BIRD-LOVERS with Internet access are today invited to take part in Britain's first-ever www migration survey - and can help bring about the quickest check on arriving bird populations ever launched.
The British Trust for Ornithology has launched Migration Watch, hoping to attract anyone interested in birds - whether keen full-time "twitchers" or simply gardeners who keep their eyes open - to log on for an almost instantaneous migration survey.
Says the BTO's Dawn Bulmer: "Despite the huge interest in bird watching, surprisingly little is known about how migrants flow through the country each spring.
"Migration Watch will use rapid recording and presentation of results via the Internet. It will then be possible to follow the arrival of the first migrants, track their flow through the country and see how quickly sites fill up with migrants."
The BTO have been checking migration levels for decades, using skilled observers who net and ring birds. The arrival of the Internet means that, hopefully, thousands more eyes will be on the lookout - an example of modern technology allowing amateurs to make an important contribution to serious scientific work.
Even people who don't have home Internet links can take part, using computers at public libraries and schools. They will be asked to fill in on-screen lists of species spotted, when and where, graduated in three levels depending on the experience of the watchers involved.
The simplest of these involves only ten easy to spot species.
To join Migration Watch - or to get more information - log onto the BTO website: www.bto.org.