BTO awards excellence

28 Oct 2011
At a glittering ceremony hosted by the Society of Wildlife Artists in the Mall Galleries, London, environmental journalist and author, Michael McCarthy was awarded the Dilys Breese Medal for outstanding communicators. Dr Ian Hartley was awarded the Marsh Award for Ornithology for his significant contribution to the field, and Henfield Birdwatch’s Mike Russell received the Marsh Local Ornithology Award for their published study on the birds of the Parish of Henfield, Sussex. Earlier the same day, we also honoured the long service of 12 of our BTO Regional Reps, who have all dedicated 25 years of time and effort to supporting our volunteers.

To learn more about BTO medals and awards please see In the spring, there will be a call for nominations for the next round of awards and medals.

This splendid ceremony was held on the opening evening of this year’s exhibition by the Society of Wildlife Artists in the Mall Galleries, London. Over 100 members and BTO guests met to admire some wonderful artwork and to celebrate the achievements of our latest award winners.

Michael McCarthy has provided a major impetus for the BTO’s migrant-related work in the last two years. For the BTO Communications Team, he is very much the man of the moment – or of the last two years’ worth of movements.   Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo is dripping with BTO-related material and the follow-up articles on Nightingales and Nightjars are joyful celebrations of both the individual species and of the privilege of being able to see (and hold) birds at very close quarters.

Michael really understands conservation and environmental issues but, more importantly in terms of this nomination, he really understands the BTO. He has gone out of his way to try to put BTO messages before an Independent audience, including decision-makers and opinion-formers. Other people follow Michael, which means that his news items help to set a conservation agenda. 

Dr Ian Hartley has made an outstanding contribution to ornithology, through his research activities, his training of young researchers and his commitment to the development of ornithology as a fascinating and engaging discipline. Ian is a behavioural ecologist whose interests focus around within-species interactions, such as mate choice, parental care and sibling conflict. He is currently a Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University, where he teaches at undergraduate and Masters level and supervises PhD students and post-doctoral researchers.

Ian’s contribution to ornithology goes far beyond his own research achievements. He has been a highly sought-after and effective member of committees and editorial teams for several years, having served as Editor of Ringing and Migration from 2001-2005, as Associate Editor for Ibis since 2002.  Ian is also currently a member of Ringing Committee and BTO Council, and of the Council of the British Ornithologists’ Union. In all of these roles, Ian has worked extremely hard to develop and encourage widespread involvement and interest in ornithology among students, researchers and members of the public.

Henfield Birdwatch was set up in 1999 to conduct a survey of the birds of the parish and to involve as many people in the village community as possible. Last November Henfield Birdwatch published “Henfield Birdwatch 2010”, a 96 page illustrated book on the birds of the parish of Henfield, based on fieldwork and surveys from 2009 involving over 150 local people. Many of these recorded birds in their garden, while monthly area surveys in the parish were carried out by nine keen volunteers, often with helpers.

As well as chapters about the eleven areas of the village, the book includes an analysis of six key species of the parish (Skylark, Yellowhammer, Barn Owl, Bewick’s Swan, Song Thrush and House Martin), comparing the 2009 data with that from 2004 and 1999, detailed records of Nightingales in the parish and wider area, a survey of breeding birds at Woods Mill, using Common Bird Census methodology, and favourite Henfield bird walks.

In a reception at The Place of Westminster, twelve of our long-standing Regional Reps were thanked for their 25 or more years of service by Richard Benyon, the minister with responsibility for biodiversity and most closely involved in the work of JNCC.   BTO Regional Reps dedicate time and effort to supporting our volunteers and providing the valuable local information that underpins each one of our surveys.   It is fitting that this is being recognised as we come to the end of Bird Atlas 2007-11. Regional Reps with 25 or more years of service are:

David Sowerbutts (Durham)
Tony Copper (Lancashire East)
Bob Howells (West Glamorgan)
Richard Bland (Avon)
Bob Swann (Rum, Eigg, Canna & Muck)
Colin Corse (Orkney)
Mick Wright (Suffolk)
Glynne Evans (Hampshire)
Norman Elkins (Fife)
The following regional representatives have also served more than 25 years but were unable to attend the ceremony.
Harry Green MBE (Worcestershire)
Geoff Sheppard (Wigtown)
Richard Heath (Lincolnshire South)
Dave Okill (Shetland)
Mike Denton (Yorkshire - Bradford)

This was the first of what we hope might be a regular evening awards event during the SWLA’a annual exhibition. The wonderful artwork provided a great back-drop to the event and sales on the night raised money for our research into the decline of African migrants. Our thanks go to Brian Marsh of the Marsh Christian Trust, to SWLA President Harriet Mead and to the staff of the Mall Galleries.