Monitoring Wildlife

Monitoring wildlife

BBOWT's Reserves Surveying Programme -
surveying and monitoring habitats and species on our nature reserves

To manage our nature reserves to their full potential we need to assess the condition of the habitats on site, and have a record of all the species present and how their populations are changing over time.

A rigorous programme of surveying and monitoring was launched in 2002 to standardise BBOWT's approach and collect quantitative data using repeatable methodologies.

The Reserve Survey Programme aims to:

  • Establish species presence/absence, species population trends and assess the condition of habitats
  • Direct the management of reserves by reviewing the success of previous habitat management work and help plan for future management strategies
  • Direct future surveying and monitoring programmes
  • Inspire, train and involve volunteers

At the beginning of each year the Biodiversity Team plans more than 200 surveying projects for the forthcoming spring and summer survey season. Much of this survey work is carried out by a fantastic 'army' of experienced volunteer surveyors. Each surveyor is an expert in the identification of at least one species group.

How to become a BBOWT Volunteer Wildlife Surveyor

The Ecology Team is always on the lookout for new wildlife surveyors. If you are able to confidently identify one or more species groups (e.g. butterflies, dragonflies, birds or plants) and would like to help with the Reserves Surveying Programme, please contact Colin Williams, Ecology Officer (Monitoring), on 01865 775476 or at for more information.

Please note the survey allocation period for each year’s survey season is in February and March. By mid-April all of the planned survey work has been allocated and surveyors have begun their survey work. If you miss this deadline, please still get in touch as you can be added to the surveyor list for the following year.

If you are keen to get involved but don’t think your identification skills are quite good enough yet, there may be the opportunity to accompany a BBOWT volunteer surveyor during their survey work. We can also recommend courses you may be interested in attending.

2019 wildlife news from our reserves

Shoveler by Bertie Gregory/2020Vision

Shoveler by Bertie Gregory/2020Vision

Volunteers undertook their annual newt bottle-trapping survey at Kintbury Newt Ponds in April and May and trapped 152 newts in total which was the second highest since records began in 2004. The number of male palmates caught (14) was the highest ever recorded. The 62 great crested newts caught was the highest total since 2008. 

Black-winged stilt

Black-winged stilt by Gillian Day

Bucks BBOWT reserves recorded some unusually rare birds in spring. Birders at Gallows Bridge Farm discovered both a stone curlew (2nd record for the site) and a common crane (we had two last year!) feeding and roosting in the meadows. A pair of black-winged stilts toured England for several weeks and graced College Lake briefly and were unfortunately missed by most of the staff working on site. During a particularly impressive inland tern passage during a spell of easterly winds, a white-winged black tern dropped in to Foxcote Reservoir briefly.

Snake's-head fritillaries

Snake's-head fritillaries at Iffley Meadows by Michael Brown

The annual snakes-head fritillary count at Iffley Meadows in April produced a final adjusted count of 47,968. This is much lower than last year but still within the expected annual long-term fluctuation. It was evident large numbers had been browsed by deer this year which would have had a considerable impact on the final count. The reduced numbers were probably also due to the lack of rain and flooding events for over two years which has resulted in very dry ground conditions on site.

Your wildlife sightings on BBOWT nature reserves

As well as the more formal Reserves Surveying Programme, we are also always keen to receive any ad hoc wildlife records.

If you have wildlife records collected on BBOWT nature reserves that you would like to share with us, please contact

We share biological records with our local record centres, which helps to inform local and national decision-making that may impact on biodiversity and conservation.

Please submit any records that are not from BBOWT nature reserves directly to BMERC if the records were in Buckinghamshire, or to TVERC if the records were in Oxfordshire or Berkshire.

If you've seen some interesting wildlife when you've been out and about, you can let us know via Twitter, including @BBOWT in your tweet.

Water voles, American mink and otter sightings

If you've seen a water vole, American mink or an otter anywhere in Berks, Bucks or Oxon, please email your sighting to,  including the date and location of the sighting (with a grid reference if possible).


Volunteer by Jess Gallagher


Volunteering opportunities for all

Find out more
water vole

Water Vole Recovery Project

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Greenham Common, West Berkshire Living Landscape, by Rob Appleby
Living landscapes

Working beyond our nature reserves

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Support us

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Joining your local Wildlife Trust is the best thing you can do to help wildlife in your area. We rely on the support of people like you to help us protect the wildlife and wild places of our three counties.

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