Monday, 21 April 2014

BTO Workshop and Stone Curlews

Now I said in my last blog that the purpose of me visiting Norfolk was to deliver a talk explaining what birding means to me at the BTO Head Quarters (The Nunnery), which was all organised by A Focus on Nature (or AFON).

The day started with amazing talks from a mix of the BTO staff and how they got their jobs; so where they had studied, what they had studied  and all the volunteering and stuff they had done. They had all done such different things and some hadn't even been all that birdy until they started their BTO jobs. 

Before me and all the other young wildlife lovers begun to talk, we all had 4 workshop experiences to chose from, all of which could be career paths. Out of the 4 we all had to pick 3 and I chose nest recording, ringing and surveying. 

So ringing, possibly one of my favourite parts of bird conservation, was quite interesting as I could see how everyone was fully engaged with the demo. I think overall we had 45 minutes of observation and the odd time handling birds, including Blackbirds, a Blackcap and a Marsh Tit. Harry Martin (who travelled down to Norfolk with us) had never held a bird before, so he got to let most of them go, including the Marsh Tit. His smile was enormous.

One of the amazing walled gardens at the BTO HQ

Now on to nest recording; I am rather fond of this now as it's another great way of interacting and helping with bird conservation. This workshop experience was led by Dave Leech, a lovely, helpful and really knowledgeable man. He has been bombarded with tweets from everyone since he introduced us all to the wonders of ringing. 

Before we went out to see some nests, we were  given a talk by Dave so we could understand how to nest record and understand really what it is actually about.  He also tested us on our bird song recognition.  After the talk, we were led outside and shown some nests including a Chaffinch, a Song Thrushes and a Blackbird.

Dave Leech showing us the Blackbird nest

As you can just make out in the picture, the Black Birds had chicks, 3 in fact. By the way, if you ever want to nest record you are not allowed to handle the pulli, unless you're a qualified ringer. So even I wouldn't ever take a bird out of a nest.

A Blackbird chick in Dave's safe hands
Now before I go on to talk about the second part of my blog, I'm yet to tell you how my talk went with all the other young people, the audience and of course a Focus on Nature and the BTO (the people who invited me).
Before I started the talk, I had a bit of time to meet and talk to some of the people also talking and taking part; it was great to meet everyone and I made great friends with Toby Carter, Ben Moyes, Josie Hewitt, Alex Berryman, Ellis Lucas, Mya Rose Craig and Abbey Miller (her birdy sister Evie was in China so I didn't see her).

Now in a good way and a bad-ish way, I was talking first.  I myself am not the most confident person talking in front of a large audience, and I have to say when I first started I was a little wobbly but then I got straight into it after about 30 seconds and just let my feelings spill out (so I think it went okay).  I talked about what birding means to me and the importance of all the conservation things I try to help with like ringing, WeBS count and even blogging.  I even managed to ring everyone with my WildeAboutBirds wrist bands.

I was glad at the end to meet everyone; it was great to talk to Ieuan Evans and see Andy Clement again, well I mean it was great to meet everyone, so I would like to say thank you to everyone who helped and supported me throughout that talk and everything that led up to it. But a really special thank you to Lucy McRoberts from AFON who organised it all.

I really, really learnt a lot and met some amazing people who I know I will see again. 

Stone Curlews

Now onto my second part of my blog, Stone Curlews. After the whole BTO day was finished, me and my family, Alex Berryman, Josie and Josie's mum (Alison) went to see if there were any Stone Curlews about at Weeting Heath, and fantastically enough there they were. I think these birds have eyes like Sparrow Hawks (only a bit more bulging) and remind me of prehistoric birds.

Out of the whole visit we managed to spot 4 birds (you can only see 3 in the next picture, as the fourth was sitting in a nest further away down the field).

These were really interesting to watch and you will see some of their behavior in the pictures below (thanks mum for the pictures).

In these 2 pictures below, you can see that 2 males were fighting whilst a female was watching (it was quite intense).

There was also an awful lot of displaying going on, as you can see in the picture below.

When we arrived to watch them, they were right up close and we got some great views, however they soon started to drift away, and one male kept trying to nest change with it's chose female.

On the way out of the hide we bumped into Ellis and his dad who had also gone to see them. I really hope I meet all these people again, they just feel how I feel and I can talk to them about all the things I really love.

I have really enjoyed my time in Norfolk and it would be great if I could go again. It has been a pleasure meeting everyone, and I can't wait until something like this happens again. So no pressure Lucy McRoberts!


  1. Great blog post Findlay, the Stone Curlew were awesome! It was nice to meet you

  2. HI Finlay Well done with your speaking engagement. Now the shots you got of the Stone Curlew are very good. All together a great day out for you and the others.

  3. Cracking blog Findlay. Your little talk was fantastic, I would've been terrified.
    Great to meet you and your Mam and Dad and look forward to catching up again in the not to distant future.

  4. A wonderful post Findlay... sounds like you had a fantastic trip.
    Great shots of the Stone Curlews Heather (Mum)

  5. You done well to get some images of stone curlews from Weeting Heath, they were to elusive when I went.
    It sounds like you had a great time at the BTO and sounds like you've got a lt from it.

  6. Sounds as though you had a great experience at the BTO Findlay. Well done on getting through your 'talk' okay, and you've made a lot of new 'contacts' for the future.
    Stone Curlews?...jealous?....nooo!...not ME!! (well done with the photos mum!)...[;o)

  7. Wonderful curlew images...I really enjoyed the blackbird chick also!!

  8. A great post for the bird-theme!
    Well done!

  9. What a fun day, and you got some great shots!

  10. What a great opportunity! The BTO is a really remarkable organisation.

    Do the Stone Curlews have a really strange call? Ours do.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  11. Thanks for the informative images of the stone curlew. :)
    I think you mentioned you wanted to see the Red-Vented- Bulbul with it´s crest up. Well, I have posted some better images on the world bird blog. Check it out if you wish. :)

  12. Finlay, you seem to be a very nice young man with a deep interest in conservation and birding. A bit of advice my husband always gave his students when giving a talk, was to take a deep breath but never start with 'am' or 'ah' or the like. Best to wait a moment and launch right in to the topic. I am sure you did very well. Keep up the good work!

  13. A wonderful selection of photos here.
    Congratulations on your successful presentation at the workshop.

  14. Superb Findlay. I caught up with the Stone Curlew at Weeting Heath a few weeks ago too. Lifers for me. Cracking birds.