2011 meetings

14 January: Population Limitation in Migrants by Professor Ian Newton OBE, FRS, FRSE

St John's Hall, Cambridge

Ian Newton has been interested in birds since his boyhood in 1950s Derbyshire. As a teenager, he developed a fascination with finches, which eventually led to doctoral and post-doctoral studies on these birds. Later in life, working for the Natural Environment Research Council, he studied waterfowl and birds of prey, especially Sparrowhawks, and was particularly concerned with pesticide impacts. His interest in bird migration is also of long-standing, particularly the factors that influence the population levels of migrants. During his career, he has published around 300 scientific papers on birds, and authored several books, including Finches (1972), Population Ecology of Raptors (1979), The Sparrowhawk (1986), The Ecology of Bird Migration (2008), and a recent New Naturalist volume, Bird Migration (2010). He has served as President of the British Ecological Society and the British Ornithologist's Union, and as Chairman of the Council of the RSPB. He is currently the Chairman of the Council of the British Trust for Ornithology.

His talk to CBC is concerned with population limitation in migrants. He will discuss the current declines in migrant numbers, and whether limiting factors act mainly in breeding or wintering areas, or at migratory stopover sites.

11 February: Extreme Mothing by Paul Waring

St John's Hall, Cambridge

Paul Waring will be speaking about some of his more extreme adventures with moths around the world. Paul is a well-known moth specialist, for whom moths are both a hobby and a profession. A boyhood interest developed into a zoology degree at Oxford University and a PhD about the responses of moth populations to various types of forestry management. This then led to a 30-year career involved with moths, working directly for government agencies such as the Nature Conservancy Council and the JNCC and as a freelancer for Butterfly Conservation and many other organisations. Paul is perhaps most familiar to general wildlife enthusiasts in the UK for his regular column on moths in British Wildlife magazine and as senior author of the widely used Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. He is also a former President and currently Field Meetings Secretary for the British Entomological & Natural History Society, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and a member since boyhood of the Amateur Entomologists Society. He has appeared at many conferences, exhibitions, club meetings and field trips, and has written many hundreds of publications in the specialist journals, but tonight you will see the lighter side of all that!

11 March: Annual General Meeting followed by The Spoon-billed Sandpiper – on the Brink of Extinction? by Christopher Zockler

St John's Hall, Cambridge

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper breeds only in remote Arctic regions of northeastern Russia, and winters mainly in Southeast Asia. Its population has declined precipitously over the past 30 years and it is now regarded as critically endangered. Threats on its breeding grounds may come from heavy nest predation and egg collectors. Habitat change following climate change may have impacted areas in the south. But the major threats are considered to be on the wintering grounds. Hunting and trapping birds at a large scale affects Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other species. Through its Preventing Extinction Programme, BirdLife International is supporting an array of conservation efforts to the save this species.

Christoph Zockler has been studying Spoon-billed Sandpiper in collaboration with Russian colleagues for more than 10 years and will bring us up to date with news of the conservation efforts and latest surveys of Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

8 April: Robins in our Lives by Andrew Lack

Cottenham Village College

Andrew Lack has been fascinated by natural history from an early age. He is a lecturer in biology at Oxford Brookes University where he teaches many aspects of biology, centring on the diversity of life, evolutionary biology and taking field courses. His particular research interests are in plant pollination and he co-authored The Natural History of Pollination as part of the New Naturalist series. Teaching a successful course on the history and philosophy of biology and natural history led him to delve into the literature on birds. As a result he has updated and completely re-written a book his father David Lack originally published in 1950 on the literature of the Robin and how it has interacted with us. This will form the basis of his talk.

The Robin has had so many associations with us and these have had such a varied character, from our strong attachment to the friendly visitor, a Romantic appreciation of it as a songster, its status with the post and Christmas, the subject of harsh political satires and its natural history. The talk will cover many aspects of this relationship with the Robin with particular reference to its natural history, and how these have been reflected in the many poems and other publications about this, our national bird.

13 May: Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica Research Cruises by Hugh Venables

Cottenham Village College

Hugh Venables has been an oceanographer with the British Antarctic Survey for 4 years, following a PhD at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton and a maths degree from Cambridge. He has spent almost a year at sea since 2004 on research cruises and volunteering on cetacean and seabird surveys.

Although paid to be a physicist the decision to go into oceanography was not independent of his love of seabirds and growing interest in cetaceans and photography. He will follow along research cruise tracks, showing the wildlife encountered at sea and on the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula. He will also discuss, briefly, some of the issues around the science being carried out on the trips and with associated satellite data

4 June, 8 am: Countryside Restoration Trust, Bird’s Farm, Barton.

Another chance to see the work of the Countryside Restoration Trust, following up the Club’s visit after the Farming and Bird Conservation Conference.

