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

AGM then Tackling Bird Crime
a talk from the RSPB Investigations Team

Date: Thursday 20 April 2017 at 19:30


Proceedings of the 43rd Annual General Meeting of theRSPB East Berkshire Local Group

1. Introduction and Welcome: Ken Cottam welcomed the 31 attendees to the meeting and thanked them for coming. All attendees received Notes of the 42nd AGM held on 21st April 2016 on arrival.

Ken speakingKen briefly explained he was chairing the meeting as Mike and Sue Huddy resigned unexpectedly in early February for personal and health related reasons. We wish them well in their current troubles. Ken and his wife Sheila had been asked to take over the two positions, at least until the AGM. This change had been approved by the committee and the RSPB.

2. Apologies: Mike and Sue Huddy, Ian Paine, Margaret Barber, Tony Purkiss.

3. Minutes of the 42nd AGM held on 21st April 2016: No official minutes are available so at the suggestion of the RSPB, Mike Huddy’s group leader’s report has been used with additional notes to reflect the election of the committee. This document is titled Notes of the 42nd AGM of the RSPB East Berks Local Group 21st April 2016 and copies have been distributed at this meeting.

4. Vote of acceptance of the Notes:

Proposer: Dave Pearson, Seconder: Sandy Studd, Vote carried unanimously.

5. Leader’s Annual Report:

General comments:

  • We have had a successful year. Membership is at 175 so numbers have been stable for some years.
  • Our meeting activity has had good support – three coach trips with 69 travellers, 17 guided walks with a total attendance of 272 and average of 16. Indoor meeting attendance has been a bit down on last year, seven meetings with a total attendance of 320 and average of 46. All three activities have attracted an attendance above the average for the 147 RSPB Local Groups, so we are punching above our weight!
  • We continue to receive praise from newcomers and visiting speakers for the friendly and welcoming atmosphere at our events.
  • We made our annual week-end pilgrimage to Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire for I think the 41st consecutive year.
  • As mentioned in the notes of the 2016 AGM, the group made a donation of £1,250 to the RSPB in 2016/17. We mandated this should be split equally between Engaging with Young People and the preservation/re-establishment of Lowland Chalk Grassland.

I would like to thank the following people:

  • Mike and Sue Huddy for leading the group for nearly five years. We intend to present them with a John Lewis voucher as a thank you gift from this group. They are also due to receive pins from the RSPB - Mike for ten years’ service and Sue for five years.
  • My thanks also to the committee: Jane Overall, Group Treasurer and Membership, Peter Gaines for his What’s About reports, Brian Reeve for the outdoor walks programme. Both Peter and Brian have continued to support us during the last year despite significant health problems for themselves or their immediate family so thanks you two. Helen and Dave Pearson for publicity and organisation of coach trips. Steve Williams for our brilliant website and compilation of our published programme. Sheila Cottam for organising the indoor meeting programme, refreshments, the December social and recently taking on the role of Group Secretary. Finally our two new committee members Ayla Paul for delivering and managing our Facebook page and Kate Titford who joined the committee in March. More about Kate later.
  • Thanks to everyone who helps with refreshments at indoor meetings – I cannot name you all but you know who I mean.
  • Thank you to Brian Clews, Gerry Studd and Ken Panchen for giving community presentations and representing the RSPB.
  • Thanks to Hugo Blomfield, Local Groups Officer in South East Regional Office. Hugo has been a tremendous help, especially since Mike resigned.
  • Thanks to the team at High Street Methodist Church, with special mention of the caretakers Vic and Allen who set up this meeting room for our public meetings.
  • Thanks to Steiner Binoculars for printing of our annual programme.
  • And finally, thanks to you and your fellow group members who continue to support this local RSPB group. Thank you so much.

Community Interface:

  • It is important we try to have a presence in our local community. This year we have welcomed two local initiatives.
  • The Maidenhead, Marlow and Cookham Swift Group driven by Jan Stannard. This group is doing sterling work with swift nest box placements.
  • Wild Maidenhead have set themselves the important and daunting task of preparing a biodiversity plan for this area by 2018. I do hope this group and its members can assist Wild Maidenhead in this project and hopefully all our various nature conservation groups in the area can avoid too much duplication of effort.
  • We advertise our coach trips, walks and indoor meetings as widely as possible inviting anyone to come and meet us and I hope that our website and Facebook presence make us accessible to the local community.
  • Mike Huddy promoted the RSPB and this group though the Wycombe Environment Centre until it closed.
  • Our message to the local population is come and meet us, come and join us.

