Blog #14 – BTO Bird Camp

At the beginning of the year a number of young people, including myself, were selected to go the BTO Bird Camp 2017 kindly funded by the Cameron Bespolka Trust. The camp is aimed at young people and getting them more involved with birds and nature. It gives the participants access to experiences that they may not otherwise normally get to do and allow them to get closer to nature.

Who are the BTO and the CBT?

The BTO stands for the British Trust for Ornithology. The organisation collects a wide range of scientific data and other information to help manage and protect our wildlife, mainly birds, now and in the future. The organisation holds lots of information on different aspects of birds including data on species which are declining and those that are doing well.  Information provided by surveys such as the nest record scheme are really important in helping the BTO target support for species in decline.

The Camp ran for the first time in 2016 and because of its success it was run again and I really hope it they will have more in the future.

The Cameron Bespolka Trust is a trust set up by the family of Cameron Bespolka who tragically had a skiing accident and died at the age of only 16.  The trust was set up in his name and now helps young people get more involved with nature.

Arrival at Camp

My journey down from Glasgow started with a very early rise at 4am and took 8.5 hours, most of which I spent looking out of the car window desperate to get outside! I travelled down to Thetford with my Mum, Dad, Brother and Grandma who stayed at Lackford Lakes Barns near Bury St Edmunds whilst I went to the camp.

The journey down wasn’t all boring: I did manage to see 6 red kites, 5 buzzards, 9 kestrels, lots of pheasants, a couple of hares in a field and lots of rabbits.

The camp was meant to start at 5:30pm but started later because people were delayed due to traffic. Elliot had planned to meet up with Louis, James and myself at Lakenheath Fen a few hours before camp. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to meet up in time, but I still managed to meet up with Louis and James M. It was really great to finally meet people face to face that I’d only ever spoken to online. Although it was roasting hot we spent just over an hour on site. In that time we saw 3 Cuckoos, many species of dragonfly, butterflies and other common birds. By the time we had got to the first view point it was time to head back as we had spent so long talking and looking at dragonflies!

hairy dragonfly010617

hairy dragonfly 3010617
Four Spot Chaser

When we got back to the visitor centre we all headed off in our parents cars to the BTO headquarters. Once I got there I saw everyone else unpacking; I quickly put my things into my teepee which I shared with Louis, James Mc, James M and Elliot R.

my tipi010617

While we were waiting for the others to arrive we started a pan species list and a bird count just sitting down; we got lots of species including Wren, Blackbird, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Robin, Great Tit and many more. About an hour or so later most people had arrived and so we all went for dinner in the Nunnery except for Toby and Ben who arrived the following day. After dinner Ieuan gave a talk introducing himself and the BTO, which was really interesting.  I was so excited about everything I had barely realised how late it was getting! Before we headed off to bed a moth trap was set up by Ben P, Max H and some others.

Day 1 (Saturday)

It was an early start on Saturday. Although my group were up at 4:00 am we didn’t quite manage to hear the dawn chorus which some of the really early risers had the pleasure of hearing!

We were set up into 3 groups: Group 1 was ringing and looking at a moth trap, Group 2 was nest recording and Group 3 was doing some CBS work. I was in group 1 with Louis, James Mc, Ellie, Eve and Megan. We started with ringing with Justin where we caught a cettis warbler, garden warbler, robin, sedge warbler and a dunnock. We even saw a spectacularly coloured cuckoo (rufous female) which Elliot managed to get a superb photograph of.

cettie's warbler010617
Cettie’s Warbler
garden warbler010617
Reed Warbler

Next task was some nest recording with David. We had some sticks which we used to tap bushes and shrubs to see if anything would fly out and alert us to the nest location. We searched the site carefully. First we fund an old song thrush nest then an old wren’s nest. After that we discovered a willow warbler nest with chicks and then a blackbird’s nest. Then later on another group pointed out a stunning gadwall nest with 6 eggs! We also found a hedgehog.

