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
  • Contribute to national recording schemes

At the beginning of each year the Biodiversity Team plans more than 300 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 Ro Turan on 01865 775476 or at for more information.

Most surveys are undertaken by the same surveyor every year. This helps with administration and with consistency of data collection and survey effort. However, every year new surveyors are needed to fill gaps when previous surveyors have retired or new surveys (eg on new reserves) have been planned.

Please note the survey allocation period for each year’s survey season is in February and March. By late March 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 take part in group surveying events. We can also recommend courses you may be interested in attending.

2019/20 wildlife news from our reserves

Shoveler by Bertie Gregory/2020Vision

Shoveler by Bertie Gregory/2020Vision

The very wet winter of 2019/20 resulted in extensive flooding for many months at Duxford Old River. As the regular bird transect route was under water, a volunteer visited frequently to undertake ad hoc counts to record the species using the undisturbed flood water for feeding and roosting. Highlights included 350 wigeon, 38 gadwall, 40 shoveler, 100 pintail and 350 teal.

Harvest mouse nest by Martha Cowell

Harvest mouse nest by Martha Cowell

The Ecology Team at BBOWT assisted the Oxon Mammal Group to undertake small mammal trapping using longworth traps at Chimney Meadows in autumn 2019. Traps were set along water features and field margins to record what species were on site and calculate their abundance. One of the highlights was the trapping of several harvest mice suggesting there was a healthy population in the trapping area at the time of the survey. A few harvest mouse nests were also found hidden in tussocks of grass in the same area.

Curlew by Chris Gomersall/2020Vision

Curlew by Chris Gomersall/2020Vision

Early indications are promising for a successful Curlew breeding season at Chimney Meadows and Duxford Old River. When surveying resumed after the easing of the lockdown in late May, volunteer surveyors quickly discovered a pair with 2 small chicks at Duxford and a nest was also found across the river on the NNR at Chimney. The nest had 2 small chicks, an egg in the process of hatching and a further egg hopefully still to hatch. A few days later another pair with two large fledged young were recorded feeding at Duxford and it is presumed this pair had bred just off the reserve.

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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