The Back Garden Bird Race – Sussex Wildlife Trust

Engaging people with recording birds during the Corona virus crisis
Nov 21 - 3 min read

The Challenge

Sussex Wildlife Trust, like most other organisations, had to close its doors rapidly during the lockdown period. This not only meant offices closing but also nature reserves. For those staff not furloughed, new ways to communicate and engage with the public were needed. The Back Garden Bird Race was one of the Trust’s main initiatives to do this. The concept was simple. On a regular day and time people all around Sussex would spend an hour watching and recording all the birds that they heard and/or saw in their back gardens. Whoever had the most birds on their list at the end of the hour won the race (but it was never about winning!).

Popularity proved to be the main problem with the Bird Race. From the first week it took place numbers rose exponentially and with it, the number of records. At first, bird reports were sent in by email, phoned in, added to a Facebook group, Tweeted. This was just about manageable for the first week but by week two the organisers were struggling to deal with the situation and were spending hours collating and making sense of the data.

Another challenge was how to help the large number of novice bird enthusiasts with learning more about bird identification. Many people remarked that they just didn’t know bird song or how to tell a dunnock from their ‘dunnos’.

“When we launched the Bird Race app we were amazed by the number of people who switched to use it, but also by the number of new supporters who then got involved. The app absolutely made this project.”

Michael Blencowe Sussex Wildlife Trust – Learning and Engagement Officer

The Solution

Coreo was the ideal solution for this project. It enabled Sussex Wildlife Trust to build an app that contained a fully featured ID guide of all the common garden bird species, with image galleries and sound files to help beginners identify birds by sight and sound. And it streamlined all the data submission and gave them a location to easily manage all the incoming records. Whats more, because of Coreo’s simple, no-code interface they were able to put it together in lightning quick time, to rapidly deploy it ready for the following week’s Bird Race. In its very first day in use the app generated over 1,000 records and helped many more people to get involved. Some of the comments from the users of the app were:

“We loved taking part in the Bird Race. But my husband only agreed to do it if he could use the app”

“If you are the team responsible for the app then thank you – it is great and really useful for a novice birdwatcher!”

“The children have loved using the app. It’s a job to stop them from stealing my phone now to play all the bird songs. They already know more birds than I do!”

The Results

“The app was an overnight success for the project. On the first day it was used we had over 300 people download and use it. And those 300 people submitted more than 1,000 records in just one hour. This was 1,000 records that I didn’t have to try and copy and paste from Facebook, email and the website.

Before the app it was taking me all day just to gather the records together, and I was beginning to feel we wouldn’t be able to continue with the project.

In subsequent weeks we actually felt confident that we could manage the project and the Trust did some marketing around it. We had many more people join in and with all different levels of experience. Without the app none of this would have been possible. In all we engaged over 600 people with the app and generated more than 12,000 records for the Biological Records Centre at a time when most recording had stopped, for obvious reasons. Of the total number of people engaged by this project, more than 60% used the app.

The app was a real triumph – thank you!”

Michael Blencowe – Sussex Widlife Trust

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