Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Stepping Down, Stepping Up

After seven productive years, I recently decided the time was right to step down as (voluntary) Communications Officer for Filey Bird Observatory, joining my good friends and esteemed colleagues Rich and Bec in moving on to pastures new. As anyone who's passionately invested lots of time and energy in a collaborative project will tell you, sometimes you know when you've done what you can within the framework available, and when you've taken something as far as it can go with circumstances as they are. Times change, and it's time to focus on other projects and causes.

I'm really proud of the progress made and the many things achieved during these last seven years - especially given the unique challenges faced by a tiny, 'virtual' voluntary Bird Obs with no premises, financial backing or any of the traditional strengths shared by its contemporaries; it's fair to say that, over these last few years, the Obs has punched well above its weight and it's very satisfying to be leaving it in such rude health from a communications and engagement perspective.

During that time I took on multiple roles for the Obs and for some years it effectively became a part-time job (to the detriment of actual paid work, as my long-suffering Mrs will tell you!), but it's been a real pleasure, on many levels – especially where connecting so many people with birds and wildlife is concerned. As anyone who knows me will testify, it's always been one of my greatest passions, and to have channelled that passion for the benefit of the Observatory (and local and wider communities) has been very rewarding.

Over the period, Filey has gained a national - and indeed international - reputation for excellence (particularly regarding engagement and outreach); has enjoyed a much-improved, increasingly positive connection with the local community; has developed a profile and reach which is the envy of numerous bigger, funded and staffed observatories around the world; has doubled its membership in increasingly challenging circumstances; has produced an annual report (for several years at least) that raised the bar and set new standards; has enjoyed a highly regarded and popular online presence – from the website to social media platforms and beyond - that befits a modern, dynamic bird obs; and has reaped the myriad rewards of an unrivalled annual events programme, the benefits of which of course trickle down in multiple, lasting ways.

There are numerous other wins that I've been proud to be part of over those years – forging a close relationship with our neighbours at Flamborough Bird Observatory, creating partnerships with many other groups and organisations, being part of the team that successfully won and implemented funding for large scale improvements at Filey Dams (our local wetland reserve), instigating projects with local schools, supporting other community groups, etc - but most of all, it's been a constant pleasure to have cultivated the means by which those who may otherwise have remained disengaged have made lasting connections with Filey's birds and wildlife, and thus their conservation.

We've of course offered to help and advise with any transitions, and talking of we - it's been a privilege to work alongside several fantastic, dynamic and forward-looking people - Bec and Rich, for instance, being unbelievably patient, generous and tolerant to the last. But from a voluntary perspective it's time for me to step up for and focus attentions elsewhere. I'll still of course be organising #Migweek, the flagship free birding festival in October, leading free events and flying the flag for local conservation causes on top of birding and working in the field I love. Onwards and upwards!