Apologies, online bookings have now closed. If you are interested in making a last-minute booking, please call the office on 01875 871330 and we will do our best to accommodate you.

Each spring, the SOC and BTO Scotland organise the Scottish Birdwatchers’ Conference. Our next event is being hosted by SOC Ayrshire branch on 23 March 2024 and will be held at Troon Concert & Walker Halls, South Beach, Troon KA10 6EF.

Booking information

The charge for the conference is £38 (inc. VAT)* per person, which includes lunch and teas/coffees. A limited number of  discounted places are available to young birders aged under 30 years, priced at £25*. Please use the link below to book a place; alternatively, you can call the SOC office on 01875 871330 (Weds-Sun 10am-4pm). All secured bookings will be confirmed by email (or by post, as appropriate). Closer to the time, all delegates will receive pre-conference information, including how to sign up for the Sunday outings, which are being organised by SOC Ayrshire branch. We regret that no refunds can be issued after 1st March unless we are able to fill your place.

*We are committed to being as inclusive as possible and want the conference to be accessible to everyone. If the full cost of attending would be a barrier to you, please get in touch by email and we'd be happy to discuss a reduced rate.

Book a place

Apologies, online bookings have now closed. If you are interested in making a last-minute booking, please call the office on 01875 871330 and we will do our best to accommodate you.



Saturday 23 March

0900         Registration

0945         Ruth Briggs (SOC) 
                 Welcome and Introduction

0950         Lynne Bates (Scottish Wildlife Trust) 
                 The Irvine to Girvan Nectar Network

1025         Tom Byars 
                  Lesser Whitethroats of Ardeer Peninsula revealed

1100         Tea/Coffee

1130          Iain Livingstone (Clyde Ringing Group) 
                  The Forth / Clyde Flyway

1200          Dave Grant (University of the West of Scotland)
Seventy years of conservation and research on Lady Isle

1230          Lunch

1400           Crystal Maw (RSPB Scotland) 
                   Ailsa Craig adventures and seabird shenanigans; monitoring wildlife on Paddy’s milestone           

1435           Sarah Harris (BTO) (pre-recorded presentation) 
                   From rocks to rafts: monitoring our internationally important seabird populations

1500           Tea/Coffee

1530           Dr Jim Cassels (Arran Natural History Society) 
                    Arran’s bird life

1605           Mark Wilson (BTO Scotland) 
                    Expanding frontiers: new ways for the public to engage with and enhance wildlife monitoring in Scotland

1640           Prize draw

1650           Dr Chris Wernham (BTO Scotland) 
                    Summing up

1655           Close of conference

Sunday 24 March

There will be organised morning excursions to local birding hotspots plus a day trip to Arran (weather permitting). Full details, including how to sign up, will be circulated to attendees nearer the time.

Lynne Bates (Nectar Network Co-ordinator, Scottish Wildlife Trust)

The Irvine to Girvan Nectar Network is a Scottish Wildlife Trust-led project that aims to establish connected nectar and pollen-rich sites along the Ayrshire coast, ensuring the long-term survival of pollinating insects in the area. In 2019, funding from NatureScot and The Fairways Foundation enabled the appointment of the first full time co-ordinator, Lynne Bates. Lynne will discuss some of the work undertaken in the last 4 years with the various partners involved, on transforming amenity grassland areas into low maintenance, highly attractive and biodiverse sites plus the latest update on the Trust’s Sand Martin house, at Gailes Marsh wildlife reserve.

Lynne has led the Nectar Network, a Scottish Wildlife Trust project, for the last four years. As an outdoor educationist, permaculturist and horticulturist, Lynne draws upon her varied and extensive work background which includes managing outdoor education centres, being a self-employed wildlife gardener and running a small training company. When not making wildflower meadows along the Ayrshire coast, she can be found growing fruit and vegetables at her allotment or wandering the hills, trying to identify flora and fauna.

Tom Byars (Ardeer Action Group)

Ardeer Peninsula is widely acknowledged as the richest wildlife site in Ayrshire and is considered as one of Scotland’s most biodiverse sites. It has a unique mosaic of dune habitats, thorn scrub, grassland, mixed woodland, wetland, estuary and coast, covering an area three km square. Around 200 bird species have been recorded at Ardeer Peninsula, and is a stronghold for Lesser Whitethroat, holding one of the densest concentrations of territories in Scotland with 11 territories located in 2023. Ardeer is currently under threat from development. A Special Development Order (SDO) allows the landowners NPL Estates to currently extract sand and well over 20 hectares of sand dunes have since been removed. Will further planned development of the third largest brownfield site in Scotland create over 2,000 jobs in an area of social and economic deprivation, or will NatureScot step in to grant the site SSSI status and save the day?Tom has been an active member of the Clyde and Ayrshire branches of SOC since the early 80s. He is the long-standing Chairman of the Paisley Natural History Society, having first joined in 1972, and is currently employed as a Scientific Officer at the CRUK Scotland Institute in Bearsden, Glasgow.

Tom started birdwatching at the age of 12, and became interested in Lesser Whitethroats after observing a pair breeding for the first time in Renfrewshire on his Paisley local patch during June 1983. He then spent the next forty years studying the species and developing conservation strategies for Ayrshire & Renfrewshire. He has published numerous peer reviewed papers and short notes on the Lesser Whitethroat for Scottish Birds, and wrote the species account for The Birds of Scotland (Forrester et al., 2007). Tom has instigated a scrub enhancement project at Brownside Braes, Paisley, a community led endeavour to create four hectares of Lesser Whitethroat breeding habitat, and is currently involved with the Ardeer Action Group, a coalition of wildlife organisations and representatives from the local community, trying to save Ardeer Peninsula from the current threat of development.

