BTO are very lucky to have a team of superb trainers. Every one of our courses will be taught by someone who understands the challenges of bird identification and taking on a formal survey. We all have experience of doing this as volunteers and, in many cases, as professionals as well.
Our team – consisting of some BTO staff and a carefully chosen selection of external trainers – are all BTO volunteers and have a huge amount of experience training and doing bird surveys. Between us we offer courses and workshops on a range of subjects around the country. To find out a bit more about the individual trainers read our mini-biographies below.
James has been birding all his life, throughout Britain, Europe and Africa. He is out birding (and BirdTracking) nearly every day and is training to ring birds near where he lives in Lancashire. In his spare time he leads birdwatching holidays for Naturetrek.
He joined the BTO training programme in 2010 when he started working for the BTO in Scotland. His role there involved running identification and survey training courses for volunteers and professionals, as well as carrying out fieldwork for BTO research projects on some rather steep hills in Scotland. He now works for the RSPB in Lancashire working to protect birds of prey in the English uplands.
Matt has trained and worked as an ecological consultant for the last 5 years, and has a depth of experience conducting ornithological surveys both in the UK and overseas. He is currently working for Avon Wildlife Trust as their 'My Wild City' officer, helping to turn Bristol into a more wildlife friendly and aware city.
Matt is a regular contributor to the BBS and Nest Recording Scheme, and a former WeBS counter around the Severn Estuary where he currently lives. His specialist interest areas are winter waders and urban birding around the streets of Bristol.
Matt has run courses for BTO for a number of years and is a popular, enthusiastic and patient teacher. Based in Bristol, Matt runs many of our day courses in the west and south-west of England, and also is one of the leaders of the professional training courses we offer.
Born to naturalist parents, Ben's childhood was spent knee deep in ponds, chasing lizards or visiting local birdwatching sites with his father. As a lifelong birder, Ben was delighted to join BTO in 2012 following a degree in Zoology, PhD and several years running the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
Ben is a good birder, though like most people still gets stumped occasionally by tricky warblers and waders - the learning never stops. Ben believes birding skills should make a positive difference and participates in the Breeding Bird Survey, WeBS and BirdTrack plus other annual surveys such as House Martin and Woodcock. Ben is also heavily involved in monitoring birds of prey.
Ed Drewitt is a freelance naturalist, broadcaster and wildlife detective. Ed loves helping others to discover and enjoy the natural world, and has worked for the BTO delivering identification and survey courses since 2014.
Ed's other work ranges from taking groups fossil hunting to showing people wildlife from boats. Over the past 15 years Ed has worked in different roles as a learning officer and, alongside his freelance work Ed works part-time in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol managing postgraduate demonstrators and overseeing biology practical sessions in the teaching laboratories.
Ed’s wildlife detective title relates to his ability to identify the tiniest of bird feathers left over from a Peregrine’s meal. A zoology graduate from the University of Bristol, Ed has been studying the diet of urban Peregrines and colour ringing their young for the past 12 years. His most exciting discovery was that Peregrines hunt at night over towns and cities.
Another one of our trainers based in Bristol, Ed covers a lot of the courses in that area, as well as the south Midlands, south Wales and also south-east England.
Dudley has been birdwatching for over 60 years, mainly in Yorkshire. He started doing BTO surveys with the Common Bird Census and the first Breeding Bird Atlas. He was also an active ringer before work as a teacher and family commitments expanded.
Dudley is a very active volunteer and has had seven BBS squares for 20 years and surveyed a range of tetrads for BirdAtlas 2007—11. He is particularly interested in upland birds, the study of which combines well with his other love of fell walking.
He has been a valued member of the BTO training team for several years, initially helping out on courses in northern England and Scotland before the expanding programme gave him the opportunity to lead his own courses focusing on both BTO surveys and improving ID skills. He mostly covers courses and events in northern England and Scotland and is usually ably aided on these events by his wife, Bridget.
David has had a life-long passion for birds and discovered the joys of surveying at a young age with his first BBS survey at age 14. He is especially drawn to the surveyor’s ethic that ‘every bird counts’, no matter how unassuming the species. He also enjoys the challenge of identifying every bird, no matter how brief the glimpse or snippet of song.
He has worked on conservation and research projects around the world from the central Asian deserts to the Arctic tundra, and now runs an ecological consultancy specialising in wildlife surveying.
David has been sharing his enthusiasm for birds for over a decade, teaching on birding and ringing training courses as well as guiding birding trips in the UK, USA & Canada. He hopes that his courses will give you the tools and confidence to take the next step towards becoming a BTO surveyor.
