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Bird Atlas team scoop RSPB's most prestigious award

Last modified: 30 October 2014

RSPB medal winners

The RSPB believes the Atlas teams were worthy recipients of the RSPB Medal

Image: The RSPB

At the annual RSPB Members’ Day in Birmingham on Saturday 25th October 2014, the RSPB Medal was awarded to the team behind the Bird Atlas 2007–11 in a special presentation that acknowledged its role as a valuable resource to everyone involved in conserving, researching or understanding Britain and Ireland’s birds.

The RSPB Medal is the Society’s most prestigious award, recognising outstanding contribution to the cause of wild bird protection and countryside conservation. The award recognises the very special partnership between the British Trust for Ornithology, BirdWatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club which coordinated volunteers to visit all 10-km squares in Britain and Ireland, in the winter and the breeding season, to record and count the birds present. Over four years of fieldwork, online data capture, preparation of maps and data analysis resulted in the publication of a book ‘Bird Atlas 2007–11: the breeding and wintering birds of Britain and Ireland’ in November 2013. The Atlas will inform bird conservation and provide an invaluable research resource for the next 20 years.

The medal acknowledges the outstanding contribution of over 40,000 volunteers who submitted records into the Atlas.  A project of this scale could only have been successful with a skilled and enthusiastic team behind it. Receiving the medal on Saturday were the six authors of the book: Dawn Balmer, Iain Downie, Rob Fuller and Simon Gillings from the British Trust for Ornithology; Brian Caffrey, from BirdWatch Ireland; and Bob Swann, from the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club.

Dr Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of RSPB, in presenting the medal, said that “in charting geographical patterns and changes over time in the distribution and abundance of nearly 300 species, the new Bird Atlas is an extremely valuable resource not only for RSPB but for all organisations involved in conserving, researching or understanding Britain and Ireland’s birds”.

Monumental effort

Representing the Atlas team, Atlas Coordinator and lead author Dawn Balmer commented: “The Bird Atlas project was a monumental citizen science effort with thousands of volunteer birdwatchers mobilised to cover the key habitats across Britain and Ireland —from mountains, bogs, lochs and coastline to city centres, farmland and woodlands —recording the birds they found”. She accepted the medal on behalf of the volunteer birdwatchers and local volunteer atlas organisers who worked tirelessly throughout the project and were such a pleasure to work with.

Bird Atlas 2007–11 has documented the changes in the breeding-season distribution of birds over the last 20 and 40 years, and changes in winter distributions over the last 30 years. The 20 million records from the Bird Atlas have been made available to RSPB and our government agencies who will use these data to support conservation action and policy through site and species safeguard, species recovery plans and reserve management.  

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