A BTO Bird Camp bonanza
Bird Camp staff, volunteers and campers
SOC/BTO Scottish Bird Camp
Buoyed by the success of the first-ever Scottish Bird Camp in 2022, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) and BTO were excited to launch Bird Camp 2023, which took place over the weekend of 26–28 May.
Once again, we based the camp in East Lothian, and campers began to arrive late on Friday afternoon – all tooled up with binoculars, scopes and cameras (so many cameras!) – to get settled into the accommodation.
Perhaps miraculously, we enjoyed superb weather for the whole weekend and all the planned activities could go ahead! It was an action-packed weekend which included moth trapping, arts and crafts, nest monitoring, a boat trip to Bass Rock, building bird boxes, a ringing demonstration and a nature walk at the coast.
Our huge thanks go to the group of amazing young people who joined us for the weekend. They did everything with great enthusiasm and were always keen to learn more. They were great company and we’re sure we’ll be seeing them again in the future!
Thanks also to all our volunteer leaders, and everyone who helped make it such a special weekend.
Steve Willis – Scottish Bird Camp lead for BTO Scotland
- Read more about the SOC/BTO Bird Camp 2023 on the SOC Blog.
The SOC/BTO Bird Camp was made possible by the generous support of our funders:
Bird Camp Wales
On 16–18 June, I attended BTO Bird Camp Wales for the second year in a row, in Pembrokeshire. There were a lot of old faces and friends there, but also some new people who came. It was lovely to see everyone again in person because I have only been in contact via WhatsApp since last year. My friends at school don’t have the same interests as me so I love bird camp because it lets me make friends with people who do.
I loved every minute of bird camp but here are my favourite bits:
The places: Some of these are amazing! We went to places like Skomer Island and Stack Rocks. At these places, we saw some of the star species like Puffins, Guillemots, Peregrines and Manx Shearwaters.
The food: There was lovely food back at camp that the volunteers had made for dinner and lunch. My favourite food was the chilli on the first night there.
I loved bird camp with all my heart and hope to go again next year. Thank you to all the staff for making it a blast for me and everyone else.
The staff: The volunteers working with us were beyond wonderful and I learnt so much from them. I hope to work with them in the future again. Faye and Chris (BTO Youth staff) who ran the camp were as wonderful as the volunteers and I hope to meet them again next year.
I would talk about the bad bits of bird camp – but there are none! I loved bird camp with all my heart and hope to go again next year. Thank you to all the staff for making it a blast for me and everyone else.
Henry (12) – Bird Camp Wales camper
Bird Camp England
Summarising the Bird Camp experience is as difficult as resisting the temptation to raise your binoculars when you’re there. I had an incredible experience as a camper in 2022, and this was mirrored for me in 2023, when I found myself on the other side of the experience as a youth volunteer. I loved seeing lifelong memories being made and new friendships forming, just as I had experienced the year prior.
We had fifteen enthusiastic and knowledgeable campers who each had their own creative flair. I particularly enjoyed seeing the campers working on exhibition pieces for parents and guardians to see at the end of the weekend. These included paintings of habitats, nature journalling, and even acrostic poems! Our base of operations was the classroom at Flatford Mill in Suffolk where exhibition pieces (and sightings lists!) were worked on between wildlife-watching trips.
One of the many highlights of the weekend was the boat trip from Harwich Harbour. The coastal air added Little Terns, Cormorants, seals and more to the sightings lists, following on from the day before, which included the excitement of seeing Turtle Doves!
Seeing the fantastic young people all having a blast reminded me of the importance of these camps. No matter your birding knowledge or confidence level, for those two nights, Bird Camp is your home.
As well as the boat trip, campers were given insights into how to contribute to BTO science – bird ringing and point count surveys – and taking part in moth trapping and pollinator surveys. And of course, the healthy competition of the bioblitz and relaxation from the mindfulness session brought campers closer together too.
I was hugely grateful for the England Bird Camp after I attended as a camper last year, for the way it opened up the world of birdwatching for me. This year, seeing the fantastic young people all having a blast reminded me of the importance of these camps. No matter your birding knowledge or confidence level, for those two nights, Bird Camp is your home.
Adam (16) – Bird Camp England 2023 Volunteer and Youth Advisory Panel Member
Bird Camp Northern Ireland
Where do I start? How about with the weather? I would say it rained for about 75% of the weekend. But despite this not once did I hear a young person complain. Instead, they put on their coats, grabbed their binoculars and marched out into the rain. This is the second year BTO has run a camp in Northern Ireland, and in both years I have been so inspired by the knowledge, curiosity and enthusiasm the young people have for the natural world and everything it brings.
For me, the highlights of this camp include the bioblitz in Davagh Forest, archery at Gortin Activity Centre and the bird ringing demonstration run by Stephen, Sorrel and Emma. After the disappointment of having no birds at last year’s ringing demonstration, it was amazing to catch 22 birds this year. The team was amazing and kept all the young people interested and getting to release a goldcrest is an experience I will never forget.
Bird Camp also happened to fall on my birthday this year. A 5:30 wake up, a titanic cake decoration, 14 young people singing happy birthday, and spending 3 hours in the rain sums up one of the stranger birthdays I’ve had, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I have been so inspired by the knowledge, curiosity and enthusiasm the young people have for the natural world and everything it brings.
Each year, I’ve taken something different away from Bird Camp. Last year I learned never to treat a bird as if it’s boring. Doesn’t matter how common you think it is, to someone else it could be the most exciting bird they’ve seen all year.
This year, I learnt how to adapt to changing circumstances and be flexible and how to prepare for and run a session of my own. Most of all, I learned that there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. Oh, and I’m also apparently amazing at archery!
Benjamin – Bird Camp Northern Ireland 2023 volunteer, Youth Representative for Northern Ireland and Mental Health & Mindfulness (MMH) project participant
BTO Bird Camps in England, Northern Ireland and Wales are made possible thanks to the support of the Cameron Bespolka Trust.
Finding the wild side in Northern Ireland
Jemma Davies is the new Engagement Coordinator for BTO in Northern Ireland. How better to kick off her role than the Wild Weekend at Oxford Island?