Marsh Award for Local Ornithology - Devon man receives prestigious national award

01 Nov 2015 | No. 2015-57

Malcolm Burgess, who founded PiedFly.Net scooped the British Trust for Ornithology BTO/ Marsh Award for Local Ornithology at a glittering ceremony in London.

The ceremony, held at the Mall Galleries and hosted by the Society of Wildlife Artists, saw Malcolm receive his award from Peter Titley of the Marsh Christian Trust. The award recognises the huge contribution that Malcolm has made to local ornithology.

Malcolm is the founding member of PiedFly.Net, bringing together those monitoring Pied Flycatcher's which breed in nest box schemes in oak woods across southwest England, helping train new monitors, share experiences through an annual conference and share data. This has been extremely successful and now includes 40 nest box schemes throughout Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, monitoring more than 2,000 nest boxes each year. In 2014 more than 200 of these were occupied by Pied Flycatchers with 70% of the adults captured, of which more than 50% were already ringed in previous years providing detailed individual histories. This remarkably complete coverage, over such a large area, makes a very valuable dataset for use in many scientific studies.  The network has also computerised all existing historic records only previously held in notebooks, with data from some schemes that have been running since the 1970s and 80s. This enables a look back in time, to look for patterns in relation to a changing climate which is known to affect Pied Flycatchers.

Ken Smith, Chairman of the Ringing Committee for the BTO, said, “The network is run on an entirely voluntary basis with Malcolm fitting it in around his paid professional work. The annual budget is small but Devon Birds have provided funding since the inception of the network and additional funds have come from the British Ecological Society and Natural England. Apart from these modest inputs the network runs on the unpaid efforts and financial support of the volunteers themselves.”

He added, “I think that is a model of how to enthuse and coordinate volunteer recording on a regional scale to provide massively valuable scientific data as well as building local support. Malcolm is a deserved winner of this prestigious award.”

Quote from Malcolm Burgess: "I am delighted to receive this award, which really reflects the hard work of nearly 100 monitors who expend considerable effort each spring collecting data from all the nest box schemes. I am very grateful to them all, and for entrusting me to convert all this citizen science monitoring into hard science in collaborations that extend right across Europe."

Notes for Editors

  1. The Marsh Award for Local Ornithology - Awarded to a bird club or group that publishes a book, completes a study or conducts any other exceptional activity in the preceding calendar year that advances knowledge about birds.
  2. Marsh Christian Trust - The Trust runs a portfolio of Awards with a number of internationally and nationally recognised organisations such as Barnardos, the British Museum and the Zoological Society of London. The Awards seek to recognise unsung heroes who all aim to improve the world we live in. 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. PiedFly.Net is a science based non-profit organisation co-ordinating community participation in monitoring Pied Flycatchers and other hole-nesting woodland birds to contribute to science and monitoring projects.

    The network co-ordinates monitoring of nest box schemes with breeding populations of Pied Flycatchers across southwest England. Previously only a small number of these nest box schemes contributed data to national monitoring programs, but since 2011 the network has brought all this information together to share with national schemes and the scientific community.

    Our aims are to monitor Pied Flycatchers and better understand their ecology and reasons for their decline.
  4. 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
  5. The Society of Wildlife Artists is a registered charity that seeks to generate appreciation and delight in the natural world through all forms of fine art inspired by the world’s wildlife.

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