2023 Meetings

2023 Meetings

 The Club's evening walk, 21st July - Ninewells: arable fields and the Local Nature Reserve on the southern fringe of Cambridge near Addenbrookes Hospital.  Organised by Erica Towner.

A brief shower was followed by late evening sunshine.  Interesting information on birds in the area was supplied by leader John Meed (front, right)  the author of a 10 year study there, “A haven for farmland birds”.

The hedgerows and arable fields are a bastion of farmland birds, Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge.  

We also saw the famous and important Ninewells  spring heads and heard about the relic aquatic flatworm Crenobia alpina which became extinct in the drought of 1976 leading to loss of its SSSI status

Our indoor meetings are organised by Vicki Harley.  Special thanks go to her for the many years of interesting and informative talks.  

Meetings are held on the second Friday of the month in person and may be available via Zoom.  Details of links for Zoom meetings are provided in the e-Bulletin distributed to members.  In-person meetings are held at Cottenham Village College - Tony Cooper Suite (TCS), Sixth Form Block.   The college is set back from High Street, Cottenham , the drive up to it is close to the village green.   There is ample car parking at the college.  To walk to the Tony Cooper Suite, take the path to the right of the college (as you face it) to the sixth form block.  This is behind the main building.

There is a £2.00 charge for non-members at in-person indoor meetings.   If the Zoom platform is used, a link is available on request to guests (non-members).  Check the details for each talk and if Zoom is an option, please email Louise.Bacon'at'Cambridgebirdclub.org.uk 

Friday 13 January:  'Cognition and behaviour in animal conservation' by  Rachael Miller.   

7.30pm start, using the Zoom video platform  - entry from 7.20pm

The Zoom link is available on request to guests (non-members), please email Louise.Bacon'at'Cambridgebirdclub.org.uk

We will learn some of the key aspects of animal conservation, cognition and behaviour. Specifically, Rachael will focus on how cognition and behaviour research may be used to improve the success of animal conservation applications, with reference to means of measuring and applying impact. She will provide some examples of relevant research, including her own research project aiming to combine cognition and conservation to help save Critically Endangered birds using both fundamental and applied research approaches in the UK and for the Bali Myna, Indonesia.  

Dr Miller is a comparative psychologist and behavioural ecologist, with expertise in animal cognition, behaviour, welfare and conservation, and child development (www.drrachaelmiller.com). Following an MSc in Psychology at St  Andrews University and a PhD in Cognitive Biology at Vienna University, she completed three Research Associate positions in Psychology at Cambridge  University, before starting a permanent Lectureship in Biology at Anglia Ruskin  University. Dr Miller’s research interests focus on the evolution of cognition,  using comparative, ecological and developmental approaches primarily in birds and children, with a productive academic output (35 publications) and teaching record. She is Co-Founder of the ManyBirds Project - a Big-Team Open  Science approach to avian cognition & behaviour, with over 60 international collaborators (www.themanybirds.com).  

Friday 10 February:  'Seaducks of Britain and Europe' by Mark Pearson.  

7.30pm start, using the Zoom video platform  - entry from 7.20pm

Common or King? Velvet or Surf? Nope, not hotel room booking options, but just a few of the seaduck species to look out for along our North Sea coasts... Mark looks at their identification, life stories and much more.

Mark Pearson has a lifelong love of birds and wildlife which he shares in a variety of ways: as a nature writer, a public speaker, a field ornithologist, a nature guide and a communications specialist. His nature writing is widely published in magazines, books, periodicals and online, including recent articles for Birdwatch magazine, Birdguides and Birdwatching magazine among various others and he has appeared on Springwatch, Autumnwatch. He is also a songwriter & musician.

The Zoom link is available on request to guests (non-members), please email Louise.Bacon'at'Cambridgebirdclub.org.uk

Friday 10 March, 7.30pm:  Annual General Meeting followed by 'A future for Caribbean endemic birds - perils and opportunities' by Howard Nelson.  Cottenham Village College - venue has changed to the  Common Room, in the main building via reception, then to the right. Zoom video feed will not be available. 

