Young Birders Training Week: Investing in the future of wild bird conservation

04 April 2014

The Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) has joined forces with the country’s oldest bird observatory, the Isle of May Bird Observatory (IoMBO), in an exciting new partnership project that will offer six young birdwatchers the chance to participate in a week-long sponsored training course, run by the SOC and the IoMBO, on the Isle of May this July.

Open to individuals aged 16–25 years, the Young Birders’ Training Course will provide an opportunity for successful applicants to gain invaluable first-hand practical experience of a wide range of bird survey skills and techniques. This will include a thorough introduction to the practice of recording birds and other wildlife, experience of species counts, monitoring, ringing, trapping, ageing and sexing birds, as well as the chance to participate in activities such as visible migration watches and co-ordinated sea-watching counts. Outwith the scope of most university curricula, these skills are essential attributes for those embarking on a career or role in wildlife recording, surveying and conservation.

Chris McInerny, President of the SOC:

“The SOC, along with the IoMBO, is delighted to be sponsoring this course for young birdwatchers, as both our organisations are committed to encouraging young people with an interest in birds and natural history to acquire skills and experience that will deepen their knowledge and be useful for future study and work in this area. The Isle of May is a beautiful place and the refurbished Observatory will make for excellent lodgings. However, the type of person who will get the most of this course will be the hardy, keen, outdoor type who can survive being separated from hair straighteners and mobile phones! We are grateful to legacies and generous donations to the Club, which have allowed us to fund this exciting project.”

Stuart Rivers, IoMBO Trust:

“Following on from the recent redevelopment of the accommodation, the hosting of training courses is one of the next steps in the future direction for the Observatory. We are able to draw on the talents of highly experienced bird ringers, researchers and surveyors to pass on their skills and expertise to a new generation of keen young individuals. This course will not only provide a platform for participants to pursue a future in wildlife monitoring and conservation, but a network of contacts to assist them on their journey.”


The Isle of May, which lies five miles off the Fife coast, nestled in the mouth of the Firth of Forth, is a fitting backdrop for the course. The island is one of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves, managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and protected by European and National legislation because of its internationally and nationally important seabird and Grey Seal colonies.

The lucky participants will have the chance to find out more about the island’s rich cultural history and to sample bird observatory life, with accommodation for the duration of their stay being provided within the recently refurbished ‘Low Light’, a former lighthouse.

As part of the grant awards process and applicants’ skills development training, the group will collectively design and deliver a short presentation on their island experience at the SOC’s 2014 Annual Conference, to be held in Perth in late October and which will be attended by representatives from various partner organisations.

More information on the opportunity and application forms for the course can be downloaded from here  or obtained by emailing . The closing date for completed applications is 5pm, Friday 25th April 2014. Completed forms should be emailed to  or posted to: Jane Cleaver (Confidential), SOC, Waterston House, Aberlady, EH32 0PY.

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