Reports, with Bird Lists, of our Meetings, Walks and Outings

AGM then RSPB Reserves Past, Present and Future
a talk by Gwyn Williams

Date: Thursday 21 April 2016 at 19:30


Forty-seven people attended the meeting.


As Group Leader, Mike Huddy presented his annual report -

RSPB East Berks Local Group Leader's Report

May I start by thanking everyone for their attendance tonight. I know that AGMs are not a favoured way of spending leisure time. I will be as brief as possible so that we can hear from RSPB head office.

The group, I think, has had another successful year. Membership is still around the 180 mark, meaning that we seem to recruit enough new members to make up for those we lose. Throughout this last year I have attended the High Wycombe environment centre, answering any questions on birds that people may have. At the beginning of this year I was asked to put on a small display, while a bigger display was prepared which I agreed to. I managed to speak to a number of people.  Unfortunately we lost about three days after the centre was broken into. How sad that people saw fit to break into a charity building and steal a load of second hand computers etc. Of the stuff we had in the building, the only thing we lost was a bird identification book. I suppose they will be able to identify birds they view from any prison cell.

Brighton Office has appointed a new person as Point of contact - Mr Hugo Bloomfield. As always, the office has been of great assistance to this group. I thank them.

This will be my final year as leader/chairman. The group will need a new leader and secretary as from the AGM in April 2017. Also the committee will be needing new blood. If any one here thinks that they would like to help, please speak to me or any other committee member.

At the beginning of the year the committee made the decision not to run a 100 club, as for the last two years, little or no profit was made.  At the same time, discussion was had about the Christmas social as attendance has been declining. We decided to continue with the social but please give this event your support.  Without support we may take the decision to discontinue this once very popular event.

Two members of the present committee are not seeking re-election. Both have been members of the group since its inception in 1974-75. Ernie Allan has been doing such a grand job of running our coach trips.  After 27 years he thinks it is time for someone else to do the job. I want to publicly thank Ernie for the many years he has run our trips.  I am now going to ask Ken Cottam to come forward to make a presentation (of a bird feeding table, feeders and bird food) to Ernie on behalf of Group. The other member not seeking re-election is Carol Winder who has been taken into care. Carol has been a stalwart of this group for many years. Carol, wherever you are, we thank you.

I have been very lucky to have such a supportive committee.

Jane Overall as treasurer has done a superb job. Thank you. 

Ken and Sheila Cottam has again managed to arrange a full programme of very interesting speakers and for being so supportive to me.

Brian Reeve again has managed to arrange a full programme of walks and in most cases lead them. Thank you Brian.

David and Helen Pearson who between them has organised the publicity for our meetings thank you

Helen Pearson also ran the 100 club many thanks.  Helen kindly offered to take on the job of running the coach trips. I said offered, not Arm-twisted, honestly. Thank you Helen.

Steve Williams as web master has made our website the envy of several other local groups who have often said how good our website is, always up to date.  Steve we thank you. If any of you have not seen the website I recommend you view it.

Peter Gaines has again this year kept us up to date on local sightings. Thank you Peter.

And thanks to my long suffering wife Sue, for her secretarial duties.

Again this year our programme printing was sponsored by Steiner Binoculars, for which the committee thanks them. This allows more of our money to be donated to the RSPB, talking of which, the committee has this year agreed to give a donation of £1,250.

I personally would like to give my thanks to Brian Clews who has always answered any difficult questions that may be asked. Brian was to be presented with his 35 year service badge tonight but unfortunately has been called away.  Ken Cottam will present it to him at the May meeting.

Last but not least I thank the caretakers of this venue.

Mike Huddy    

As GroupTreasurer, Jane Overall presented her annual report -

Accounts 2015/16

Jane presented detailed figures. On this website report we just say that we had a net income of around £980 from subscriptions, £350 from indoor meetings and £270 from fundraising.  Total net income was £1,600.  As mentioned by Mike in his report, £1,250 of this will soon be donated to the RSPB.



