Training in marine bird surveys from boats


JNCC is concerned to ensure that marine surveys of seabirds carried out in UK waters follow common standards and are compatible with data collected as part of the JNCC Seabirds at Sea (SAS) and the European Seabirds at Sea (ESAS) databases. To this end, JNCC has periodically organised courses in boat-based ESAS survey methods, and hopes to hold further training courses in the future.

At the end of you course, the trainer will make his or her assessment, and will pass these details back to JNCC. For a trainee to become accredited, feedback on the course and the trainer must be returned to  . Once this is received, the trainee will be issued with their certificate and observer number. JNCC recognises that there is sometimes need for a fast turnaround with certification, and as such will endeavour to return certificates and observer numbers as promptly as possible.

If you are having problems setting up a course, or are a trainer looking to fill spaces on a course, the UK ESAS hub yahoo group might be of use. As well as being a means of putting trainers in touch with trainees and vice versa, the hub can be used to ask any pertinent questions, and JNCC will use it to disseminate ESAS and survey related news.

There is now a Yahoo group ( ) that will allow trainers and trainees a more useful means of contacting one another, as well as being a hub for any other ESAS based questions. To use the site, simply email the above address. All emails will need to be passed by the moderator of the site before being made public. This may lead to occasional delays when the moderator is out of the office, but we will do our best to ensure that these times will be made clear to all users of the site.

Training takes the form of at least three days of theoretical and practical instruction by a JNCC-approved ESAS trainer. The trainers will assess their students in five areas of competency: identification skills, understanding of recording methods, basic navigation, eyesight and recording stamina. While all surveyors receive a course completion certificate or letter, the trainers might not be able to pass students in all five competencies. If you are considering taking training, it is essential that you are realistic about your abilities in identification (seabirds and cetaceans), eyesight (visual acuity) and recording stamina (seasickness, fatigue), as these competencies cannot be taught during a training course. In particular, a number of trainees present on courses lack seabird identification skills; when this happens, the trainer finds it virtually impossible to assess the students because they struggle in all practical aspects to the training. If you are in doubt then please discuss this with the trainer.

To give an idea of what standard of identification is required, try to answer these questions without reference to a field guide or similar. If you struggle with any of them it will be worth discussing this with a trainer before signing up for the course.


The following individuals and organisations are able to provide ESAS-approved training on a commercial basis:




Ciaran Cronin



01381 600394 or 07973 801133



, Jonathan Ford Environmental Ltd,  07980 511871



, Ecological Associates, 07810193029


  01224 898182




,  NLG Ecology, 07540 336555


It is highly recommended that anyone carrying out marine bird surveys should be trained in these methods and, increasingly, consultancies want fully trained surveyors.


Boat survey resources




Recording forms:


Other information:


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