Taking Part in Surveys

*Scroll down for answers*

1) How do I sign up to take part in the NBMP?

2) Can I choose my own site to survey?

3) Can I share a site with a friend?

4) I can’t survey/don’t like my site, can I have another one?

5) Will I need to get permission to access private land?

6) Do I need to be an experienced bat worker to take part in NBMP surveys?

7) Do I need to have a bat licence or be working towards one to take part in the NBMP?

8) I don’t have a bat detector, can I still take part in NBMP surveys?

9) I am interested in purchasing a bat detector. Can you recommend any models?

10) Are there any courses I can attend to learn about NBMP survey techniques?

11) How long do surveys take to complete?

12) When and how often do I have to carry out surveys?

13) Why are surveys carried out in certain months?

14) Are my results still useful if I can’t carry out surveys in the survey period?

15) Are my results still useful if I can only carry out one survey?

16) Are my results still useful if I record no bats?

17) Should I/how do I record other species of bats (which are not being targeted by the survey I’m doing)?

18) What should I do if I don’t have time to finish the survey or it starts raining ?

19) I have found an injured bat, what should I do?


1) How do I sign up to take part in the NBMP?

To take part in the NBMP you first need to register as an NBMP volunteer and activate your account. To sign up as a volunteer, click here and enter your details. You will then be sent an email asking you to follow a link to activate your account and set a password.

Once you have done this you can sign up to whichever surveys interest you. Our survey pages explain what each survey involves.


2) Can I choose my own site to survey?

For three of our surveys you can choose your own site:

  • The Sunset/Sunrise Survey can be carried out anywhere you like from April to September.
  • To take part in the Roost Count you need to know of a summer bat roost which you can visit in order to carry out emergence counts (with the owner’s permission if it’s not your own property).
  • To take part in the Hibernation Survey you need to know of a winter bat roost site which you can monitor (with the owner’s permission if it’s not your property). You need a bat survey class licence (level 2 or higher) in order to survey bat hibernation sites.

Sites for the Field Survey and Waterway Survey are allocated to volunteers from a randomly generated, stratified sample of sites. This is to ensure an even, unbiased coverage of sites monitored across the UK as this will enable us to produce more representative species population trends. However, if there is a specific site you wish to survey then please contact us at nbmp@bats.org.uk and we can discuss whether it’s possible to include this in one of these surveys.

We have a list of repeat sites available for new volunteers to sign up for which can be found on the Field Survey and Waterway Survey pages. To sign up to one of these, simply email your name and the code of the site you would like to take on to nbmp@bats.org.uk. If you can’t find one that is suitable, we also have a number of sites which have not been surveyed before which we can send you details of. If you sign up to one of these surveys but don’t inform us of a site you would like to take on we will allocate the closest site to you based on distance from your post code.

We put an emphasis on surveying repeat sites over a number of years as this improves the robustness of our species population trends since the results are more directly comparable from one year to the next. Therefore it is really valuable if you are able to continue monitoring the same site each year.


3) Can I share a site with a friend?

NBMP surveys should always be carried out by at least two people for health and safety reasons. Your survey buddy does not need to have any previous experience but they can still help, e.g. by completing the survey form, timing the counts etc. while you focus on the species identification.

Our online recording system only allows us to allocate each site to one account. If you would like your survey buddy to be able to add/view your survey results online then the only way is to share your log-in email/password so they can use this to access your account (however only you will receive emails from the NBMP team at this email address).


4) I can’t survey/don’t like my site, can I have another one?

Yes, if you would like to swap sites contact us at nbmp@bats.org.uk. However we would ideally like volunteers to survey the same site over a long period of time as this improves our ability to compare results between years (even if there aren’t many (or any) bats recorded!).

If the site has become inaccessible/dangerous or the landowner has refused permission to survey, please do let us know so that we can avoid reallocating it to another volunteer.


5) Will I need to get permission to access private land?

Yes, it is important that you always get the landowner’s permission before surveying on private property. It may also be necessary, and is good practice, to contact owners of publicly accessible land (e.g. your local council) to let them know you plan to do an NBMP survey. If nothing else, they are likely to be pleased to be informed and keen to find out what you record. If you are having problems getting permission to access your site contact us at nbmp@bats.org.uk.


6) Do I need to be an experienced bat worker to take part in NBMP surveys?