Presentation – RSPB Reserves: Past, Present and Future

Following the AGM we were delighted to welcome Gwyn Williams, Head of Reserves and Protected Areas.  Gwyn has held this position since 2006 and is responsible for present and future reserve conservation policy, as well as heading up the RSPB campaigning for nature protection and conservation. He also represents the RSPB on government working parties on implementation of the EU Habitats directive.

Gwyn gave a fascinating insight into how the RSPB’s attitudes and policies on reserves and protected areas have evolved in response to changing times.  The RSPB was formed in 1889 as a highly militant feminist group, set up to protect birds from the demands of the millinery industry for exotic plumes.  The Great Crested Grebe was nearly exterminated in the UK as it was killed for its fine feathers.  Birds of Paradise and Ostriches were also targeted.

Until the effects of two world wars, the RSPB was not in favour of establishing reserves as they saw this as providing authorities and people with an excuse for not confronting the direct threat to birds.  However, the period after the Second World War saw a series of dramatic changes to this rather naïve attitude.  Gwyn presented these as five phases:

Phase 1 (1950/60s) Driven by single species trying to recolonise the UK or on the verge of extinction

The solution was the acquisition of sites suitable to allow the recolonization and protection. Examples include Minsmere – Avocets, Havergate Island – Black Tailed Godwits, Loch Garten – Osprey, Abermethy – Capercaillie, Arne – Dartford Warbler, Dinas – Red Kites.

Phase 2 (1970/90s) Habitat Protection

It was recognised that whole habitats for birds (and nature) were in danger of disappearing as industrial, farming and housing developments grew.  Reserve policy was to acquire fenlands, marshland, estuarine and mudflat areas, upland and lowland heathland, blanket bogs, traditional farmland etc.

Phase 3 (2000s) Habitat Recreation

The RSPB set themselves the task of acquiring sites and then engineering the sites to recreate the lost habitat.  Fenland, marshes, traditional arable areas, reed beds were all included in this enterprise. Example Lakenheath Fen created from carrot fields.

Phase 4 (2000s) Collaboration with other agencies

The RSPB has also embarked on a major initiative to enter into collaborative working agreements with other land owning agents. The switch of farming subsidies to aid nature diversity has assisted the RSPB, as has the Environment Agency’s role in protecting existing nature rich sites.  Collaborations can provide access to sites that are not acquirable by purchase.

Phase 5 The Future

Climate change and global warming are changing the distribution of species and possibly moving them away from their current areas of protection.  The RPSB has set itself the task of forecasting where the new distribution lines will be and then doing two essential things:

  1. Having protected areas within the new distribution lines.
  2. Having “safe corridors” along which the effected species can travel as they respond to climate changes.

 The RSPB switched its aims from protecting birds to protecting nature and all species.  This makes so much sense in a changing world in which all species are threatened.

A very interesting and instructive presentation of an organisation that is changing policy to manage a changing environment.

---- Original Programme Information ----

No entrance fee for this event.

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

Followed by RSPB Reserves past, present and future. To be given by Gwyn Williams, RSPB's Head of Reserves and Protected Areas.

The Presentation

Ouse Fen at dawnRSPB Ouse Fen Restoration

The acquisition and management of land as RSPB nature reserves has been a cornerstone of the RSPB’s approach to conservation for many years, but it has not always been so.  Gwyn will explore how the RSPB came to invest in nature reserves, the role reserves currently play in looking after important species and habitats, and provide opportunities for people to reconnect with nature.  He will also seek to provide insight into how the RSPB acquisition policy is evolving into the future.

Rainham Marshes Visitor CentreCliffs and sea
RSPB Rainham MarshesRSPB Bempton Cliffs



Gwyn Williams has worked for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds since 1979.  Currently Head of Reserves and Protected Areas, he is responsible for leading the RSPB’s work to protect special places through the purchase and management of land as nature reserves. Then campaigning for the designation as protected areas of high ecological value and using the planning and other permitting systems to ensure their protection.

He represented RSPB on the recent UK government review of the implementation of Habitats Directive in England.  He has co-authored several papers on the role of the Birds and Habitats Directives in contributing to climate change adaptation.


All pictures are © Copyright. Do not reproduce without permission from Gwyn Williams.