A weekend with the members

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A weekend with the members

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RSPB Members’ Weekend is always a great event in the calendar and once again, I was “on duty” at the 2013 extravaganza at University of York, attempting to make myself as useful as possible.

In case you have never been before, the weekend happens every April and is a packed three days of talks, presentations, stands, excursions and workshops – and more. It’s a great way to meet fellow RSPB members and to meet RSPB staff – like me! And I tell you something else, the food isn’t half bad either.

Early risers

As usual, I led the early morning bird walk around the campus along with my loyal band of co-leaders. I’m always amazed at the enthusiasm shown by people getting up for a 6 o’ clock kick off. We always get around 100 people turning up, so I feel the pressure to dig out something of interest to reward their efforts.

Following three weeks of bitter north-east winds, and having just done an interview for the RSPB podcast about the lack of migrant birds up until mid April, I wasn’t sure we’d even get any migrant birds. I needn’t have worried though as the ornithological gods smiled on me with the wind switching to the south at last on the Friday.

In fact, I’d already had a stroke of luck while on “meet and greet” duty for delegates on the Friday afternoon, while helping people with their bags with my colleague and birding chum Richard Bashford when I spotted a male hen harrier migrating north over the campus. Fab!

Once I’d finished my duties, a walk to the new lakes on campus produced some real goodies with an Arctic tern accompanying a common tern, several  jack snipes, green sandpiper, little ringed plovers and more.


The auditorium by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

Anyway, the early morning walk did the business again and my stake outs from the day before paid off with most groups enjoying top views of treecreepers, siskins and redwings representing the winter visitors and a few chiffchaffs in on the migrant front.

I accompanied the excursion on the Saturday afternoon to RSPB Old Moor – a reserve I’d never been to before. There was some good birds to be seen here too with several bramblings, tree sparrows, Mediterranean and little gulls delighting my group.

Losing my grip

My other official duties were on the meet and greet front on auditorium duty for the evening presentations, which included a cracker from the lively Mike Dilger from the One Show. Swapping my outdoor gear for my bird walk duties for my eveing wear, including a brand new pair of leather shoes, I head over, practising my best welcoming smile whern suddenly, the world was turned upside down. They’d forgotten to put any grip on my new footwear and I was lying perilously close, on my back, the the hoardes of bird droppings from the various geese and ducks that frequent the campus.

With only 5 minutes to go before I was on duty, I hardly dare check for damage on my neatly pressed, pale blue, linen shirt, but it was the embarrassment of it all that was my first concern. Luckily, it was dark and I could only see three people in the vicinity. Hopefully, they’d keep quiet and save my blushes, was the consoling thought I had. Amazingly, there wasn’t a mark on me, so dusting off my pride, I scurried over to the auditorium.

There were some great talks at Members’ Weekend and it was nice to see bits of Mike Unwin’s turtle dove feature in the current issue of Birds being quoted and to hear from the Albatross Task Force (more on them next issue).

If you’ve never been to Members’ Weekend before, I really recommend you give it a go next year – from the chance of getting a good laugh at me falling on my backside to the chance to see some good birds (I saw 70- species round the campus this year - not abd at all...). Hopefully see you next year. 

  • A great list for Members weekend and loved the tale of the trip. I'll will certainly try and get there next year especially if you are wearing the same shoes...