December social evening:

  • You have received our 2017/18 programme (blue) and may have noticed there is no social event in December 2017. Mike made reference to falling numbers at the last AGM and in December 2016. With five days to go we had sold only 18 tickets, with 11 of those going to the committee, so it was reluctantly but unanimously decided by the committee not to organise an event in December this year. The committee will review our options for the 2018/19 programme.


  • Finally I would like to address the issue of Group leadership. Mike announced at the April 2016 AGM his firm intention to resign at the AGM this year after five years in office. We have appealed for volunteers for the post on several occasions, on our website, via the RSPB website and at our indoor meetings all to no avail. So we have a plan:
  • I am offering myself for election as Group Leader and assuming you approve I will stay in post until the next AGM in May 2018. Kate Titford will spend the coming year getting to know how the group works and shadow me with a view to standing for election as leader in May 2018. Kate is employed as a Communications Officer with BBOWT and would bring new skills to the leadership role including a sense of humour!

6. Vote of acceptance of Annual Report:

Proposer: Brian Reeve, Seconder: Julia Hatherley, Vote carried unanimously.

7. Financial Report: Jane Overall distributed copies of the financial report for the year.

Opening balance                   £4,553.14
Net income                           -£1,330.35
Closing balance 2016./17     £3,222.79

Income: Collections and donations £129, including an anonymous donation of £100 which the donor asked to be given to the RSPB Gough Island appeal,

Subscriptions £853.50, meetings £993.00, fund raising (includes raffles and December social) £388.50, coach trips £1,430, other income (book sales and income from auction of a donated stamp collection) £36.30. Total income: £3,830.30.

Expenditure: Donation to RSPB (includes £100 mentioned above) £1,350, meetings (cost of hall and speaker fees) £1,950, newsletters (includes stamps and stationery) £105.90, fund raising (includes December social refreshments) £140.18, coach trips (3 trips, tip for driver, entrance fee Elmley Marsh) £1,505, other expenditure (subsistence) £109.57. Total expenditure: £5,160.65.

Thanks were given to Jane for keeping the books in good order and to Bill Beglow, one of the founders of the group, for auditing the accounts.

8. Vote of acceptance of Financial Report

Proposer: Steve Williams, Seconder: Peter Gaines, Vote carried unanimously

9. Election of Group Leader: Ken asked Jane Overall to chair this part of the meeting. Ken Cottam stood for election as Group Leader.

Proposer: Sandy Studd, Seconder: Brian Reeve, Vote carried unanimously

Ken thanked the members for their vote.

10. Election/re-election of Committee: Present members of the committee offering themselves for re-election: Jane Overall – Group Treasurer & Membership, Peter Gaines – What’s About, Brian Reeve – Outdoor Meetings, Dave Pearson – Publicity, Helen Pearson – Coach Trips, Steve Williams – Website Manager, Sheila Cottam – Group Secretary and Indoor Meetings.

Proposer: Ken Cuell, Seconder: Julia Hatherley, Vote carried unanimously

Two new committee members require individual approval by the AGM as they have not stood before.

Ayla Paul – Social Media

Proposer: Brian Clews, Seconder: Helen Pearson, Vote carried unanimously

Kate Titford – Deputy Leader

Proposer: Helen Pearson, Seconder: Pat Wylie, Vote carried unanimously

11. Any Other Business: No AOB had been requested.

The meeting closed at 7.55pm and was followed by a presentation given by Mark Thomas.


--- 'Managing' Rare Breeders ---

Ken Cottam welcomed Mark Thomas of the RSPB’s Investigations Intelligence Team and thanked him for stepping in at short notice. Guy Shorrock, who was due to present on Tackling Bird Crime, was unable to attend due to other RSPB commitments.

A hole in an earth bankMark’s presentation was centred on protecting breeding sites and encouraging the breeding of rare breeding bird species in the UK.

He showed a black and white 1950 archive video of an illegal egg collector being caught in the act by a combination of observant members of the public reporting their suspicions to the police and the police responding with a typical early 1950 police car racing to intercept the egg thief who was escaping on a bicycle! All very amusing and cartoonish in nature but which carried the serious message that the RSPB has a very active role in detecting and preventing wildlife crime

Also shown was a very sobering picture of a huge collection of bird’s eggs, nests and bird carcasses, found by the RSPB and the police, during a raid on a house near Grimsby. Such was the severity of the criminal act that at least one species has become extinct in the area around Grimsby because of the number of eggs collected.

