2019 Meetings

2019 meetings

All our indoor meetings open their doors at 7.30pm for an 8.00pm start. Meetings are held either at St John's Church Hall, Hills Road, Cambridge, or in the Tony Cooper Suite at Cottenham Village College, High Street. We have nine indoor meetings from September to May, and usually three field meetings in the summer months. Indoor meetings are held on the second Friday of the month. All are welcome to attend; there is a small charge for non-members. Our meetings secretary is Vicki Harley.

Indoor meetings

11 January: Tipping the balance for colonising wetland birds by Graham White

Tony Cooper Suite, Cottenham Village College, CB24 8UA. 7.30pm for 8pm start

This talk will explore how RSPB wetland reserves are being managed for the future. We will look at the species likely to be coming our way under the influence of the changing climate, such as Spoonbills, egrets and Little Bitterns, and the management actions that can be taken to tip the balance in their favour.

  • Graham White is Head of Reserves Ecology at the RSPB, where he has been for 18 years after being Conservation Manager at Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust. He is never happier than when chasing egrets or dissecting Otter poo.

8 February: The Magic of Spurn by Lizzie Bruce

Tony Cooper Suite, Cottenham Village College, CB24 8UA. 7.30pm for 8pm start

Spurn, located on the east coast of Yorkshire, sandwiched between the North Sea and the Humber estuary, is one of the places to go birding as demonstrated by a site list of 399 bird species. Famous for turning up rare and scarce birds along with impressive visible migration and sea watching, combine that with thousands of waders feeding on the Humber and there is something for every birder.

During this talk discover more about the birds found at Spurn throughout the year as well as the continuing growth of Spurn Bird Observatory which for over 70 years has been recording the wildlife of Spurn. The observatory was recently recognised for its achievements by being awarded the Marsh Local Ornithology Award from the BTO.

  • Lizzie has been birding Spurn since 2012 when she was able to live there for six months as the Little Tern warden. She has since become involved with wider observatory work and sits on Spurn Bird Observatory’s committee. Lizzie is also RSPB warden for North West Norfolk, covering Titchwell Marsh and Snettisham and one of the Directors for British Birds.

8 March: Annual General Meeting followed by

Colourful birds and classic cars in Cuba by Ruth Miller and Alan Davies

Tony Cooper Suite, Cottenham Village College, CB24 8UA. 7.30pm for 8pm start. AGM starts at 7.45pm

In this talk, Ruth and Alan will take you on a tour of fascinating and photogenic Cuba, visiting the best birding hotspots this vibrant country has to offer. We catch up with the wonderful endemic bird species of this beautiful Caribbean island and share a few insights into the culture. The talk is jam-packed with photos of colourful birds, characterful people and houses, and of course no visit to Cuba would be complete without a ride in a classic American convertible car around Havana.

  • Ruth Miller is originally from Kent and was Head of Trading at the RSPB Head Office in Sandy, Bedfordshire. She is also a regular contributor to Bird Watching magazine with her monthly feature entitled Observations. A native of north Wales, Alan Davies was the Site Manager of the RSPB reserve at Conwy on the North Wales coast which he developed into a popular visitor attraction as well as a haven for wildlife. He is the author of the successful site guide Best Birdwatching Sites in North Wales.

  • In 2008, they gave up their jobs and spent the whole year travelling the world birding, and set a new world record for the highest number of birds seen in a single year – they called this year "The Biggest Twitch" and recorded 4,341 species, nearly half the world’s birds. They now run their own birdwatching tour company, called "BirdwatchingTrips with The Biggest Twitch".

12 April: Far from Land: the Mysterious Lives of Seabirds by Michael Brooke

Tony Cooper Suite, Cottenham Village College, CB24 8UA. 7.30pm for 8pm start

After expeditions to seabird islands when a Cambridge undergraduate, Michael Brooke was hooked. Since then, he has been lucky enough to travel the world in pursuit of seabirds. During those 40-odd years – and particularly in the last 20 – our knowledge of what seabirds do at sea has been transformed by modern electronic gadgetry. In this talk, based on his acclaimed book, ‘Far from Land’, Michael gives a flavour of these findings from the tropics to the polar regions.

After completing a seabird DPhil at Oxford while employed as warden of Skokholm Bird Observatory, Michael did post-docs at Oxford and then Cambridge. He is now Strickland Curator of Ornithology at Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge. His conservation work ranges from the strictly practical to more theoretical research which nevertheless aims to provide information of direct use to conservation planning.

NOTE: This is a change from the previously announced talk. We are grateful to Michael Brooke for agreeing to speak at short notice.

10 May: Wild birds in human history: the archaeological approach by Umberto Albarella

Tony Cooper Suite, Cottenham Village College, CB24 8UA. 7.30pm for 8pm start

Many people love birds because of their beauty, songs and overall contribution to our countryside. They also represent a fundamental part of our ecosystems. We love birds but we also need birds and in that respect they are worthy or our care and protection. It is less often considered, however, that birds have also had a fundamental role in shaping our past and that, as such, they are part of our historical as well as natural heritage.

In this talk Umberto Albarella will provide some examples of how archaeologists have studied birds in order to understand past human societies and the way the relationship between humans and birds has operated. He will show how birds have represented food, status symbols, religious icons as well as companions to different people of the past; and also how, unfortunately, humans have historically persecuted birds. Case studies will focus on Britain and Italy, as well as the Roman and medieval periods, for which we have particularly wealthy evidence.