The tour will show how the variety of farmed habitats including smaller field size, a wide range of crop types and incorporation of spring-sown crops and hay meadows add to the variety and abundance of farmland birds. There will be an introduction to how birds are surveyed at the local and national level - and how birders can help farmers through surveys.

Pick up tips on how to prove breeding status for the atlas, relevant to tricky species such as Skylark which are ubiquitous but rarely get the highest breeding status on tetrad visits.

10 June: Dunkirk Avocets Project

In April 2007 a 3ha scrape was created and flooded in farmland at the hamlet of Dunkirk, near Pymore, Cambridgeshire. Within weeks, islands in the scrape were occupied by breeding waders, including avocets. Tony Martin, owner and manager of this project, will host a visit to the site for CBC members.

29 June, 7pm: Shropshires’ Farms, Littleport

Another opportunity for a guided walk to see conservation measures on a commercial farm, following up the Club’s visit to Hainey’s farm after the Farming and Bird Conservation Conference in October 2010.

Lyndsey Rolfe, Shropshires’ environmental manager and our guide, says: “Conservation work here is mainly limited to stewardship features including 6 m margins, seed mixes for birds and taking awkward corners out of production. There is a wetland area which was created in 2005 which we will have a look at. This visit will most probably be focussing more on technology and crops. Plantation Farm is very different to Hainey as it has fewer areas of heavy soil and larger and squarer fields so has less poorer land which can be taken out of production. We do always have good Corn Bunting counts on this farm.”

8 July: Barbecue at RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes.

Enjoy a social evening at the new Discovery Zone and see the latest developments on your local RSPB reserve.

Guided walk led by Neil Renwick (RSPB Community Projects Officer) and Peter Herkenrath (CBC Chairman) at 6.30pm. Barbecue cooking at the Discovery Zone from 7.30pm. Bring your own food to cook (meat or veggie). Salad, baps, sauces, soft drinks available – donation towards costs welcome.

A moth trap and bat detectors will be available later in the evening. The venue will be signposted and toilets available.

12 August: Roswell Pit, Ely. General natural history walk

There is a good chance of seeing Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Hobby, Common Tern amongst the birds, and if people stay late enough several species of bat including Daubentons.

Roswell Pits are managed as a nature reserve by the local Wildlife Trust and have been designated as an SSSI for their wetland and geological features

.Meet at at 6.30 p.m. at Kiln Lane off Prickwillow Road. There is a signpost on Prickwillow Road for the Environment Agency, Vexamus and Hyro International. Following this takes you onto Kiln Lane where there should be sufficient parking if numbers for the visit are moderate.

9 September: The Adventures Of The Urban Birder by David Lindo

Cottenham Village College

Self-styled 'Urban Birder', David Lindo, is a regular on TV and radio, has a flourishing website and blog plus writes for a host of magazines including BBC Wildlife, Bird Watching and the RSPB's Birds. He’s also keen on using new technology to communicate his enthusiasm on wildlife.

14 October: Gardens – Good for Birds? by Mike Toms

Cottenham Village College

Mike Toms is Head of Garden Ecology at the BTO and has written widely on the topic of garden birds and wildlife gardening. Gardens, and the birds that use them, are commonly dismissed as being unimportant in conservation terms. However, increasing evidence demonstrates that gardens do have a role to play and this talk examines that evidence, drawing on data collected through the BTO's garden-based surveys.

11 November: Are Deer to Blame for Woodland Bird Declines? by Stuart Newson

St John's Hall, Cambridge

Stuart Newson has worked as a research ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) for almost ten years, where his main role has been to analyse data from large national surveys and demographic data on wild bird and mammal populations. During this time Stuart has worked on an impressive diversity of research topics ranging from work on the breeding biology of inland breeding cormorants, farmland bird declines, production of national population estimates, production of quality of life indicators, impacts of climate change on biodiversity, impact of cats, grey squirrels and other predators on songbird populations, impacts of introduced on native species, developing a system for the early detection of bird flu in the UK and understanding the decline of cuckoos to name some of the most recent projects.

In this talk, Stuart starts by examining the increasing evidence from local studies which suggest that increases in the abundance of three species of widespread and abundant deer species: Reeves' muntjac, roe deer and fallow deer may be depressing population levels of breeding woodland bird populations that are associated with understorey habitats. Experimental work on Nightingales by the BTO in Bradfield wood, Suffolk for example supports the conclusion that an increased deer population is likely to have contributed to declines of this particular species at this site. After setting the scene, Stuart presents the results from the largest analyses of bird and deer data to date and asks the question – are deer to blame for national woodland bird declines?

9 December: Christmas Social

St John's Hall, Cambridge

Come and enjoy mince pies and mulled wine in good company while listening to inspiring short talks by club members.