A Focus On Nature

A Focus On Nature

Inspiring Students with Citizen Science. By David Hunter.

After such an overwhelmingly positive start to University Birdwatch Challenge (3 months in we had 113 participants, 9 universities and 9,246 records), it was even more encouraging to hear that the project had inspired one student to take things a step further and set up an official Ornithological Society at the University of Reading. David Hunter explains a bit more about his ambitions and motivations….

How long have you been birding?

I’ve been bird watching since I was 5, when I made my parents join the RSPB and go to Pulborough Brooks for my birthday! It was a long term hobby that has spiralled into something that I would like to do for the rest of my life, and if I can, I would like to work in Ornithology.

Have you found that you’ve met other birders/like-minded young folk either at school, college or university?

There were very few people at school or college that I could share my interests with, so most of my non – birding friends had to listen to me going on about them! Since going to University however I have found a lot more people who are interested in birds, and it has been great to be able to discuss them in a more open way; as well as to gain knowledge from other peoples experience.

What was the catalyst for setting up the UoROS?

I had been considering setting up UROS for a number of months before I approached anyone with the idea, and had gotten the idea from thinking about how to get more people involved with (specifically those on campus) birds, in order to gain uptake for the University Birdwatching Challenge, as well as to improve the overall knowledge that Reading students from any degree had on the wildlife around them.

 How many people have joined, and how have people responded to you?

Although we have been approved to become an official society by the University, we have yet to be able to take on paid members; however over 50 students from all years have gotten in contact to say that they are interested. A week after having told people about the idea of the society over 25 people came to the initial meeting.

Do you think it’s important to get students involved in schemes relating to nature?

I feel it is very important to get more students and young people involved with nature, especially as technology is pulling my peers away from the outdoors and becoming dissociated from nature. AFON and UBC are great ways of getting people out there looking for things that they wouldn’t normally see, and the competitive aspect will bring in others who wouldn’t normally consider what is around them. AFON certainly seems helps to provide a more comfortable and welcoming environment for young people to be able to get into contact with like minded peers and support them on a path towards working with the natural world.

What are the top birds you’ve seen on campus?

The top birds I’ve seen on Campus have to be the Goosander pair that were here for several months earlier this year. Having never seen them in the wild before it was fantastic to see these birds out in such an easily accessible area and so close. We have also had a pair of Firecrests in both years I’ve been here, which are always lovely to see.

What have you learnt from UBC in terms of other opportunities?

David: Although I am already training to be a bird ringer and am getting involved with the nest box scheme, I was unaware of Bird Track and the local equivalent, ‘BerksBirds’. These two websites are fantastic and without the competition I wouldn’t have known they existed! Going out every day or every couple of days on campus to look for these birds has also helped me to find local populations of birds and know where most things are on campus which has been fascinating as it helps me to better understand where they sit in the local ecosystem (it is all very well reading about it but seeing it happen in the field is very different!).