Monday, November 23, 2015

In praise of the Obs

As some of you may already know, here at Filey Bird Observatory & Group (FBOG) we try and go the extra mile with our annual report, and our 2014 edition was just published to some very welcome and gratifying acclaim - most recently thanks to Rare Bird Alert. Click the link below to read their review, where you can also order a copy (and if you're thinking about doing so, remember all proceeds go straight back into our local voluntary work....)

Rare Bird Alert review the 2014 Filey Bird Report

What many might not be aware of, however, is the work that goes on behind the scenes - so while I'm here, a timely and reverent nod to my colleagues. I'm proud not only to be part of the team who put together the report, but also part of the team who run the good ship FBOG, through rarely becalmed (and often tiresomely choppy) waters. We're a tiny Observatory by any standards, with no premises, no paid staff, no financial backing; hence, we're total reliant on our members (the lifeblood of the group and its work), and a small, dynamic team of hard-working volunteers who resolutely take care of business with a quiet passion and skill. How so few people can do so much (and for so little credit) is an inspiration.

First and foremost, the fundamental responsibilities of a Bird Observatory are to monitor bird populations and migration, and to run an active ringing programme. Easier said than done with such a small number of active regular observers here, and sadly fewer still are prepared to participate in monitoring and surveying; but again, thanks to a dedicated team, we're producing the goods and the results. Maintaining a meaningful ringing programme, meanwhile, is theoretically even more of a challenge (especially with no premises and paid staff), but we're very lucky to have a young, highly-skilled and enthusiastic ringing team in place - who, despite full-time jobs and having to travel to get here - manage to more than do us proud (and more so than ever in 2015).

We've made outreach, engagement, events and activities a priority over the last few years, increasing our efforts to the point where it's a major part of what we do. In addition, the ownership and management of several nature reserves represent another important component of FBOG's concerns, and (while relatively low maintenance to oversee) are of incalculable worth in an otherwise heavily-disturbed and monocultural ghetto. A total overhaul of our website and online presence, meanwhile, has seen us become one of the most welcoming, contemporary and outward-looking Obs / bird groups I'm aware of, with a consistently growing membership and support to show for it.

But it's the largely unsung work that a small nucleus of positive, forward-looking people do behind the scenes that is particularly inspiring - the kind of boring, time-consuming, and often unpleasant stuff that goes on day-in, day-out, and keeps the Obs afloat, from a team who in truth are only ever an injury or two shy of having to put the tea lady on as centre-half.

And you wouldn't believe how much unnecessary shit they have to put up with, from all manner of sources - and yet put up with it they invariably do, with far more class than is required. It's been, and continues to be, an education. Having been involved in running local wildlife groups / local recording / organising outreach and events etc over many years - often in quite fraught and challenging situations - I can honestly say that there are more martyrs and agendas to deal with in this deceptively unsleepy seaside town than anywhere else I've been involved with. But the truth is, all the pointless crap is ultimately worth it, for the birds and wildlife, for the community, for the greater good. So, huge respect to those involved - you know who you are.