Introducing Upland Rovers


Don't get too excited, I'm not trying to organise a football team for Breeding Bird Survey volunteers — but I am asking for willing 'players' who would be up for surveying some of our more remote BBS squares, just once. Are you the kind of intrepid volunteer (a 'super-sub') who has what it takes to help?

We have introduced a new pilot scheme as part of the BTO/RSPB/JNCC Breeding Bird Survey called Upland Rovers. The scheme aims to increase coverage of more remote areas by encouraging single one-off visits to a selection of squares.

BBS provides high quality information which is hugely valued, but we are always looking for ways to improve. A recent review highlighted a deficit of coverage of more remote upland squares. To improve matters we have carefully selected a set of around 150 seldom-covered 1-km squares which will be eligible for Upland Rovers, which we are trialling this year.

Of course, two visits every year, with two 1-km transect routes walked by the same observer using standard BBS methods, provides the most robust data. However, information from a single visit can be used in some of our analyses, and would really help improve our understanding of these underrepresented upland habitats. We have taken the difficult decision that some information is better than none for these carefully selected squares. We aim to achieve representative coverage over time by encouraging visits from multiple roving observers.

The information collected by volunteers surveying upland or remote squares provides the basis of our growing understanding of population change among our breeding waders, raptors and songbirds and we are hugely grateful to these volunteers for consistently covering these squares twice a year. We aim to build upon this solid base through the Upland Rovers scheme.

It is hoped that the Upland Rovers scheme will give better information about declining upland species such as Whinchat (Photo: Jill Daelman)

How to get involved

Could you help by undertaking a single visit to an upland square before the end of June? Will you be on holiday in the uplands, or could you go on an expedition to explore new areas? Or maybe you're a local who could help on a one-off basis? Maybe this is something you would consider taking part in next year?

To view a map of eligible Upland Rovers squares and to find out more, visit: www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/bbs/taking-part/upland-rovers

You will need to know the species likely to be seen within the chosen 1-km by sight and sound and, for some of the more remote squares, experience in hill walking will be essential.

A final thank you to ALL of our amazing volunteers covering such a variety of habitat types across the UK. This collective effort gives rise to gold-standard data which underpins so much decision-making and conservation management.

Please consider being part of the Upland Rovers team!

Written by: Sarah Harris, BTO