At whatever age we started birdwatching most of us also began keeping notes of our sightings. Initially these are usually intended only for our own benefit and pleasure. This is fine in itself, but clearly has its limitations and most people recognise the value of doing something constructive with their records.
By submitting our many individual records to Durham Bird Club directly or via a national structure such as Birdtrack it is possible for the Club to build up a picture of the species present in the area, their distribution, movements, breeding success, etc. By recording details of the sites the Club is also able to assess the ornithological value of particular localities and give guidance to local authorities in their consideration of development proposals, backed by hard data rather than guesswork.
Local or national – Generally speaking local surveys will be organised by the Club or, occasionally, another conservation body in North East England. For national surveys Club members and others will be contributing local input to surveys run by organisations such as the British Trust for Ornithology, the Hawk and Owl Trust, the JNCC (particularly the Seabird Monitoring Programme) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Short-term or continuing – Some surveys run for one or two seasons; others, such as the Breeding Bird Survey, the Heronries Census and the WeBS counts are repeated every year to achieve detailed monitoring of the species covered.
Single species or groups – Both locally and nationally surveys may concentrate on an individual species or on a group. Groups may be defined by families (owls, waders, raptors), by habitat (farmland, woodland, wetland, upland) or by behaviour (migrants). In County Durham monitoring of some species is carried out by the Durham Upland Bird Study Group