The insular Caribbean is a globally important hotspot of biological endemism, including over 170 endemic bird species. Despite this importance, these iconic birds remain among the most threatened bird communities globally. With high vulnerability to extinction from habitat loss, invasive species, over-harvesting and, increasingly, climate change, these species face accelerating perils due to anthropogenic change. With limited terrestrial surface area and the complex synergies between many of these threats and the socio-economic conditions of these countries present a significant conservation challenge. Nonetheless, current conservation efforts underway in the islands do present opportunities and lessons to ensure a future for these iconic and evolutionarily unique birds.

Dr Howard P. Nelson is a Trinidadian wildlife biologist and forester, with over 30 years conservation experience in the Caribbean. Howard’s experience in Caribbean conservation has included roles as CEO of the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad, Lecturer at the University of the West Indies-St Augustine on the MSc in Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainability in the Caribbean, and policy specialist on wildlife, forests and protected areas for Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of the Environment. He and his students work on diverse conservation issues in the Caribbean including conservation of Grenada Dove and its habitats, climate-change impacts on dry forests in Grenada, abundance and distribution of Trinidadian cetaceans, plant demography and distribution in Trinidad, and sustainable hunting in Trinidad. He is currently the Lecturer in Conservation Leadership at Fauna & Flora International, an Affiliate Lecturer at the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow, graduate tutor, and Director of Studies for Geography at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, UK.

Click here for the AGM agenda, accounts for 2022, and Minutes of the 2022 AGM

Puerto Rican Tody

Grenada Dove

Friday 14 April, doors open 7.00pm, talk: 7.30pm: 'Avian influenza, other diseases and sustainability' by Prof. Don Broom.  The Venue has been changed. Staff shortages at Cottenham College means the building is not open during the school holiday and we have to move to St John's Church Hall, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8RN

What is avian influenza? What effects do avian influenza and other avian disease have on humans, human activities, wild bird welfare and wild bird conservation? Several of the components of the sustainability of food production systems are affected by disease but to what extent are these of world importance? All sustainability components should be considered when deciding about future food production and other human activities. How can this be done?


Don Broom is Emeritus Professor of Animal Welfare, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge.  Club member 1961-1967, 1987-present (Secretary 1962-3, President 1963-4 (in the era when students did these things); Chair Reading Ornithological Club 1980-86).  Elected as the new President of Cambridgeshire Bird Club at the AGM.  

Friday 12th May, talk starts promptly at 7.30pm:  'Wild Banks Island - Pristine Arctic Wilderness' by Roger Wardle.  Cottenham Village College, we will meet in the Common Room, in the main building. Enter via reception, then go through the double doors on the right to the end of the corridor. Please arrive in good time as the main doors will be locked shortly after the meeting begins.  Late arrivals should walk around the building and will be admitted via the fire door in the Common Room.

The presentation will focus on a trip to the remote Banks Island and Aulavik National Park,  hundreds of miles north of the Canadian mainland and Alaska to the west: a truly pristine and wild mosaic of habitats and Important Bird Area (IBA) with only about 15 visitors a year. Located at around 74 deg north it is closer to the north pole than the arctic circle.  The island is around 70,000,000 ha and similar to in size to Ireland with one small hamlet of 50 inhabitants at the southern tip.


There are millions of water bodies, fantastic flower meadows on a scale unimaginable and biting insects at a density when the bitter winds drop. The island boosts around 70 % of the world's musk ox, huge tundra wolves through to the lemmings. Travelling by canoe, Roger explored the park, gaining unique opportunities to view breeding birds, waders in full plumage and inevitable predators such as snowy owl and gyrfalcon.


Birds will focus strongly in this talk but the untouched remote and surreal landscapes, diverse habitats, climate, history  and remoteness will also be discussed with the aim of giving everyone an insight into the far north and its importance to many migratory species.  


