Fieldwork for the Bedfordshire Breeding Atlas is relatively straightforward being not much different from any other birdwatching experience. Where the variation comes is that you are given a defined area to observe in - this is called a tetrad - which is a 2-km by 2-km square and could very well be a wholly new area for you to discover.

You are encouraged to visit your area between April 1st and July 31st to look for breeding activity, although some species will warrant early visits i.e. Rooks and Mistle Thrush and some later visits i.e. Hobby and House Martin, but most will fit inside this window. Birds are noted and their behaviour is attributed codes that designate the level of breeding activity, which is then entered onto the recording card for the tetrad.

The lowest of these is simply a tick in the first column to indicate a species is present in a habitat in which it potentially might breed. The second column of the card denotes probable breeding and uses single letter codes, for example, a territorial dispute between two Robins would warrant a T or a displaying Pheasant a D. These codes are fairly self-explanatory and are found on the reverse of the recording card for ease of use. The third column is for confirmed breeding and uses a two letter code i.e. FY if an adult is seen carrying food to feed a youngster or ON if an occupied nest is chanced upon.

Very few modern birdwatchers possess the nest finding skills of our forefathers and the emphasis now is much more on observing behaviour that discloses breeding activity rather than searching for nests.

The amount of time that can be spent in your tetrad is open ended but some evening visits to try to establish the presence of owls should be scheduled if possible.

As you go through the breeding season the first and second column records start to be joined by confirmed records as eggs hatch prompting a flurry of feeding activity and then fledglings appear. At the end of August the local organisers (10-km stewards) will be expecting record cards to be returned and the data will be processed into the maps shown on this web page.

If you would like to get involved please go to the contacts page and find your local 10-km steward and either drop them and e-mail or ring them for a chat.