Tuesday, 22 July 2014

BTO Conference

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ringing Demonstration by Jez Blackburn
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

At the end of April, I attended a Conference at the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) in Norfolk with A Focus on Nature (AFON).  They had planned birding workshops and I was giving a presentation.  The BTO is a charity dedicated to researching British birds (including Ringing Scheme) and AFON is a network supporting young nature conservationists.

When I am nervous, I find it hard to write to deadlines.  I kept putting off writing my talk and wrote about two paragraphs on the plane back from Jamaica.  We were driving straight to Norfolk from the airport, so I wrote frantically in the car, trying to get it finished, which I managed to do by the time we got there.  There were a few other young birders and their families staying at the same bed and breakfast as us, so it gave us all a chance to chat before the conference itself.

The next morning, breakfast was pretty relaxed and we were joined by a few more people.  When we arrived at the BTO Head Quarters, I met their Director, Dr Andy Clements.  That was really exciting as he is one of the most influential people in birding and conservation in the World.  Lots of the BTO staff introduced themselves and it was really inspiring that there were so many young women who were working as researchers. 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at ringing demo by Jez Blackburn
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

We spent the morning attending workshops on ringing, surveys, nest recording and improving bird identification skills.  That was really interesting and I learned a lot.  After lunch, there were seven people talking about “what birding means to me”.  I was the youngest along with another girl who was talking about ringing.

During the morning, I felt like I was on the edge of a panic attack; what if everybody else had memorised their talks?  What if the power point malfunctioned?  What if people didn’t laugh at my jokes?  I managed to think of everything that could go wrong, plus another hundred.  There were fifty people in the audience from the BTO and AFON, including Andy Clements.  By the time I had to go and sit at the front with the other six people, I wanted to run away and hide.  The only reason I didn’t do just that was because I was sitting next to Matt Bruce, from Next Generation Birders, a group for young birders. Matt was the oldest speaker and in his early twenties.  He was giving his talk after me and was still writing his talk whilst waiting.  He was asking me for my thoughts and opinion, which gave me a lot of confidence.

The young people up before me talked about birding, ringing and bird photography. They were all great but I didn’t think any of them had any jokes…had I got the tone of the talk wrong?

When it was my turn, I walked up to the front and realised the microphone was too tall.  There was nothing I could do now.  Also, I was standing behind a lectern and you could hardly see me over the top!  I started talking about myself, birding and World birding.  I talked about some the things that have happened along the way, which will be a whole new blog.  People were laughing at my jokes and seemed to like my funny slides, which made me feel more confident.  After a while, although I was still feeling nervous, I got into the flow of things and felt much better.

Despite feeling so nervous, I would really like to give a talk again soon.  The conference was a really good experience for me and I loved meeting so many young birders like me.  Hopefully, I can stay in contact with some of them.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at the ringing demo by Jez Blackburn
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

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