Fully sated after a tremendous lunch, and some Red Kite watching I returned to the RSPB Cymru stand on the upper level of Myddfai Community Hall. I was immediately star struck when Iolo Williams decided to come up and join me and sat down next to me!
The afternoon session kicked off with Daniel Jenkins-Jones and Kelvin Jones doing a round-up of their respective organisations, in Kelvin’s case, the recently formed BTO Cymru. In between the two talks Dr. Andy Clements (Director of the BTO) signed a new Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations. The memorandum had already been signed by RSPB Cymru Director Katie-jo Luxton, who was unable to attend. This memorandum is designed to facilitate co-operation between the two organisations, one joint project that both parties want to increase participation in is the Breeding Bird Survey in Wales. This is something I wish to return to in a future blog, and something I would like to get involved in in the future. Dan highlighted the welcome news that Lapwings had increased in numbers across the North Wales reserves, and that the organisation would remain involved in the Glaslyn Osprey Project during the handover to local groups during 2013.
BTO Director Dr Andy Clements then gave an update on the Cuckoo satellite tracking project (as featured on Springwatch 2011). In my humble opinion this is one of the greatest public projects the NGO's have done to date, Andy said during his talk that rarely a day goes by that a newspaper doesn't ask for an update, with over 4000 requests for information since the project was launched last year. He brought the conference up to date with the very latest news on how the satellite tagged cuckoos had been fairing. There are currently five tagged cuckoos still transmitting data. The most southerly of the Cuckoos have now made it to DR Congo. He also explained how the satellite tagging of Nightingales and Swifts were providing valuable new data on the trials and tribulations of these trans-Saharan migrants. The afternoon session was concluded with a talk on Wood Warblers by Danae Sheehan of the RSPB. Danae explained how the RSPB was helping bird watchers in Burkino Faso radio track tagged Wood Warblers to increase our understanding on why these birds are in such dramatic decline. Studies have shown that breeding success remain largely unchanged in the last thirty years, with nest predation unchanged, although interestingly the Jay appeared to be the main cause of nest robbing, and only one case of Grey Squirrel witnessed on the sixteen nests observed. Early indications seem to show that increased agricultural practices in the wintering grounds in Sahel are having the most likely effect on their survival rates. The evening session had two of the most interesting talks of the day. Tony Cross and Owen Williams did a presentation his work on ringing and tagging Woodcocks. There are estimated to be between a quarter to half a million of the birds in the country around now, but you would have rarely seen one, as they are secretive nocturnal birds. We learned that they are Britain's most abundant wader! I've only ever seen one, when I had a fly over in the garden here shortly after we moved in. The Woodcock Network ringed and tagged some 1200 birds, and studying the data from these tags of the recaptured birds it was found that they migrate during daylight hours, something that was unexpected. The final talk was by Tim Guildford of the Oxford Navigation group on the migration patterns of Manx Shearwaters and other pelagic birds. The tags they now use are so small that they could actually mount three on one bird and could record its flight time, time in the water and the time spent diving. We really live in an age of new discovery for the study of so many species of birds, it is quite incredible, and the more we understand, the more specific you can target your conservation of the species. The tracking data identified key areas for overwintering birds near the Patagonian Shelf (I did wonder if was because Skomer Shearwaters speak Welsh, but didn’t like to ask!) and Ireland’s Dundalk Bay. The presentation ended with some footage from an on-board camera mounted on the back of a Manx Shearwater, complete with a dolphin swimming past! To end on Shearwater-Cam topped of a wonderful day of highly entertaining talks, and meeting some wonderfully fascinating people. The whole day was a huge success, and I am now a signed up member of the WOS. I was worried I would be utterly out of my depth, but there is nothing like a day out speaking to people who have been involved in Birdwatching and conservation for decades to inspire you to do more yourself.
I would like to end these blogs on WOS2012 by thanking Dan for asking me to come, it was an incredible experience, and I can’t wait for the 2013 conference in Monmouth. I would also like to thank Iolo Williams, Andy Clements, Julian Hughes, Wayne Morris and Kelvin Jones for their time and patience in listening to this slightly excitable and star struck volunteer natter to them all day!
© All Images – Anthony Walton