African Bird Club AGM

African Bird Club AGM ~ 16th April 2016 ~ 

Last Saturday I had a very enjoyable day at the Natural History Museum in London. The main reason for my visit wasn't to peruse the displays, but instead to attend my first African Bird Club (ABC) AGM. After successfully navigating the underground and the massive queue that greeted us upon our arrival at the museum, we finally made it up to the Flett Events Theatre which is were the AGM was being held.
The first talk of the day came from ABC President, Tasso Leventis and was all about the Vultures of Africa. It focussed on the declines that many vulture species have experienced, the reasons for this and a strategy for reversing the decline. It was a very interesting and thought-provoking talk and was illustrated with some fabulous photos of Africa's vulture species.

Next up was Dr Shiiwua Manu, Director of the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) in Nigeria. He was talking about the research institute itself, how it has developed, aims for the future and a brief look at some of the research that has been conducted there so far.

The last talk before lunch was from Niki Williamson of RSPB and Simon Tonkin of Conservation Grade all about Turtle Doves and the research that is happening in Senegal. The researchers are looking into their behaviour in their wintering areas and working out what the bird's priorities are while they're there. This research highlighted the bird's 3 major activities: foraging, resting and drinking/waiting to drink. This is important because it shows that water is obviously of major importance to the birds and in sub-Saharan countries such as Senegal this knowledge is vital so as to protect important water sources. Simon went on to talk about Fair to Nature foods whereby crops that are used in bird foods, such as millet and peanuts, can be grown in a more environmentally friendly way and so that the famers are incentivised to grow such crops that the Turtle Doves (and other birds) will feed on. It was really interesting to hear about the other threats that this declining species face since shooting/hunting is the one you hear about most often. It was also great to hear about some solutions to the problem and that such strategies are already being implemented in some places and can hopefully be rolled out to more locations across the East Atlantic Flyway over the coming years.
After a lovely lunch, we returned to the lecture theatre for the first session of the afternoon. It began with the Annual General Meeting in which the Clubs' finances, membership fees and other stuff was discussed. I was also elected as the new Next Generation Birders representative, taking over from my friend Ros Green. In taking on this role I am keen to get involved with the club, learn more about Africa and its birds as well as meeting more like-minded people and helping the club to increase their youth/student membership!

Next came a superb talk from Debbie Pain (Director of Conservation at WWT) on the Madagascar Pochard Project. She spoke about the last 10 years of the project; how it began, the challenges faced and the establishment of a successful conservation breeding programme. She then went on to talk about the future of this threatened species, and how a nearby lake has been deemed a suitable location for the reintroduction of the Pochard in order to increase population levels in the wild in order to give the species the best chance of survival. A really interesting talk and I look forward to hearing how the project develops over the coming years!
The second-to-last talk was from Luca Borghesio of Nature Kenya on the Taita Apalis, a species endemic to the Taita Hills of Kenya. Luca spoke about his nest finding and colour ringing projects which aim to help with population estimates as well as helping identify the main drivers of productivity and adult survival rates. He presented some of the data he has collected so far which showed that where breeding success was high, adult survival was low and where adult survival was high, breeding success was low. These correlations seemed to be affected by altitude but hopefully Luca's work will confirm this theory in future and help work out what, if anything, can be done to help conserve this endangered species.
After a tea break came the last talk of the day from Keith Betton, ABC Vice-President. Keith's talk was about the endemic bird species found on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe which lie 200miles off the coast of Gabon. It was great to hear about his trip and about all the cool species that he managed to see...yet another location I need to add to my list of places to visit! It sounded like a great trip and was illustrated with some superb images of the endemics.
The day finished with the raffle draw and a few words from Richard Charles, ABC Chairman.

After the AGM had come to a close and I'd said goodbye to those I could find, we made our way through some of the exhibits to one of the shops to have a nose at the books on offer. With a huge amount of willpower I managed not to buy any books at all on the day - a rare occurrence given my love of reference books!

Anyway after a brief look around the shop we made our way out of the museum and headed back to the tube to begin the journey home.

I had a lovely day and I would like to take this opportunity to thank those behind the scenes of ABC for organising such brilliant speakers for the AGM - it was such an interesting day with lots to take away from it. I would also like to thank you for inviting me to sit on the Council as the NGB representative - I look forward to working with the club in the future!

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