Celebrating the first Scottish Bird Camp
Celebrating the first Scottish Bird Camp06 Jul 2022
The first weekend in June saw us co-hosting the first ever Scottish Bird Camp, held in partnership with the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC). Twelve excited young people ranging between 11 and 15 years old gathered at our East Lothian base - loaded down with binoculars, cameras, and all the gear they’d need for an action-packed weekend.
Saturday morning was bright and sunny and we were lucky to be joined by local moth enthusiast Katty Baird who brought two very full moth traps. As ‘Catch more moths’ was voted top of the weekend aims by some of the group this was a very welcome activity! There was a fantastic haul of moths of a dazzling array of shapes and sizes. Poplar Hawk-moths and Buff-tips proved particularly popular captures. Cameras were out, as were sketchbooks and even watercolours.
This led nicely to a visit from local wildlife artist Darren Woodhead who effortlessly engaged the group on all things arty. He brought all sorts of props with him (wings and feathers) and got the kids making their own bird models which were soon flying all around the garden of the Hall.
There was a fantastic haul of moths, from Poplar Hawk-moths to Buff-tips...cameras were out, as were sketchbooks and even watercolours.
This was followed by a peaceful walk in nearby woods looking and listening for birds as we went. Chris from BTO’s Youth Team even led a mindfulness session and the group really got into this.
After a picnic lunch, we piled in the minibus bound for Dunbar and the Bass Rock. We were met by Maggie Sheddan, custodian of the Bass Rock and Blue Wild Tour Guide. It was sunny with a little wind and the fast boat made quick work of the trip out to the world’s largest Gannet colony. Any seabird colony is an assault on all the senses, and the Bass Rock didn’t disappoint - the air was full of swirling seabirds, the noisy rattling call of Gannets and the unmistakable whiff of seabird guano. What a trip!
Back at the Hall, we let the group have some time to do their own thing whilst dinner was prepared. After the meal, Ben gave the group some top tips on nest finding and then, after a brief wander up the field to look for signs of Badgers, they went off to bed to get ready for Day 2.
After an early start on Sunday, we drove over to meet up with the Lothian Ringing Group who kindly put on a bird ringing demonstration for us. They were already underway, and as soon as we arrived we watched as they carefully processed and released a range of woodland birds. The group were shown the nets and how the birds are extracted, and each of the young people was then allowed to help release a bird- a magical moment for everyone.
Each of the young people helped release a bird - a magical moment for everyone.
After the ringing demo, we made our way down to Musselburgh for a quick bite of lunch in the sun and then some birding at the lagoons and looking out over the seawall to the Forth estuary. As half the group did this the other half went out looking for nests with a local expert Colin Davidson and were shown the nests of Whitethroat, Thrush, and Linnet. Some of the group even put their newfound skills to the test and then found their own nests! The groups then swapped over and got a chance to try the other activity.
At mid-afternoon, we made our way back to the Hall to get packed up and conclude an amazing weekend, but not before sharing a few tales of what we’d seen, done, and learnt with the participants’ families who joined us for a chat and a brief presentation of photos from the trip.
Our thanks go to our fantastic group of young folk who came along. Session leaders Katty Baird, Darren Woodhead, the crew at Blue Wild Tours, and all the volunteers from Lothian Ringing Group all gave generously of their time, energy and knowledge. Special thanks go to Carol Miller and Ptolemy McKinnon who spent the full weekend with the group and helped in more ways than we have space to list! Kevin Sinclair helped to co-ordinate Sunday’s activities with local volunteers. Finally we must thank Jane Allison and the rest of the team at SOC and also Faye and Chris from the BTO Youth team for all their help and support throughout.
The 2022 Scottish Bird Camp was a partnership event by the British Trust for Ornithology and the Scottish Ornithologists' Club.
It was made possible by the generous support of the Cameron Bespolka Trust and the British Birds Charitable Trust. Support was also given by the Aberbrothock Skea Charitable Trust, the Gillman Trusts and the Hugh Fraser Foundation.
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