John Wilson – Changes In Bird Populations Over A Lifetime

Tonight’s Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society online meeting was a real treat for over 60 members as they heard club president John Wilson reflect on over 75 years personal experience of birding the area.

Like most young boys of his era John got involved in egg collecting to a degree. He was something of an activist for birds even at that point though, intervening to protect clutches from being robbed wholesale and releasing call birds being used to entice and trap wild songbirds.

John started bird ringing in 1957, and was a founder committee member of the LDBWS in 1959. Better known perhaps is the fact that he became warden of the newly established RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss in the 1960s. He worked for the RSPB until his retirement late in the 1990s.

Many of the declines John detailed over the years were well known to many in the audience, particularly in the case of species such as Grey Partridge and Yellow Wagtail. Others probably happened to early for most people to be aware of, the tales of his mum being kept awake at night by calling Corncrakes being an example.

As well as losses there have also been gains, and whilst some of these are familiar such as egrets, Spoonbills and Cetti’s Warblers others were perhaps more surprising. It seems hard now to recall a time when the nearest Nuthatches were in Cheshire and Ravens were very rare in the area.

As well as climate change John highlighted the issue of ash dieback as something that may have repercussions for future trends in local bird populations. In terms of what people could do he highlighted increasing feeding stations, more beatbox projects for species like Pied Flycatcher and getting involved in the upcoming local Breeding Atlas.

All in all a great hour listening to a true gentleman with unparalleled experience in birding in this part of the world.

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