Now you have been allocated a tetrad look at the map and identify where your footpaths are and what different habitats you have available, you should plan to visit as many possible. Then make an exploratory visit - on your first visit do not ignore the birds but consider it more of an effort to evaluate the lay of the land. You may need to approach landowners for permission to look in areas that are private, generally once you have explained what you are doing combined with the fact you are asking in advance leads to a sympathetic response.

Use your record card to note new species or new levels of breeding activity as and when you observe them. It is important to use the letter codes in columns two and three and at the end of the year most cards will show a pattern of increasing status rather than just a single entry at column three.

Visits early in the day are invariably more productive than midday or afternoon visits. June and July visits naturally produce more confirmed records than the early season visits when territories are being established or mid season when birds go quiet during the incubation period.

Use common sense with March and August visits - a rookery is more obvious before the leaves burst and Tufted Ducks often do not have their young with them till very late in the summer.

Be wary of fledglings as they can very quickly move comparatively long distances so do not prove that the birds bred close to where you see them, if however they are only just flying then they should be noted.

Generally go slowly, it is surprising how birds will carry on with feeding activity etc in front of you if you stand still.

Don't worry if you feel you are not finding much - everything you see is valuable and you are gaining experience which can be built on next year.

Do not hesitate to contact your 10-km steward to ask for advice or talk to any of the other atlasers to learn from them.

Return your card at the end of the season to your 10-km steward.

For those of you who agreed to do fieldwork for the BTO atlas alongside the Beds fieldwork there are a couple of small, additional commitments which are explained on their webpage.