Sunday, December 10, 2006

BTO R&M Conference

I have just returned from this conference, having made the visit just for Saturday. The first talk of the morning by Peter Jones (recently retired Senior Lecturer Edinburgh University) on ‘European migrants in Africa’ was interesting. Reduced to a single factor it appears, from his work, that the major reason for birds suffering on migration is their inability to fatten up, usually on berries, for their return journey to these shores.

Andre Raine (now of BirdLife International) made a formal presentation on the Twite ringing that has been going on under the co-ordination of Dave Sowter (North Lancs RG). This work was first presented at our conference in 2004, and Andre brought it all up to date. (See Ringing and Migration 23(1) 45 (2006).

The Witherby Lecture was given by Professor Theunis Piersma from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, on Red Knot. He told us how these birds find their food (via a pressure wave detected by sensors at the bill-tip), that they trade-off visiting food rich sites against predator risk, and that they have very long memories (twenty years apparently). A sample of his work can be found at:

The afternoon lectures were a little less intense, but no less interesting, when Chris Hewson (BTO) talked on Population Changes in Migratory Birds, Chas Holt (BTO) on the impact of deer grazing affecting vegetation understory and thus nesting birds, and Alex Lewis (RSPB) on factors affecting Willow Tit declines which, apparently, may be a consequence of us not looking for them in the right habitat in the first place.

Mixed in with all this was the Ringers AGM, the BTO AGM, BTO sales, posters, and pictures and books for sale – not to mention the highly productive ‘meet-and-greet’ of other BTO volunteers and staff. All in all a busy day! Oh, and I was elected to BTO Council - your inside track into new dealings at the BTO!


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