David first worked with birds in the peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland, a great wilderness with some fantastic birds. He has since worked across Scotland on a variety of species including Whinchats, Osprey, Black Grouse, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Merlin, and Scoters. David is passionate about the wild and remote parts of Scotland - whenever he is able David is out in the mountains, walking or cycling, and of course keeping an eye out for birds. Having spent lots of time working in the uplands and mountains, David is now enjoying learning more about Scotland’s woodland birds.
David has been very lucky to get to some fantastic places to survey birds, and it began with a BTO thrush survey in a park in Edinburgh a few years ago. In hosting training courses he is keen to encourage people to have a go at bird surveying whatever their skill level - because you never know where you might end up.
Kelvin is a former police officer with the North Wales Police. In addition to his normal duties he was also a voluntary Wildlife Liaison Officer for 15 years, a role which his lifelong passion for birds suited very well. As a Community Constable he has no difficulties speaking to groups of people, and found the community engagement side very fulfilling.
Kelvin has been a bird ringer since the early 1990s and is currently a Ringing Trainer as well as co-organiser of the Welsh Ringing course, held jointly with the Gower Ringing Group. He has been a keep participant in BTO surveys for more years than he cares to admit and currently undertakes both BBS and WBBS in spring with WeBS in the winter.
Since being appointed the Development Officer for BTO Wales in 2011, Kelvin has worked at promoting the mentoring of new and existing BBS volunteers, held WeBs training courses, managed single species surveys and is always available to answer any survey, square, or general bird enquiries in Wales.
Gordon Kirk is the BTO’s voluntary Regional Representative (RR) for Gloucestershire, and also serves on the BTO Regional Network Committee which oversees most BTO surveys and supports the network of RRs across the UK. A lifelong birder, he has a particular interest in surveying and was Gloucestershire’s atlas organiser for BirdAtlas 2007—2011. With John Phillips, he co-authored The Birds of Gloucestershire which was published in 2013.
Professionally, Gordon was a mathematics lecturer and manager in further education colleges and then worked in various consultancy roles, often working with college governors and also in the prison education sector.
He lives near Slimbridge and spends much of his time on county BTO matters, organising surveys and supporting hundreds of volunteers. He is also part of a recently-formed Raptor Monitoring Group, membership of which is making him realise, once again, that we never stop learning!
Scott is a passionate and enthusiastic birder who enjoys anything involving birds and Birdwatching. He has been fortunate to work for several conservation organisations over the several decades on fantastic nature reserves including the Farne Islands, Loch Garten, St Abbs Head, Vane Farm, Loch of Strathbeg and Minsmere. Currently County Recorder for Perth and Kinross and a self-employed ornithological surveyor, he enjoys leading events and training courses in Scotland and northern England - particularly bird identification courses. Based in Kinross, Scott has two BBS squares, has been a keen WeBS counter for twenty years and has contributed to several Atlas projects including Bird Atlas 2007 – 11.
Based in Suffolk, Steve is a general naturalist and very experienced birder. He facilitates bird-related courses on behalf of the Field Studies Council and BTO. These courses are specifically tailored for those wishing to improve their bird-watching/surveying skills and Steve has been taking a lead on our ID courses for many years now, proving a hugely popular and successful trainer. He is self-employed and runs his own consultancy which specialises in providing wildlife information to landowners, developers and planners; and runs a wildlife tour and guiding service, both locally and abroad. He is author of Birds of Suffolk, co-author of The Butterflies of Suffolk and was a principal recorder during fieldwork for the Dragonfly Atlas.
A founder member of Landguard Bird Observatory (1982) and Waveney Bird Club (2006), he has been at the forefront of the development of both organisations. He specialises in bird migration and holds a BTO bird ringing ‘Trainer’ permit. As with all the trainers, Steve has undertaken numerous hours of voluntary recording for a range of surveys and a range of organisations, giving him great depth of knowledge of the challenges faced by new observers. Steve has provided the initiative and energy for the management of very successful conservation projects such as the Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project.
Shane Wolsey is the BTO’s Northern Ireland (NI) Officer, a part-time post that he has held for 10 years and that ensures he is involved in, and guides, all aspects of BTO’s activities in the province. He also serves on the BTO Regional Network Committee which oversees most BTO surveys and supports the network of RRs across the UK. Shane has been a birdwatcher for 50 years and bird ringer for almost all that time.
Professionally, he started as a business manager for a number of commercial companies, before going to the Falkland Islands for three years to help manage the Falkland Islands Development Corporation. On his return to NI he advised on small business development before setting up his own consultancy in 1994. That consultancy evolved into an environmental support organisation, thus representing the BTO, but also having expertise in the preparation of small and large grant applications.
Shane believes in the benefits of citizen science, and the tremendous expertise of volunteers. This is why he is so enthusiastic about delivering training to people new to bird surveying.