Marsh Award for Local Ornithology

01 Oct 2013 | No. 2013-42

The Marsh Local Ornithology Award was presented to Dr Jim Cassels of Arran Natural History Society (ANHS) yesterday evening (30 October) by Professor Ian Newton, BTO Chair, and Jo Winyard and Professor Bill Sutherland, on behalf of The Marsh Christian Trust.

In nominating Arran Natural History Society for the Marsh Award for Local Ornithology, Dawn Balmer, UK Coordinator for Bird Atlas 2007-11, reflected upon the commitment of the Arran Natural History Society and Dr Jim Cassels’ personal drive. 

During the early stages of the national Bird Atlas project, Jim Cassels persuaded the Arran Natural History Society to attempt a more-detailed local breeding and wintering atlas of the birds of Arran, despite having only a handful of keen bird surveyors available to support the work. 

To complete the project, Jim and the ANHS engaged the whole community on Arran, encouraging people to submit records for the Atlas. They did this by writing regular articles for the local weekly paper the Arran Banner, giving talks and building special atlas pages on the Arran birding website.

Visitors to the Island were persuaded to contribute records. Bird walks were organised to give local people valuable fieldwork experience and to build their confidence levels. Nearly 700 people submitted records for the Atlas, between them achieving complete coverage of the 139 tetrads (2-km squares) on Arran over five winters and five breeding seasons.

Jim Cassels has been the Atlas Regional Organiser for Bird Atlas 2007–11, coordinating fieldwork and undertaking validation of records on the Isle of Arran. The project is now in the writing and map production phase, again led by Jim. The Arran local Atlas will advance the knowledge of the status of breeding and wintering birds on Arran and will provide an important baseline against which to measure change in the future.

Dr Jim Cassels said: "I was delighted to accept the Marsh Award for Local Ornithology on behalf of the Arran Natural History Society. It was a most unexpected yet welcome accolade, a fitting tribute to all who had contributed to this work."

BTO Director, Dr Andy Clements said: "We have been delighted to work with local birdwatching groups during the Bird Atlas 2007-11 project. The achievements of the Arran Natural History Society, and Jim Cassels in particular, should not be underestimated. This is tough terrain in which to look for birds and we are inspired by the coverage that has been achieved."

The Marsh Local Ornithology Award is made to a bird club or group that publishes a book, completes a study or conducts any other exceptional activity that advances knowledge about birds.

Notes for Editors

  1. The award was one of five made at the SWLA’s Natural Eye annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London.  The BTO is very grateful to the Society of Wildlife Artists and the Mall Galleries for providing this opportunity to present these awards and to highlight the success of the last year. For more information please visit
  2. The Marsh Trust runs a portfolio of awards with a number of internationally and nationally recognised organisations. Recipients of Marsh Awards range from scientists working in conservation biology and ecology to authors and sculptors from the arts world, and those who give their time unselfishly to work with the young, the elderly, people with mental health issues and for our heritage.
  3. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.

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