SOC & Isle of May Bird Observatory, Young Birders' Training Course 2015
Young Birders’ Training Course
Investing in the future of wild bird conservation
4th – 11th July 2015, Isle of May

Scotland’s largest bird club, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) and Britain’s oldest continuously accredited bird observatory, the Isle of May Bird Observatory(IoMBO) today launched their search for another six promising young birdwatchers to take part in their Young Birders’ Training Course, a week-long funded 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 is the first course of its kind in the UK. It presents a unique opportunity for budding ornithologists’, both in its setting and teaching options. The successful applicants will gain invaluable first-hand practical experience of a wide range of bird survey skills and techniques and participants will be able to draw on the talents and knowledge of highly experienced bird ringers, researchers and surveyors.

The course itself 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 opportunities 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 again sponsor this course for young birdwatchers; both our organisations are committed to encouraging more young people into wildlife conservation. The course ran for the first time last year, and was a fantastic success. The six participants enjoyed staying on the beautiful Isle of May, in the refurbished Observatory, and learnt much during the week about birds and their conservation. All left the island with lasting memories and a commitment to preserving wildlife for future generations. We are grateful to legacies and generous donations to the Club, which have allowed us to fund this exciting project.”

Stuart Rivers, IoMBO Trust:

“The Observatory re-development has already proved its worth by allowing greater flexibility in the accommodation options, and this in turn has allowed us to proceed with our current and future aims of increasing the educational role of the Trust and the delivery of training opportunities. The ability to participate in Observatory and island life, coupled with ‘hands-on’, close-up (and personal!) interaction with seabirds and migrants makes this a unique experience. The stunning Isle of May land & seascapes enhance this even further. While the course itself will provide a positive step forward for the participants, we will also provide continued support to them with their future activities recording, monitoring and conserving wildlife.”

The Isle of May, which lies five miles off the Fife coast, nestles in the mouth of the Firth of Forth, and is a wonderful 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 UK 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.

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 the students on their journey. 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 2015 Annual Conference, to be held in Pitlochry in late October: an event that will be attended by representatives from various partner organisations.

The application form for the course can be downloaded from the SOC website, here or obtained by emailing . The closing date for completed applications is 5pm, Monday 27th April 2015. Completed forms should be emailed to  or posted to: Jane Cleaver (Confidential), SOC, Waterston House, Aberlady, EH32 0PY.

Images courtesy of Harry Martin (top), Radina Atanasova (middle) and Stuart Rivers (bottom)