Waterways Breeding Bird Survey
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MallardAt present I do not need any surveyors for this survey

Rivers and canals are great places for birds and birdwatchers, creating wildlife corridors that strike into the heart of our cities and stretch from moorland to estuary. The Waterways Breeding Bird Survey (WBBS) provides both a great excuse for a summer morning walk and an effective way to monitor the health of the species that live in wet habitats.

WBBS is an annual survey of breeding birds along rivers and canals. It is a transect survey with many similarities to the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) put in link to the other page. Volunteers walk along from just 500 metres to a maximum of 5 km of waterway, making a note of all of the birds seen and heard.

WBBS results supplement BBS with additional data on the birds and mammals of waterside habitats. They are a major component of the Birdtrends report. The scheme covers all bird species but is especially valuable for monitoring the population trends of specialist birds of linear waters, such as Goosander, Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher and Dipper.

WBBS developed alongside the BTO's long-running mapping survey of rivers and canals the Waterways Bird Survey (WBS), which ran from 1974 to 2007. For up to 25 waterway-specialist birds, the Birdtrends report includes breeding population trends that are based on a continuous run of WBS and WBBS results since 1974.

The link to the BTO website about this survey is here:


A brief summary

The survey is designed to be a simple and enjoyable birdwatching exercise. Volunteers make just two visits to the river or canal. All the WBBS sites for which I am responsible have been surveyed in the past so there is a map available showing the section to be covered.

The two visits (between April and June) are to record birds that are seen or heard while walking along the route. WBBS volunteers can also record mammals seen during their surveys.

More information

The survey is relatively simple in terms of time commitment. You could visit the site once in order to work out the habitat (as you will need to complete a form describing the different types of habitat which are there). Then the two surveys are required.  One survey takes place between the beginning of April and the middle of May and the other between the middle of May and the end of June.  As it is supposed to try and identify all the breeding birds it is better, as Surrey is in the south of the country, to do the surveys earlier rather than later in each period.  The two surveys do need to be four weeks apart.

At the moment, the survey is not set up on the BTO computer system so paper forms are completed with the survey results.

Previous experience of survey work is not necessary. However you do need to be able to identify common birds by call, song and sight. Help and support from experienced volunteers can be arranged if required.  I can also supply you with some CDs to help you learn bird songs and calls.

If you are interested in helping, please contact me


© Penny Williams 2016