Great turnout for BTO annual conference

Great turnout for BTO annual conference

05 Dec 2011

If it’s the first Friday of December then it’s the BTO’s annual conference. This year 320 people gathered at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire, to discuss Nests, Rings & Bird Conservation.

After a wine reception courtesy of sponsors Swarovski Optik, who also provided the top prize for the raffle, we were taught how to ‘put the nest back into ornithology’ by Richard Castell, one of the authors of the BTO Field Guide to Monitoring Nests. Richard inspired 140 people to go to the Nest Records get together, which followed his talk. If half of them were to find and monitor a Pied Wagtail nest next year…

There were many highlights but at the heart of the conference was the Witherby lecture, Birth Death & Bird Conservation, by the RSPB’s Principal Research Biologist, Rhys Green. By drawing on his experiences of species as diverse as Corncrakes and Oriental White-backed Vultures, Rhys showed how knowledge of breeding success and mortality can help to focus conservation effort.

Saturday is always busy. Cleo Small reminded us of the key role of demographic data in highlighting the problems for albatrosses, Stephen Baillie asked us to focus our efforts on some key species for which we need better demographic information, Cat Morrison showed how records from BBS volunteers, ringers, and nest recorders have started to explain what’s going wrong for Willow Warblers in England, Andrew Cristianacce focused on Wood Warblers and Rob Robinson gave some answers to the question, ‘is climate change good or bad for warblers?’

There was a dilemma during the latter part of the afternoon on Saturday, with people having to choose between the ringers’ meeting, where the conversation centred on how to deliver the new Demographic Targeting Strategy, and therapy for atlasers, with suggestions as to what to do next, now that national atlas work has been completed. The day finished with a relaxed dinner, animated conversations, arguments over the quizzes and the CES get-together.

Sunday happened at a canter. Chris du Feu managed to entertain and chastise us with illustrations of what to do and not what to do with measurements of birds, Richard Broughton revealed how he has managed to ring 1000 Marsh Tits in Cambridge and monitor their nesting success and then John Wilson told us about the rises and falls in numbers of Bearded Tits at Leighton Moss. It was great to see how individuals can make a real difference to our understanding of species of conservation concern.

After coffee, Phil Atkinson updated us on work on Cuckoos and other migrants and Jane Reid took us to Scotland, to reveal how professional scientists, volunteer ringers and birdwatchers have increased our understanding of the population dynamics of Choughs and Shags. By the end of the conference we had got the message – get out there – nest record - ring – look for colour-rings – work together – and then come back to Swanwick to share the results, the experiences and the fun.

Thanks to speakers, our sponsors Swarovski Optik and to everyone who contributed to a packed two days.

Members’ Medals

At the annual conference, Council awards two medals. The Bernard Tucker Medal is awarded for outstanding contributions to the Trust’s scientific work, through surveys and/or Trust-aided investigations, and The Jubilee Medal is awarded for other contributions to the Trust. After an introduction by Bruce Lynch (the Regional Rep for Angus), this year’s Tucker Medal was presented to Mike Nicoll, particularly for his studies of waders and raptors over nearly forty years. The Jubilee Medal was accepted by Dave Coker on behalf of John Bonell, a volunteer who has so far input the ringing information for 3.3 million birds, there-by making masses of archived, paper data available for new analyses.

Swanwick 2012

Over the course of the next few months, the Atlas team will be analysing millions of records and the priorities for future surveys and research will become clearer. Speakers at the 2012 conference (7- 9 December) will tell regional and habitat-based stories of successes and concerns. It’s sure to be another really memorable gathering, with a similar nice mix of new folk and well-known faces. If you want to have a sneak preview of the results of Bird Atlas 2007-11, book the date in your diary now!

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