BTO and COVID-19

BTO and COVID-19

13 Nov 2020

BBS volunteer. Photograph by David Tipling

This statement was updated at 13.00 on 13.11.2020.

The spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is having a significant impact on our lives and is likely to continue to do so over the coming months. BTO is taking this threat seriously, with utmost concern for the health and well-being of our staff, volunteers and members, and those landowners and communities with which we interact.

It is vital that our staff, volunteers and members follow the latest government advice in order to prevent the spread and transmission of infection. The monitoring work undertaken by BTO staff and volunteers makes a valuable contribution to society and to their own mental well-being, but these are exceptional times and the government advice provides the framework by which we should direct our activities. Although volunteer fieldwork has been and continues to be disrupted this year, BTO staff are working hard to maximise the scientific value of the data that can be collected.

The health of yourselves and your families and friends is important. If you or those close to you are impacted by the virus, we wish you a swift recovery. Whether you are entering old birdwatching records from your notebooks into BirdTrack, or are watching or recording the birds as permitted locally, please stay safe and keep well.

BTO offices and working arrangements

We have put steps in place to minimise disruption to our work and core charitable activities and have produced a risk assessment (PDF 823kb) for our offices. Please note that our staff are mostly working from home, but can be contacted by email or through our website. We have also put in place mechanisms to enable people to contact the BTO over the telephone. Our online sales operation remains open, and we will continue to receive and fulfill orders placed through our website, as permitted by the latest legislation..    

Participating in BTO surveys

BTO’s senior leadership team continues to review published legislation, government guidance and other relevant advice for England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland. We have also consulted with JNCC, the relevant Statutory Agencies or responsible bodies, and NGO partners about the implications for our volunteer surveys.

The programme of BTO volunteer survey work continues but restrictions remain. No volunteer should undertake survey work if displaying symptoms of Covid-19, however mild, isolating as a result of previous symptoms, living with a household member who is either displaying symptoms or isolating, or if asked to remain at home due to the results of any ‘track and trace’ activity. Volunteers can continue to survey only if they are following all government guidance in their geographic region regarding outdoor activities, and they are maintaining social distancing and appropriate health and safety procedures at all times. The latest guidance, including that on any travel restrictions or group size restrictions, should be consulted for the relevant part of the UK before engaging in any survey work. Note that in Scotland, where continued monitoring is allowed under an exemption, volunteers are working to the FISA guidance, rather than that provided to the general public. 

Note also that the ability to undertake fieldwork activities in countries other than Scotland may be further influenced by local lockdown measures, which could include restrictions on travel, group sizes, and social distancing. These measures are being implemented in response to local outbreaks of Covid 19 and hence may change rapidly and you should make yourself aware of any restrictions in the area where you live as well as where you undertake survey work.

Please see the individual scheme pages for guidance relating to each survey. The following surveys are currently operating.

Ringing Scheme (

BirdTrack (

Nest Record Scheme  (

Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS)  (

Hen Harrier Roost Survey (volunteers will be contacted)

The health of our volunteers is very important to us, as are our relationships with the landowners who so generously allow us onto their land. No volunteer should feel under pressure to carry out fieldwork if they do not feel comfortable doing so, or if they are concerned about the impacts of carrying out survey work on relations with landowners or other members of the public. Please be sensitive to the feelings of landowners and your impact on local communities at this time and help foster good relationships with local communities for the future. Inconsiderate actions will be damaging for all of us. As with all fieldwork, please ensure that you have appropriate landowner permission to visit.


Useful links




Northern Ireland:

Isle of Man:

Bailiwick of Jersey:

Bailiwick of Guernsey:

Lockdown areas:

The BTO Team

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