  • Umberto Albarella has a first degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Naples (Italy), but he has been interested in anthropology and then archaeology since his undergraduate days. He engaged in archaeological fieldwork in Italy and studied animal bones from urban Roman and medieval sites in Naples. He moved permanently to England in 1993, working at English Heritage, the University of Birmingham, University of Durham and eventually moved to the University of Sheffield, where he is a Reader in Zooarchaeology. Umberto specialises in the study of animal bones from archaeological sites (zooarchaeology). Although his research is predominantly based in Britain and Italy, he has also worked in Armenia, Greece, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France and Portugal.

Summer outdoor meetings

Contact/booking via Erica Towner: fieldtrips@cambridgebirdclub.org.uk

Field trips usually start at 7.00pm on site, with final details emailed in advance of each meeting.

14 June: RSPB Hope Farm, Knapwell

A visit to this 181ha working farm purchased in 2000 by the RSPB to test and develop innovations that work both for wildlife and profitable farming.

Early booking essential

12 July: Fowlmere Nature Reserve.

A habitat-rich site on former watercress beds with chalk-fed springs and stream, reedbeds, fen, open water, chalk grassland, woodland and scrub all set within a 41ha SSSI. Starts at 7.00pm.

9 August: The Middle Level Catchment

A chance to see the biodiversity conservation work of the Middle Level with a trip around the extensive waterways of these fenland ditches, drains and rivers and one of the UK’s strongholds for water voles.

Address of meeting point: Sluice Road, Wiggenhall St. Mary the Virgin, King’s Lynn, PE34 3EG Time: 7pm – 9pm Directions: St Germans Pumping Station is located on the bend in the road between Wiggenhall St Germans and Wiggenhall St Mary. It is signposted on the corner and accessed via a shingle track. Follow this track to the building, parking is available on the left-hand side. Health & Safety: A full briefing will be given on site. The site is quite exposed and so appropriate clothing and footwear are advised.

Only 3 places remain as on 12/7.

Indoor meetings

13 September: Global threats to seabirds: are we the albatrosses around their necks? by Richard Phillips

St John's Community Hall, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8RN. 7.30pm for 8pm start

Seabirds are amongst the most globally threatened of all birds. Albatrosses and large petrels have extensive at-sea distributions, and face major threats from incidental mortality (bycatch) in fisheries in national and international waters. Smaller petrels are usually safe at sea, but populations on many islands have declined massively or been extirpated by invasive species, particularly cat, rats and mice. Climate change affects many seabirds, but there are winners as well as losers. Although pollution (including from plastics) currently has a huge media profile, impacts on seabirds at the population level are much less clear. This talk will describe the contribution of research on seabird demography, distribution and behaviour carried out at South Georgia and elsewhere to diagnose the drivers of population change. By improving our understanding of seabird life-history, biology, ecology and threats, we can identify patterns, trends and gaps to help prioritise research and management efforts. This can help secure the future of these charismatic species; otherwise, we will be the albatrosses around their necks.

  • Richard Phillips is the leader of the Higher Predators and Conservation group within the BAS Core Science Ecosystems programme, and an Honorary Professor at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter. He also works closely with the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), including as convenor of the ACAP Populations and Conservation Status working group, and is a member of the Expert Group on Birds and Marine Mammals of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). These international agreements develop strategies to improve knowledge of seabirds and other marine taxa, and their conservation.

11 October: What have we learnt from 12 years of bird studies and monitoring in Thetford Forest? by Greg Conway

St John's Community Hall, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8RN. 7.30pm for 8pm start

The talk will cover Nightjar & Woodlark predation study, forest breeding bird monitoring 2008 - 2017, Tracking studies on Nightjar, Tree Pipit and Goshawk, and Firecrest surveying. Since 2008 research has been directed towards the bird communities of Thetford Forest on the doorstep of BTO. The Forest and surroundings, supporting nationally important populations of Woodlark, Nightjar and Stone-curlew, have been covered by national monitoring schemes. However, there are substantial numbers of other nationally and regionally important species (eg. Goshawk, Firecrest, Siskin and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker) as well as general bird communities, that have received little attention. Much recent work, using surveys and tracking technology, has been undertaken to monitor the populations and understand their habitat requirements, and how these may be affected by forest management.

  • Greg Conway is a Research Ecologist at the BTO (https://www.bto.org/about-bto/our-staff/greg-conway) where he has worked for the past 22 years on a diverse range of bird research and surveys involving terrestrial and marine species. More recently he has used tracking technologies to investigate migration and detailed summer habitat use for a wide range of species, including Willow Warbler, Goshawk, Tree Pipit, Nightjar, Whinchat and large gulls.

8 November: Bird conservation and birding in Bangladesh by Rob Sheldon

St John's Community Hall, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8RN. 7.30pm for 8pm start

Bangladesh is not a regular destination for tour companies with most focusing on India and Nepal. However, the country has many fascinating birding locations and hosts some high profile species on many birdwatchers’ ‘must see’ list. Sonadia Island is one of the most important wintering sites for the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and a range of other shorebird species. And the renowned Sunderbans hosts a good population of the elusive Masked Finfoot. This talk will highlight some the key birdwatching sites across Bangladesh, as well as discuss some of the ongoing conservation work for threatened bird species.

  • Rob Sheldon has worked in nature conservation for almost 20 years, including 12 years with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Since 2013, he has been the Chairman of the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, The Caucasus and Central Asia (OSME). Most recently he has worked for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) as the Director of the King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre (KKWRC) in Saudi Arabia. He now works freelance as a consultant through RDS Conservation.

13 December: Christmas social

St John's Community Hall, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8RN. 7.30pm for 8pm start

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

Please contact Vicki Harley if you would like to give a short presentation.