It was heartening to hear that following new laws introduced in 2001 the crime of egg collecting has been reduced to a small fraction of its level in pre-2001 times.

The main feature of the presentation was Montagu’s harrier. With less than ten breeding pairs in England it, along with the hen harrier, has become a major focus for RSPB protection and monitoring. Experience in Holland has shown that by placing fencing around nests to prevent predation breeding success can be raised to 90% plus, but despite such protective measures in England numbers remain unnaturally low. Shooting by the game bird industry is suspected of keeping the numbers down by the loss of birds after fledging from nests. Currently five Montagu’s harriers are fitted with GPS tags to monitor their movements.

Black-winged stilts appear to be trying to colonise the UK and the RSPB see great similarities to the situation with avocets in the early 1950s, i.e. they have the habitat available and will try to provide some initial help for these birds to establish themselves. The RSPB has plenty of reserves capable of providing the right habitat and is currently setting up large scale monitoring and protection programmes to protect any black-winged stilt nests. Unfortunately anti-predator fences do not deter crows and gulls from killing the young chicks! On 20th April two black-winged stilts were seen on Little Marlow gravel pits. A very rare event in Berkshire!

The RSPB reserve at Ham Wall in Somerset is a highly managed wetland area which is currently involved in three major rare bird breeding protection programmes – great white egret (9 pairs currently), little bittern (1 pair) and glossy ibis (1 pair).

Bee-eaters are another species that appears to be trying to colonise the UK and the RSPB has teams that rush into action to protect any nest activity reported. This is usually in old quarries which involves the RSPB in attempts to ensure the bee-eaters are left undisturbed.

Little gulls (1 breeding pair in Scotland) and Iberian chiffchaff were also mentioned as potential new residents and finally the problem of trying to protect the turtle dove was highlighted. The problem for these birds occurs overseas, illegal killing of turtle doves is threatening their very existence and customs in the offending countries, especially Cyprus and Malta, are very hard to change.

This was a very entertaining and informative presentation given by an enthusiastic and dedicated RSPB officer. We were fortunate at very short notice to get such a good replacement for our original planned presenter, who may yet visit us at a later date. A big thank you to the RSPB Investigations Intelligence Team!

Swift survey – Please report possible nest areas to Peter Gaines, Brian Clews or directly to the RSPB. Make sure you see the swifts as well as hearing them as many nest boxes now contain a sound system with a swift call!

Wild Maidenhead event on Saturday 13th May – Maidenhead High Street
Kate Titford
gave an overview of this event and appealed for volunteers to help on our RSPB East Berks stand. The event runs from 10.00am – 4.00pm and we need helpers to talk to the public about the RSPB and our group in particular and also to lend a hand with a craft activity for children. Please contact Kate on 07753 840573 or Brian Reeve on 01628 680810 as soon as possible if you are able to help.

Peter Gaines reported on What's About in our area:

  • Dinton Pastures - 2 oystercatchers, 1cuckoo, 1 garganey, reed warblers
  • Little Marlow Gravel Pits – brambling, 2 black-winged stilts
  • Maidenhead Thicket (Shire Horse end) – 2 firecrests
  • White Place Farm – 3 oystercatchers, 3 shelducks, 3 little egrets
  • Widbrook – greylag geese
  • Summerleaze gravel pit – wheatear, little ring plover
  • Generally most warblers are back.
--- Original Programme Information ---

No entrance fee for this event.

A brief AGM including the Group Leader's annual report, Treasurer's report and the election of committee members (only group members may vote).

The AGM is followed by a presentation entitled Tackling Bird Crime, presented by a member of the RSPB Investigations Team.

Two GoshawksGoshawks
Picture © Copyright Roger Mangersnes via RSPB. Do not reproduce without permission

This talk will be an overview of the Investigations team – who we are, how we investigate bird crime, how we assist the police, details on what the main issues are and who are mainly committing these offences, some of our previous cases and what we’re working on at the moment, i.e. hen harriers.

Dead Red-footed Falcon Hen Harrier in flight
Shot Red-footed Falcon  Hen Harrier


Pictures © Copyright RSPB. Do not reproduce without permission

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