You don't have to be a scientist to contribute to science. Counting the wildlife you see is great fun and can give an invaluable insight about the state its in.
Counting on you
There are lots of surveys you can take part in, from January's Big Garden Birdwatch (great for families to do together) to noting down the plants or mammals you see in your area. Everything you tell us helps us improve the chances for the wildlife we love.
Whether you're a beginner or an expert, there’s something here for everyone. Enjoy!
Amphibians and reptiles
The National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme monitors population trends for all species of reptile and amphibians native to the UK.
From rarer species like sand lizards and natterjack toads, to widespread species like common frogs and smooth newts. There is growing concern that even our widespread species are in national decline. Widespread amphibian and reptile surveys began in 2007 and have already generated lots of information. These exciting surveys may involve checking for lizards and snakes basking in the morning sun or searching ponds by torchlight for newts and other amphibians.
There are lots of bird surveys you can take part in. Whether you just want to look out of your window or fancy travelling further afield.
There are lots of other bird surveys to take part in. There's our very own Big Garden Birdwatch, which runs in January each year, or the BTO's Garden BirdWatch, where you can record the birds using you garden each week throughout the year. Perfect for all the family!
The Breeding Bird Survey is the main scheme for monitoring the UK's common birds. Taking part is easy - just visit a random local 1km square twice during the spring, and record all birds you see or hear.
You can also collect information about other types of animals during your survey, such as mammals and butterflies. You'll need to make an early start, but it's a wonderful time of year to be out and about and you'll get to know parts of your local area you might never have visited before.
Insects are a great indicator of the health of the environment. There's several organisations running surveys, and lots of ways to get involved.
Everybody likes ladybirds, so you might like to take part in the UK Ladybird Survey. On their website there's lots of information to help you find and identify species, and online forms so that you can record what you've seen.
Butterflies and moths
Butterfly Conservation runs a wide range of butterfly and moth recording schemes. These help monitor the changing fortunes of these beautiful creatures but also to act as indicators for wider wildlife and the health of the environment. For beginners (or those with very little time to spare) the Big Butterfly Count takes just 15 minutes in any sunny spot during July and August.
Regular recorders can submit their sightings to the national distribution recording schemes for butterflies (Butterflies for the New Millennium) and moths (National Moth Recording Scheme), or undertake regular transect counts to help generate butterfly population trends through the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme or Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey.
For those interested in moths, the Rothamsted Insect Survey provides opportunities for amateur enthusiasts to run a light trap as part of a nationwide network monitoring these insects.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust runs BeeWalk, a survey scheme that helps us to monitor changes in bumblebee populations and will allow us to detect early warning signs of population declines. It is also a lovely way to spend an hour or two on a sunny day! In order to collect this important information volunteers pick a fixed-route of 1-2 km and record what they see on each monthly walk.
If you love digital photography and wish to learn more about bumblebees then please upload your bumblebee photos to BeeWatch. Share some basic information about the photo such as the date and location and an expert will send you feedback with the correct identification and some interesting information about the species you photographed. BeeWatch allows us to gather more valuable information about the distribution of our 24 species of bumblebee.
Buglife runs a range of surveys each year, both for individual species like the scarlet malachite beetle, or for species groups, such as pollinators. This essential information enables us to monitor the state of our wildlife and to deliver effective conservation action where it is most needed. Volunteers are always needed, so if you have a passion for all creatures great and small, why not find out how you can take part?
One of the best things you can do for wildlife in the garden is to put in a pond. But amazingly nobody really knows what you need to do to make a great wildlife garden pond. By taking part in the Big Pond Dip you are helping Pond Conservation to find out how good garden ponds are for wildlife. It will also help us to tell what types of pond support the most animal life. We will use this information to give advice about how to make garden ponds even better for wildlife.
Whether you're after big or small, there's a mammal survey out there for you.
The Bat Conservation Trust runs a number of surveys which anybody can take part in - whether you're an expert or just someone who's interested in these fascinating creatures. The surveys usually involve visiting a roost or potential foraging site on two evenings in the summer. As well as being of great value to bat conservation, the surveys are fun and rewarding to carry out.
Dormice are in serious trouble, the main problem is their deteriorating and diminishing living space, namely coppiced woodlands and well-managed hedgerows. The National Dormouse Monitoring Programme has been running for the past 25 years to monitor the national dormouse trend and has several hundred monitors responsible for organising dormouse nest box checks throughout the year.
Gardens, allotments and parks blur the distinction between built and natural environments. They offer alternative habitat for mammals such as foxes and act as ‘green corridors’ linking habitats that are too small to support wildlife on their own. The Living with Mammals survey is trying to find out how our mammals use the built environment and the green spaces within it. By identifying and counting the mammals that live in and around built up land, we can begin to understand – and encourage – the biodiversity on our doorstep.
Mammals on Roads is a nationwide survey of mammal sightings along single carriageway roads. To date, over which a million kilometres of road have been surveyed, and changes in counts of species such as hedgehogs, foxes and badgers have been tracked over time. Findings from the survey have already alerted us to the possible drastic decline in hedgehogs.
Mini Mammal Monitoring allows you to encounter rare mammals and contribute to our knowledge of the distribution and abundance of all sorts of small mammals, like mice voles and shrews. Surveys involve briefly catching animals for identification before releasing them, or putting out traps that identify animals by their footprints or catch hair samples for genetic identification.
National Recording Schemes
These are great if you don't have time to take part in a full survey, or if you see something worth recording outside of an official survey.
These schemes include BirdTrack for birds, BWARS for bees, wasps and ants and the National Moth Recording Scheme for moths. The records are used to produce Atlases showing the distribution of species across the UK and they also help assess how species distributions are changing over time. The Biological Records Centre supports many of these national recording schemes and a full list is available on their website, which includes all the information you need to get involved.
The National Plant Monitoring Scheme, is a survey designed to collect plant species data from all over the UK.
The survey looks at between 25-30 indicator species per habitat. Common species play pivotal roles in ecosystems, providing habitats and food for us and for other wildlife. They are also under pressure from increased pollution and changes in land management, so they can be used as indicators to gain an insight in to the health of our countryside.
This scheme will give you a randomly allocated 1km walk square to visit and survey.