The Marsh Award for Local Ornithology has been awarded to the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) for its innovative ‘Where to Watch birds in Scotland’ app.
The app breaks totally new ground in countryside access for both new and experienced bird watchers, or anyone interested in wildlife. It also encourages users to record their observations to assist conservation and is free to download and use.
Many visitors and naturalists, when setting out, struggle to know where best to see wildlife. This new app is a unique development, presenting concise, helpful information, zoomable maps/satellite images that can plot the user’s location in real time, directions to and around the sites, what birds can be seen on a seasonal basis, and much more. The app can be updated in minutes. With content provided entirely by an army of 150 volunteers, it launched in April 2019 with details of 400 of the best birdwatching sites and has since increased by 40% to over 560 sites. Use of the app and feedback have exceeded all expectations.
Ben Darvill, nominating SOC for the award, said, “The existence of this wonderful resource is the result of many hundreds of hours of work from birders across Scotland. A great example of what is possible when people work together for the common good”.
Prof Jeremy Wilson, receiving the award on behalf of SOC, said “We have been bowled over by the way the app has been received and have heard of people buying their first smartphones just so they could use it! Winning the Marsh Award is a real honour and we hope it encourages more people to enjoy the Scottish countryside and to help record our special wildlife”.
The app was launched in April 2019 and has since been downloaded over 10,000 times; SOC membership is only 3,300 so the app is reaching a wide audience. Prior to lockdown, the app was being used by about 4,000 users each month, with over 25,000 site accounts being viewed. Most users (about 90%) are in Britain but in any particular month there are users in about 90 countries around the world.
The Marsh Award for Local Ornithology is awarded to a bird club or group that publishes a book, completes a study or conducts any other exceptional activity in the preceding calendar year that advances knowledge about birds.
For more information about the app, please visit https://www.the-soc.org.uk/about-us/app
The SOC is also delighted that one of its youngest members, Mike Sinclair, was honoured in the Young Ornithologist category. Mike, who is a member of the Club’s Clyde branch, has inspired the residents of Glasgow to support and monitor the birds nesting in the city’s Linn Park Local Nature Reserve.