Roger Wardle started life as a dairy farmer’s son in Shropshire, where he first became interested in wildlife and birds. He became a farmer himself, managing his land for wildlife.   For over 35 years he has worked in advisory roles for the Farming Wildlife Advisory Group, in Poland and on the Lincolnshire Coastal Grazing Marshes Project. For the last 15 years I have operated my own environmental consultancy specialising in wetland management, restoration and re-creation with a particular interest in breeding waders.  Over that time I estimate I have created well in excess of 30,000 water features. Roger also has a passion for grasslands and botanical diversity.

Arctic Fox

Summer evening outdoor meetings July and August 2023


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

The Friday evening field trips will start at either 6.30pm or 7.00pm on-site with final details emailed in advance of each meeting. 


CANCELLED Friday 26th May: Kings Dyke Nature Reserve near Whittlesey.  7.00pm start

It was to be led by Phil Parker, Managing Director of Philip Parker Associates, but unfortunately Philip broke his foot just before the event was to take place.  We hope that a visit can be arranged for next year. 

This private nature reserve created from former brickwork pits has been developed as an educational Nature Reserve for the benefit of the local community. The reserve has been extended on a regular basis and now covers approximately 70ha.  It includes a wide range of habitats from open water, marsh, a large reedbed, grassland, old hedgerows, ponds and open bare areas.  It is due to more than double in size in the coming year with the inclusion of the restored Bradley Fen site. The history of the site dates back to the 1920s when clay for bricks was dug by pick-axe and shovel. The site was worked out in the 1970s and was finally restored in 1995. It now offers a wonderful example of how industrial land can be transformed to benefit both wildlife and the local community.


 Friday 21st July: Nine Wells and Hobson’s Park on the southern fringe of Cambridge. 19.00 start

The visit will be led by John Meed who has carried out a long-term study on the populations of farmland birds, including Grey Partridge, in the fields south of Addenbrookes Hospital around the Nine Wells reserve.

John gave an excellent talk at the Bird Club Christmas meeting on the area and has published a book on his 10 year study “A haven for farmland birds”.


Erica sends further details including travel arrangements and meeting place to birders interesting in coming.


Friday 11th August: Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, accessing the North end of the reserve from Diddington by special arrangement.  Please note 18.30 start

The section of Paxton Pits chosen for August is slightly off the beaten track and a chance to access this less frequented area. 

The trip will be led by Neal Parkin, the Friends of Paxton Pits Bird Recorder.

Paxton Pits Reserve is situated in the Great Ouse valley between St Neots and Huntingdon, and just off the A1. The nature reserve is managed by Huntingdonshire District Council in partnership with the Friends of Paxton Pits. We will be visiting some of the newer areas and pits at the North end of the reserve and the trip will start from the village of Diddington, south of Buckden.


Final details including parking and meeting place will be sent on booking.  Contact/booking via Erica Towner: fieldtrips@cambridgebirdclub.org.uk

Friday 8 September, talks starts promptly at 7.30pm: 'Spring in Georgia' by Richard Bashford.  Cottenham Village College 

Georgia’s location, on the eastern side of Europe and just north of Turkey, means much of its wildlife is a vibrant mix of both European and Middle Eastern, with a bit of Asia too! The magnificent Caucasian mountains, in particular, are home to some very special birds. Richard’s talk will showcase this superb region with such show-stoppers as Güldenstädt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch, alongside more familiar highlights such as Lammergeier and Wallcreeper. In the east of the country, the rolling steppe and lakes are home to a wide variety of such sought-after species as Green Warbler and Armenian Gull, a range of wheatears and larks, Eastern Imperial Eagle, and other eastern European specialities such as Black Francolin, Krüper’s Nuthatch and Demoiselle Crane… all set amongst spectacular scenery.

