Indoor Meetings about Birds and Wildlife

AGM then Saving Nature: Recovering the UK’s most threatened birds and habitats
a talk by Gwyn Williams

Date: Thursday 16 May 2019 at 19:30


Twenty-eight people attended this meeting which began with the Group’s 45th AGM, chaired by Kate Titford, Group Leader.

The full minutes of the AGM are available here as a .DOC  and  available here as a .PDF

The one significant item of the meeting was the announcement by Kate that she will resign from the leadership role and committee at the AGM in May 2020. This is due to work commitments which revolve around the Oxford area.

Now to the other part of the meeting – Gwyn Williams, Head of Conservation Development at the RSPB, described the organisation’s efforts to save threatened bird species from local or global extinction.

The story began in the 1970s with the publication of threatened species list “the red list”. This was a list of bird species in danger of UK extinction. There was also an amber list of birds where the UK held a significant proportion of a global population, e.g. the northern gannet, with over 60% of their total population in the UK. A third list consisted of species living in our overseas territories. These included ground nesting seabirds being decimated by introduced rodents, including rats and “super mice” that have evolved to be big enough to eat albatrosses alive. The UK has responsibility for protecting more penguins than any other country.

The three big success stories of pulling species back from local extinction are the red kite, the bittern and the corncrake.

The red kite has been spectacularly successful. Actions taken in the re-introduction programme (the prevention of accidental and deliberate poisoning and illegal trapping) have also had big benefits for buzzards and ravens.

Bitterns have been saved following research by the RSPB showing that they must have prey fish in close proximity to a newly grown reed bed. If this is provided bitterns do breed and establish themselves.

The final part of the presentation was a detailed look at the programme undertaken to save the corncrake.

The corncrake requires fields of vegetation which are left undisturbed during June and July and then any cutting of the crop (usually grass for hay) carried out in a way that allows young corncrakes to escape being killed by the grass cutters. It sounds simple but required a huge amount of work by the RSPB and local crofters/farmers to establish what was causing the near extinction of these birds in the UK.

A fascinating presentation which highlighted the pivotal role played by the RSPB and its research units in saving so many iconic bird species from oblivion and there is still plenty of work left to do.

Gwyn Williams presented six members of the group with long-service awards:

  • 15 years – Gerry Studd
  • 10 years – Brian Reeve, Ken Cottam, Sheila Cottam
  •   5 years – Dave Pearson, Helen Pearson

What’s About

The report was prepared by Brian Clews and given by Ken Cottam:

Eton Wick – little egret, 2 Cetti’s warblers, garden warbler
Jubilee River – lesser whitethroat, little egret
Old Windsor – little owl, on fence-post watching the horse trials!
Battlemead, Cookham – wood sandpiper, ringed plover, 2 oystercatchers mating
County-wide – cuckoos – calling in 16 different locations during the week (including 3 records at about the same time of day at Summerleaze GP, Strand Water and Park Farm, Cookham Dean)
Padworth Common – nightjar churring, tree pipit

General return of all anticipated species including spotted flycatcher, swifts and hobbies across the county, so … EYES TO THE SKIES!

--- Original Programme Information ---

No entrance fee for this event.

A brief AGM, in which only group members may vote.

Followed by Saving Nature: Recovering the UK’s most threatened birds and habitats.
To be presented by Gwyn Williams, Head of Conservation Investment at RSPB.

The RSPB’s mission is to inspire a world richer in nature. We do this by finding solutions to 21st century conservation problems, doing world-class practical conservation, working with others to influence change and by engaging people to act for nature. But what does this really mean? How does the RSPB convert the investment its supporters give in time, money and enthusiasm into making a real difference for nature? In a talk illustrated with practical examples, Gwyn will describe how the RSPB has grown into the challenge of saving nature in an ever-changing world.

Gwyn Williams – Biography

Gwyn has worked for the RSPB for nearly 40 years. Originally appointed to campaign against the drainage of wetlands in the UK, he progressed to leading teams undertaking roles including species recovery, agriculture and water policy and advice, defending protected areas from harmful development, and the acquisition of land for nature reserves and nature reserve management. Most recently, as Head of Conservation Investment, he has been developing the use of conservation finance in the RSPB’s work. Brought up in a nature-rich family environment, he enjoys travel and getting out to count things, and has done a BBS square for over two decades.

The running order for the evening will be:

7.30 – 8.00           AGM
8.00 – 8.35           Presentation Part 1
8.35 – 9.00           Refreshments and raffle
9.00 – 9.35           Presentation Part 2