No, the National Bat Monitoring Programme surveys are carefully designed so that anybody can take part. The Sunset/Sunrise Survey and Roost Count can be carried out by complete beginners (although you need to know of a roost’s location for the Roost Count). The Field Survey and Waterway Survey require you to be able to identify a small number of species with a heterodyne bat detector.

Only for the Hibernation Survey do you need a bat survey class licence (level 2 or higher). However, if you are a member of a local bat group you may get the opportunity to join licensed surveyors on hibernation visits.


7) Do I need to have a bat licence or be working towards one to take part in the NBMP?

No, the only survey you need a licence to carry out is the Hibernation Survey (bat survey class licence level 2 or higher).


8) I don’t have a bat detector, can I still take part in NBMP surveys?

Yes. The Sunset/Sunrise Survey and Roost Count don’t require a bat detector to be used (though it can help to have one).

If you want to take part in the Field Survey and/or Waterway Survey you can borrow a detector from us by filling out this form. If you’re interested in buying your own detector, information on the different types can be found here.


9) I am interested in purchasing a bat detector. Can you recommend any models?

Information about the different types of bat detector can be found here.

The Field Survey and Waterway Survey should preferably be carried out using heterodyne detectors so that the results are consistent with previous years' results from these surveys.


10) Are there any courses I can attend to learn about NBMP survey techniques?

Yes, we run a number of NBMP workshops, normally during the spring and summer, at different locations around the country which we advertise here. Workshops may also occasionally be available at conferences and informal training sessions are sometimes organised by local bat groups. BCT runs a number of other courses, not directly relating to the NBMP, which take place throughout the year and are advertised here.


11) How long do surveys take to complete?

Field and Waterway surveys typically take 1-2 hours from start to finish. Roost Counts could last anywhere between 20-90 minutes depending on when the first bat comes out, and how long they continue emerging for. Hibernation surveys can take anywhere between a few minutes and a whole day – it’s always a fun day though!


12) When and how often do I have to carry out surveys?

Surveys take place at different times of the year. The Sunset/Sunrise Survey can be carried out as many times as you like from April to September. The Roost Count happens in June (except for lesser horseshoe bat roosts which are counted in late May/June and greater horseshoe bat roosts which are counted in July), the Field Survey in July, the Waterway Survey in August. Each site requires two surveys to be carried out, with at least five days separating them. Licensed surveyors carry out the Hibernation Survey in the winter and the surveys are usually at least one month apart.


13) Why are surveys carried out in certain months?

The Roost Count takes place in June (except for horseshoe bats - see above) as this is the time of year when bats form large maternity colonies, making their roosting habits more consistent and predictable allowing us to monitor them. This will usually be before the young start flying which means that we are monitoring numbers of adult bats which have survived since the previous year. The Field and Waterway Surveys happen in July and August respectively as foraging activity is high in these months but the surveys don’t overlap (and volunteers can take part in both). The Hibernation Survey taking place in winter is fairly self-explanatory!


14) Are my results still useful if I can’t carry out surveys in the survey period?

Yes, we’re still interested in your data even if they were collected outside the survey period; however, if it’s more than a few days either side of the survey period we may not be able to use them in our trend analysis.


15) Are my results still useful if I can only carry out one survey?

Yes, while it’s better to have two surveys completed for each site, we can certainly still use the data from one survey and would be very grateful to receive them! However, consistently carrying out two

counts per year at each site enables us to produce more robust species population trends more quickly.


16) Are my results still useful if I record no bats?

Definitely, the NBMP aims to monitor changes in bat populations across the whole of the countryside and we need to know if bats are disappearing from old sites, or colonising new ones!


17) Should I/how do I record other species of bats (which are not being targeted by the survey I’m doing)?

It’s not possible to record these via the NBMP online recording pages but you can submit any additional records via our iRecord page.


18) What should I do if I don’t have time to finish the survey or it starts raining?

In some circumstances it may be impractical or unsafe to complete the survey. For the Field and Waterway Surveys fill in your results up to the spot where you stopped, then tick the box ‘spot not surveyed’ for the rest of the route. When entering your results online, in the appropriate dropdown box select ‘survey route incomplete’. Also tick this box for any spots you had to miss out for any other reason even if you did manage to get to the end of your survey route. For the Roost Count in the ‘reason for stopping’ section select ‘weather deteriorating’.


19) I have found an injured bat, what should I do?

In the unlikely event you find an injured or grounded bat during an NBMP survey it’s best to follow the advice outlined here, or contact the helpline team by calling 0345 1300 228.

Next: Submitting Results and Data Protection