Posts tagged ‘Swanwick’

Wales Takes 2013 BTO Annual Conference by Storm

Wayne and I have just returned from Swanwick in Derbyshire where we’re delighted to report that Team BTO Cymru had an absolute stonking 2013 BTO Annual Conference.

It all began on Friday night with an excellent and very entertaining opening talk by Welshman Steve Roberts entitled Honey Buzzards: up close and personal. Amongst the stunning photos and video footage of the buzzards he’d subtly included a photo of Alex Cuthbert scoring a try against England at the Millenium Stadium earlier this year.  A cracking start!

Later, at an informal gathering of Nest Recorders, we were informed that in 2013, Wales achieved its highest ever total of 1km squares surveyed for the Breeding Bird Survey, as well as achieving the most pronounced uplift of all the BTO’s countries/regions in numbers of nests recorded for the Nest Record Scheme.  The Welsh contingent of BTO members and representatives celebrated by raising a glass or two in the bar later that evening.

The social side of the conference is just as important as the series of talks.

The social side of the conference is just as important as the series of talks.

On Saturday, Anne Brenchley, Clwyd (East) BTO Regional Representative and one of the authors of the newly published North Wales Breeding Atlas,  won the prestigious BTO Bernard Tucker Medal  “for outstanding service to the Trust”. Many congratulations Anne!

Ian Newton stood down as BTO’s Chairman at this conference where he was described by Andy Clements, the Trust’s Director, as “the greatest living ornithologist”. No pressure there then on Tony Fox who was elected as the new Chairman! Tony is Professor of Waterbird Ecology at Aarhus University in Denmark. Later that evening (again at the bar) we discovered that, despite being born in Surrey and now working in Denmark, he’d spent 12 years at Aberystwyth University and that he still considers Wales to be his home. An honorary Welshman if ever there was one!

Mark Avery and Tony Fox debating during the 'Ask the Panel' session what the future has in store for the BTO.

Mark Avery and Tony Fox debating during the ‘Ask the Panel’ session what the future has in store for the BTO.

And then, the cherry on the (Welsh) cake at the very end of the conference, Wayne’s numbers came up in the raffle and he won top prize of a pair of 8×30 Swarovski binoculars!!! You couldn’t make it up.

But, of course, this conference was about far more than a cause for Welsh celebration. It was a celebration of the study of birds, the joy that that can bring and its importance in a world where nature is under so much threat.

The talks programme was packed with speakers who inspired the audience with tales of their areas of study. But, what makes the BTO Conference so special is that both professional and citizen scientists share the same stage. My personal highlights of the weekend were talks by Eimear Rooney on ‘Why buzzards are doing so well’, the RSPB’s Ellie Owen on tracking seabirds (which included footage of ‘Gannet Cam’ research being conducted at Grassholm – Wales again!) and Richard Bland’s wonderfully understated, yet very moving, Jubilee Medal acceptance speech. A Question Time/Ask the Panel session at the end of the conference with Tony Fox, Jenny Gill, Mark Avery and Ian Owens which focused on the future of the BTO was also excellent.

Wayne about to take his Swarovski binocular booty back over the border to Wales (note the big grin on his face).

Wayne about to take his Swarovski binocular booty back over the border to Wales (Note the big grin on his face).

But the conference isn’t all about talks either – the social side of the event is just as important.  Bung some birders in a bar and you’re bound to have a good time, and this annual gathering is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends, make some new ones, to share birding tales and new ideas.

If you’ve never been to a BTO Annual Conference before, clear your diary for the first weekend in December 2014 and book your places early because, on current form, it will be another sell out.  Next year though, it’s my turn to win the Swarovskis.

December 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm 2 comments

Successful Swanwick

The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick

The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick

Over the weekend I was:

  • Motivated by tales of individuals committed to adding to our knowledge of birds through conducting their own ‘citizen science’.
  • Moved by the story of the demise of the curlew in Ireland (now down to fewer than 200 pairs)
  • Entertained by predictions of birding in 20 years’ time.
  • Amazed at the dedication of some birders who went on extreme expeditions to the remotest corners of Scotland to get records for the Bird Atlas 2007-11.
  • Surprised at how little I really knew or, to be honest, how little we all know, about how birds use different habitats.
  • Informed on the very latest news of the ups and downs of UK bird populations by having exclusive views of the new 2007-11 Atlas maps.
  • Delighted to be given an opportunity to see the birding world through the eyes of articulate 16-year-old, Alex Rhodes.
  • Gob-smacked by the high-adrenalin challenges and sheer exhaustion experienced by the team who are trying to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper from extinction.

This is just a small sample of the presentations Wayne and I enjoyed at the BTO’s Annual Conference at Swanwick on 7-9 December. Add in good company, good food, good beer and a good excuse to get away from the Christmas preparations and you have to ask yourself why you weren’t there too?!

Wayne and Geoff Gibbs (Caernarfon Regional Representative) comparing who got the most questions right in the bird quiz.

Wayne and Geoff Gibbs (Caernarfon Regional Representative) comparing who got the most questions right in the bird quiz.

If you’ve never attended the BTO Annual Conference before we would urge you to give it a go in December 2013. Warning: you’re highly likely to come away inspired to take on all manner of BTO surveys!

December 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm 1 comment


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