Spring 2024 Recorders’ Conference - Thank you!

On Saturday 16th March, we held our Spring Recorders’ Conference. For the first time, we held the conference at Cholsey Great Hall, near Wallingford, Oxfordshire. We had 76 attendees expected (in person), with 63 attending on the day. It was an opportunity to come together and hear about some of the incredible wildlife recording and conservation work that is going on in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

Steve Wilkes, Director at TVERC, kicked off proceedings welcoming everyone and giving an update on TVERC. Followed by Joanna Higson,  Biological Recording Coordinator at TVERC, giving an update on our species database, information on how TVERC can support recorders, and some of the projects TVERC is involved with such as WISH, Mend the Gap and the City Nature Challenge.

The first of our main speakers was Natalie Duffus, a PhD student at the University of Oxford, talking about her work seeking to understand the outcomes of using proxy metrics in biodiversity offsetting policies. In particular, looking at the representation of invertebrate biodiversity by these metrics, to understand how effectively we compensate for losses to invertebrate fauna. We wish Natalie and Tom Atkins all the best with their work.

After the break, Chloe Edwards, Project Manager for the Oxfordshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) at Oxfordshire County Council, gave us an update on LNRS in Oxfordshire. Followed by a workshop, with the support of the LNRS team from ALP Synergy, seeking support and feedback on the process to sort the LNRS Oxon species short list into ‘habitat assemblages’. Some delegates continued with the workshop into the lunch break.

TVERC Conference at Cholsey Great Hall

The lunch break also gave an opportunity to look at the stands from Keep Nethercote Rural, Long Mead Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project, Nature Recovery Network, Oxfordshire Nature Project (CAG Oxfordshire), and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Many thanks to all for sharing their information.

After lunch, our speed update session was a chance to hear from local wildlife groups about their news and opportunities to get involved. John Melling regional British Trust for Ornithology rep gave BTO survey updates, in particular on the Breeding Bird Survey. TVERC’s Julie Kerans and Katherine Howell gave us a summary of their findings and highlights of the 2023 Local Wildlife Site survey season. Neil Bucknell gave updates on Berkshire Ornithological Club Surveys. We heard from Dr Robin Buxton about the Yellow Wagtail Project Wittenhams and a request for somebody to help sort insect samples, particularly flies, to families if possible. Marcus Simmons from Oxfordshire Nature Project (CAG Oxfordshire) told us about logging and presenting key observations using an easy interactive map tool. He also had a stand on the day giving demonstrations. Catriona Bass from the Nature Recovery Network about “Scaling Nature On Your Doorstep - connected communities in Eynsham and surrounding villages”. Which linked into Michael Wilson telling us about the Long Mead Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project and Invertebrate sampling in floodplain meadows in the Thames Valley. Finally, we had an impromptu speed update from Sara Kandiah from Greener Henley sharing about opportunities around Great Big Green Week, Churches Count on Nature, and the film ‘Six Inches of Soil’.

In the afternoon, delegates had a choice of workshops to attend – PoMS with Robin Hutchinson from CEH, or a walk to Cholsey Marsh BBWOT Reserve with some of the TVERC team.

Walk to Cholsey Marsh BBOWT reserve

Our third main talk of the day was from Edel McGurk from the Benson area Nature Group who told us how the group started, what they achieved pre-covid, and then how things have really taken off for the group in the last 12 months. It was a very inspiring story of how local communities (including Ewelme, Warborough & Shillingford, Berrick and Roke) have come together to protect and encourage nature, to record through Citizen Science projects and Green Volunteering, with the collective goal of trying to ensure long term management sustainability.

To finish our main talks Noah Walker returned to our conference to bring us an update on the 8-year West Oxfordshire Farmland Birds Project (WOFBP). Including what the team has achieved since their previous update at the 2021 TVERC Recorders Conference, and setting out what they plan to do over the coming few years. Since the first TVERC grant was awarded to the project in 2016, the area WOFBP covers and the range of birdlife the WOFPB surveys and conserves has greatly increased. From just three farms in the Thames Valley in 2016 to currently 25 across southwest Oxfordshire, encompassing the Thames Valley, Vale of White Horse and Lambourn Downs. And they have expanded their surveys to cover the populations of waders, wildfowl and owls present across southwest Oxfordshire and parts of neighbouring Berkshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. This has involved increased night-time surveys utilising new bird ringing equipment and thermal imaging techniques pioneered by the West Midlands Ringing Group. They have also continued to expand their existing farmland bird surveys of Skylarks, Corn Buntings, Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers – the core focus of their conservation work.

Thank you so much to all of you who attended our conference, and special thanks to our speakers and workshop hosts for giving up their time. Finally, we are very grateful to The Cholsey Community Development Trust for a great venue, and we look forward to returning to Cholsey Great Hall.

Posted: April 9, 2024