Iain Livingstone (Clyde Ringing Group)

Each year, the annual Scottish Bird Reports have records of inland seabirds across the central belt. Both personal records and those of other birders and ringers that Iain has spoken to in the past leave little doubt that seabirds cross this flyway regularly. However, what species are involved, and it is just seabirds? Where do they come from and where do they go? Since 2018, increasing numbers of waders, small gulls and terns on the Inner Forth and the Clyde estuary have been ringed and colour ringed. The use of colour rings, in combination with the hard work of dedicated ring-reading birders, has produced a large number of follow up sightings. These records, combined with the metal-only ringing of birds across Europe and the UK, has given an insight into the three questions posed earlier. The talk will summarise the project and the results to date (2018-2023).

Iain became “full on" interested in birds from the age of 12, in the long hot summer of 1976. As a member of the local RSPB Hamilton Group from 1977, he was mentored by the late, great Jimmy Maxwell and co. and quickly became involved with ringing. He became Clyde Ringing Group secretary in August 1994 and still holds the post. In between times, he trained as a vet (1982-87) and still works in Coatbridge. His main interest is in migrant birds, with a long-term passion for warblers and seabirds. Iain has been involved with the several BTO schemes and projects, and is committed to training the next generation of ringers.


Dave Grant (University of the West of Scotland)

Dave will take a brief look at the conservation and research history associated with Lady Isle, starting with the rise and fall of the Roseate Tern, and leading onto the changing nature of the breeding colony from terns to gulls. His talk will take us into the 21st Century, looking at studies such as antimicrobial resistance within gulls, use of colour rings for identifying post-breeding movement, and satellite tags to determine breeding season foraging patterns, amongst others.

Dave is a lecturer at the Ayr Campus of University of the West of Scotland (UWS). He is a BTO 'A' permit ringer and a member of SSRSG and Ayrshire Rare Birds Committee. He is also the Ayrshire BTO WeBS & WinGS Co-ordinator, and is a keen birder and photographer.


Crystal Maw (RSPB Scotland)

Crystal has been surveying Ailsa Craig with the RSPB for about 12 years; in this presentation she will take you through what it’s like working on the island, what monitoring the RSPB has been involved in, and what that monitoring shows. We’ll find out how the rat eradication in the 1990s impacted the bird life and what challenges the wildlife is now facing, as well as celebrating how awesome island wildlife is!

Crystal volunteered for the RSPB whilst studying for a BSc in Wildlife Conservation at Plymouth University. She got her first taste of Scotland and fell in love with everything about it as an Osprey Information Assistant one summer in the Highlands, and as soon as she finished her studies, she zoomed straight up to Scotland again from the south coast and has never looked back. She worked in the Inner Hebrides for 5 years, primarily on Chough and Corncrake habitat management, and then moved to Dumfries and Galloway where she has been managing a wonderful suite of RSPB reserves, including the Wood of Cree, Ailsa Craig, and Airds Moss for the last 12 years - she's a lucky bean!


Sarah Harris (BTO)

In 2022, the BTO took on the lead role for the Seabird Monitoring Programme, in Partnership with JNCC and Associate Partner, RSPB. This monitoring scheme has been running since 1986 and is key to tracking the population changes in the UK's internationally important seabirds - many of which, and in some cases, whole populations call Scotland their summer residence.

Sarah's first bird sighting was at a few weeks old. A Tawny Owl, caught by her dad for bird-ringing purposes gently passed by her face until her eyes followed it. From there on, her fate was sealed - a life of bird monitoring. From helping the local bird ringing group monitor birds at Rye Meads in Hertfordshire, some stints on UK islands and at Bird Observatories, and now coordinating the UK Seabird Monitoring Programme from a desk at BTO, Sarah has worked on a variety of monitoring and conservation projects.


Jim Cassels (Arran Natural History Society)

In this illustrated presentation, Jim intends to draw on his experience as bird recorder on Arran to look at factors influencing the bird life on Arran. These will include location, habitats, the annual cycle, changes over time and the influence of humans.

Jim has been a member of the SOC since 2005 and Bird Recorder for the Isle of Arran Natural History Society since 2006. He has been responsible for the annual bird report for the last eighteen years, contributing to the SOC Clyde and Clyde Island Report. Jim is the BTO Regional Representative on Arran, and Regional Organiser for Bird Atlas 2007–11. With the financial support from the SOC and the Arran Trust, the publication Arran Bird Atlas 2007-2012: Mapping the breeding and wintering birds of Arran was produced, and given an honourable mention when British Birds announced the awards for best local bird atlas 2007-2017. He was also the Winner of the Marsh Award for Local Ornithology in 2013.


Mark Wilson (BTO Scotland)

Scotland is home to a wealth of exciting wildlife. However, monitoring birds and other species in many parts of Scotland can be challenging, due to the time and effort required to get to remote areas, and limited availability of skilled surveyors. This talk considers some recent and ongoing developments in bird survey methods that could make it easier for volunteers to contribute to monitoring in Scotland.

Mark is Head of Science at BTO Scotland, leading a small team that works on a wide variety of subjects, including raptors, breeding waders, upland bird assemblages, migrant tracking and acoustic monitoring. He represents the Trust in several ongoing collaborations including the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme, Working for Waders


Photo (above): Lesser Whitethroat, Irvine © Tom Byars