Richard was born in Sandy, which played no small part in his early interest in birds. After leaving school, he began working for the RSPB on a variety of contracts until undertaking an environmental degree. In 1995 he worked for the British Trust for Ornithology, running the Breeding Bird Survey, but has worked back at the RSPB in Sandy since 2001 running projects such as the world's biggest wildlife survey - Big Garden Birdwatch. Richard has travelled widely in search of wildlife and has taken part in ornithological projects in Kenya, Botswana, Jordan, Albania and China (the latter searching for Spoon-billed Sandpipers). He has been leading tours since the 1980s and has led Naturetrek holidays throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East, North and Central America. He is very active in his home county of Bedfordshire, supporting survey work and spending much of his free time searching for birds, butterflies and moths.

Guldenstadt's Redstart

Rose-coloured Starling

Friday 13 October 7.30pm: 'Birdman from the Pampas: the W H  Hudson story' by Conor Jameson.  Cottenham Village College 

A life-size oil painting* of a grey-whiskered Victorian gentleman clutching field glasses hangs above the fireplace in the main meeting room at RSPB headquarters at Sandy. His name is W H Hudson (1841-1922), a one-time celebrated author and naturalist.

Hudson lived out his days in London, the base from which he explored mainly the southern counties, with occasional forays further afield, particularly Norfolk, and Breckland. Hudson loved the wild places of East Anglia, and wrote vividly of wild marshes, the Broads and the Brecks. He traced the village of the earlier poet Robert Bloomfield, who had inspired the young Hudson in his longing to find England, ‘the land of my desire’.

Hudson was in a sense adopted by some stellar names of the period. Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey gave him the keys to his idyllic rural bolt-hole River Cottage, and Hudson was living in a grand house in Surrey at the outbreak of World War I, as a guest of his beloved friend the society hostess Margaret Brooke, the fabled Ranee of Sarawak.

In her memoir, Brooke recalled Hudson bare-back riding a stallion round a field. He was nearly 70 years old at the time. It was an echo of his former life, as a gaucho cowboy on the Pampas of South America. Grey and Brooke are among the many prominent figures of the era who loved Hudson's writing, and the man himself.

Conor's talk reveals how this unschooled, impoverished, battle-scarred immigrant came to be so influential in the creation of the RSPB by its founding women, and in the rise of the modern-day conservation movement.

He travels to Hudson's homeland and discovers that he is remembered and celebrated there, including by the BirdLife International partner organisation, Aves Argentina. He links Hudson's life and legacy to today, and compares then and now. It's a costume drama, with plenty of birds.


*The painting is based on a photograph taken in the New Forest, which was one of Hudson's favourite haunts, described vividly in his book Hampshire Days (1903).

Friday 10 November: The Return of the White-tailed Eagle by Tim Mackrill.  This meeting will be held by Zoom video call only

In 2019 the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England began a five-year reintroduction project to restore breeding White-tailed Eagles to England after an absence of over 200 years. In this talk, Dr Tim Mackrill will describe progress so far, including how the young eagles have been tracked across the UK, and even into continental Europe using the latest satellite tracking technology. He will also explain how the released birds are learning to live successfully in the English landscape and will describe the team’s expectations and hopes for the future.


Tim Mackrill is an ornithologist with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, leading the charity’s work on White-tailed Eagles, Ospreys and other species in England.

Friday 8 December: Christmas Social.  8th December, 7.30pm: in the Main Hall at Cottenham Community Centre, 250A High St, Cottenham CB24 8RZ

See https://www.cottenhamcc.org/map/ 

The Centre is opposite the Co-op store.  On street parking. Enter via the side door, where there is a ramp.

(Please note: this is not the usual Village College venue)


Join us for some festive refreshments and four short talks:

Noah Bailey - ‘Being a young birder’

Louise Bacon - ‘A wee wander’

Brendan Doe - ‘L'isola di Ventotene: Italy's hidden birding jewel’

Andrew Dobson – ‘An influx of American Warblers - which one will be next?’


Free for members; small charge for non-members