Chat Survey-Online to enter my data; how can I gain access?

Why do I have to survey a random site?

How do I get access to private land that my selected square covers?

Do I survey the whole square?

What species do I record?

When should I undertake my survey?

At what time of day should I undertake my survey?

Should I undertake my survey on windy or rainy days?

What if I dont find any Chats?

Are there any birds that I should not record?

Should I record breeding evidence, or whether birds are male or female?

How are my habitat records used?

Where are the survey sites?

Survey sites are randomly-chosen 1-km squares of the National Grid. You can request a square near where you live, or by your region via the website. Alternatively you can discuss available squares with your Regional Organiser.

How do I find my survey site on a map?

Visit the website for Grab a Grid  http://www.bnhs.co.uk/focuson/grabagridref/html/index.htm and enter your 4-figure Ordnance Survey (OS) grid reference (e.g. TL1234).  This will give you a view of the square on the Ordnance Survey map and Google earth simultaneously, with your square highlighted in blue. Alternatively, look at a pink (scale 1:50,000) or orange (scale 1:25,000) OS map. 

What if my survey site is unsuitable?

If you find that you allocated square is not suitable, because of access/ landowner reasons, health and safety i.e. split by a railway line, steep cliffs, then there is an option to have that square nudged to one of the 9 immediately adjoining squares. This is only if the square is totally unsuitable, not that you possibly might get more birds in the next square. If you have a square that is unsuitable contact your regional representative of the survey organiser for it to be nudged.

How do I return my data?

Ideally submit your data on Chat Survey-Online. (More information about Chat Survey-Online), or you can send back your completed forms to your Regional Organiser.

I can't log in to Chat Survey-Online to enter my data; how can I gain access?

You can log in using the same username and password as for other BTO online surveys (e.g. BirdTrack or Bird Atlas 2007-11).  However, you will not be able to log in if you have not been set up on Chat survey-Online, or if you have not registered a BTO user name and password.

  • I have been allocated a Chat Survey square, but I don't know my BTO user name and password - You should be set up on Chat Survey-Online if we have heard from your RO that you've taken on a square, but if you haven't used any BTO online surveys before (e.g. BirdTrack), you will need to register a password.
  • I have been allocated a Chat Survey square, and I have a BTO user name and password, but I still can't log in - If you have been allocated a Chat Survey square, and have set up a BTO user name and password, but are still unable to log in, you have not yet been set up on Chat Survey-Online. To get set up, please email chats [at] bto.org with your name, address, and your allocated square.
  • I haven't yet been allocated a Chat Survey square - If you would like to take part in the survey, but haven't yet been allocated a square, please contact your Regional Organiser to request a square.

If, having read all the above, you are still having problems logging in, please email chats [at] bto.org.

Why do I have to survey a random site?

Survey sites are randomly picked by computer to ensure that the majority of habitat types in the Wales are surveyed.  It is vitally important that we survey less-popular urban and upland sites, and squares that contain few bird species, so that we obtain a representative sample of Chat numbers in Wales.  Survey sites chosen by the observer tend to be ones that are best for the birds, such as nature reserves.  Bird populations in these 'hot-spot' sites tend to fare better than those in the wider countryside and are therefore, not representative. 

How do I get access to private land that my allocated square covers?

Most squares can be surveyed by walking along public rights-of-way, and should not require any access permission.  However, you may need to gain access to private land, and the most effective way of doing so is to visit your square and ask the landowner in person.  In the vast majority of instances, landowners are happy to allow access across their land for the purpose of a bird survey. If required, a letter of introduction can be provided by your Regional Organiser or the National Organiser.  It is relatively rare for access to be refused, but if this does occur, you must not continue your survey across that land.

Do I survey the whole square?

The whole square should be checked for any of the target species.

What species do I record?

All Stonechat, Whinchat and Wheatears. There is an optional box for other species of conservation concern, this has been kept very short and focussed  for a very small number of species.  Completion of this is optional. If you want to, all bird species seen can be counted and submitted via BirdTrack.

When should I undertake my survey?

Three visits are required. 1st in mid April to mid May, 2nd mid May to mid June and the final in mid June into mid July. Visits are undertaken during this time period to coincide with the peak singing periods for most resident and migrant bird species, and to reduce the number of unidentified juveniles recorded.

At what time of day should I undertake my survey?

The ideal time of day to count birds in the breeding season is roughly one hour after sunrise until mid-morning (10-11am). This generally means starting your Chat survey at around 6-7am and ideally no later than 9am. Birds are generally most active at this time of day and most inactive in the early afternoon.  However, if it takes you several hours to reach your square, and this can be the case in remote upland areas, we understand that you may have to survey your site later in the day. Most importantly, try to be consistent between visits.

Should I undertake my survey on windy or rainy days?

No, not unless it is absolutely necessary, because bird song and activity is very much reduced on wet or very windy days.  However, it is better to undertake the survey in less than ideal weather conditions than not to do it at all.

What if I dont find any Chats?

Complete the visit information, habitat tick box for the square, visit date, time, etc. If these are completed and no bird information recorded this indicates no birds seen on the visit.


Are there any birds that I should not record?

Try not to double count birds. As you will be searching the whole square try and be aware of birds moving about.

Should I record breeding evidence, or whether birds are male or female?

Yes, there will be a simple drop down menu for recording this data.

How are my habitat records used?

The habitat recording for this survey, has been tailored to indicate what landscapes and features within the landscape that these Chat species require.