The British Bird Observatories essentially date from the re-establishment of an Observatory on Skokholm in 1946 and on Fair Isle in 1948. Thereafter, during the 1950s and early 1960s, the majority of the Observatories in the present network were established. Sadly, a few have since dropped out, for instance those on the Isles of Scilly and on Lundy. In 1976, the ringing programme on Skokholm was curtailed, but there, and on Skomer from 1960, a daily census has been maintained using the same protocols as at the other Observatories. These two islands, although not now accredited Observatories, maintain links with the Bird Observatories Council (BOC), and their data have been available for studies undertaken by the BOC in recent years. The Observatories were set up at a time when great interest was taken in the studyof migration, and during the early years they were an important part of the BTO's activities. The BOC was formed in 1970, as a forum for discussion between Observatories and the BTO and to undertake research projects. Many individuals destined for a distinguished career in ornithology started their working lives as wardens or assistants at an Observatory, and one of the major contributions of the Observatories in this early period was the compilation of the BTO booklet Seasonal Movements of Summer Migrants (Riddiford & Findley 1981), which is still widely referred to in the forthcoming Migration Atlas (Wernham et al., in press).