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.

2018 wildlife news from our reserves

Chalkhill blue butterfly

Chalkhill blue by Jim Higham

The hot summer of 2018 has helped some of our key butterfly species. Black hairstreaks recorded their best year on record since monitoring began and silver-studded blues continued to increase and colonise new areas of Wildmoor Heath. Surely the extreme weather was also responsible for the emergence of very rare second-brood chalkhill blues at Grangelands as late as October 21st.

Curlew in grassland

Curlew by Zsuzsanna Bird

After a few blank years, Curlews successfully bred again at Gallows Bridge Farm on the Upper Ray. A fledged chick was seen feeding with adults from the bird hides in late June just before the meadows were cut for hay. Earlier in the spring they were joined by a pair of common crane which at times performed their dancing courtship display. Perhaps they may breed in the future?!

Military orchids

2018 was a record breaking year for one of our rarest orchids. An impressive 619 military orchids were recorded by volunteers at Swains Wood and 1,036 were recorded at Homefield Wood. The careful habitat management work by both volunteers and reserve staff is clearly benefitting this wonderful flower.

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

Find out more
Greenham Common, West Berkshire Living Landscape, by Rob Appleby
Living landscapes

Working beyond our nature reserves

Find out more
Support us

Join the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust

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.

Join today