Gadwall nest

We had lunch afterwards and a stone curlew was spotted; this caused a bit of a stir with everyone trying to photograph it. There were lapwings and pheasants in the field too, the lapwings viciously dive bombed the pheasants, scaring them into the long grass.    

Lapwing (left) Pheasant (right)


Finally we did CBS with Paul and David whose knowledge was phenomenal. They taught us lots about bird songs and mapping the birds’ territories.  It was really fun and we even found a slow worm and a grass snake. We heard Reed warblers, sedge warblers and saw a hobby, peregrine and some beautiful dragonflies.


My group headed back to camp and had a good while to explore. Time passed quickly and it wasn’t long before the others were back; we then spent time looking at all the moths from the moth trap. We trapped several species of moths and in particular, lots of angle shades. Before releasing the moths we had a moth-face challenge! Elliot managed to get 5 moths to stay on his face. Louis tried to beat that number but they kept flying off him; the whole thing was really funny to watch.


When everyone was back we headed off to RSPB Lakenheath Fen where I had been the day before. We were introduced to the reserve by the warden David who told us the reserve’s past and the conservation work they had been doing and what species had benefited from this and what species they were aiming to help. We were split into 2 groups for a bird race to see which group could get the most birds. In the end we drew but the time at Lakenheath was great. We saw many dragonfly, Butterfly, Insect and bird species. Some birds we saw included a marsh harrier, bittern x2 and a cuckoo. We saw a scarce chaser dragonfly which David had a particular fondness for; his enthusiasm has now got me more into dragonflies which are both spectacular and fascinating.

We were hoping to see Black Winged stilts, Cranes and the marsh tit but they all stayed hidden away that day. The Savi’s warbler was also not present whilst we were there but it was still a great trip out.

When we got back Ben Porter gave a talk about his life in Bardsey Island and the range of conservation work carried out.  Afterwards Amy Hall gave a talk about the Cameron Bespolka Trust and what they do. Both talks were very interesting and made me see the world around me differently.

The night seemed to last for ages as we went out on another field trip looking for nightjars until midnight.  This was definitely the highlight for me; the birds made a distinctive churring noise as they flew overhead before perching in the trees. The aim of the evening was to capture birds for ringing so mist nets were set up with a recording of their call played to lure them in. That night 1 was caught and ringed, it was AMAZING! They are spectacular birds and well worth while staying up to see.

night jar in tree010617

Day 2 (Sunday)

The next day we went to Landguard Bird Observatory where Nigel Wooden spoke to us and took us a tour round the site. We got to see the ringing of juvenile great tits and views of the sea and beach. We also got to see another moth trap with 2 cockchafers, angle shades, popular hawk moth, small elephant hawk moth and lots of others. Afterwards we walked down the beach which was great for ringed plover nesting, we even got to see the fluffy chicks – the best views of plover I have ever had! There were many house sparrows and I also saw more linnets there than I have seen in my whole life so far which was great.


We then went on the hunt for the Dartford Warbler. We stayed for ages watching the stonechats pouncing down into to heath and landing back onto the fence with their impressive catches. A Yellow wagtail flew over and brightened up the day. Finally the time came when David and some others went for some water and then the Dartford warbler was spotted! Everyone rushed round to see it. It was initially flying but then landed for a few brief seconds where I got the views that I had been waiting for.  We also saw a wood lark which was a first for me.

The final place we went to was RSPB Hollesley Marshes.  We were split up into 2 groups. My group went to the small flooded field area where we saw avocets, gadwall, shellduck and a red veined darter dragonfly was spotted on a branch hanging over the path. David was so excited! At the scrape and sea point we saw avocets shell ducks gadwall and common terns.

Afterwards we took a walk to the hide and saw more shell duck, avocets, gadwall and 2 mediterranean gulls flew over making a lot of noise. Despite this they were actually interesting to listen to.  

We ended the session with some lunch and let’s just say an interesting bus ride back to camp, no songs or anything like that!!

Our fantastic few days concluded with a presentation summarising the list of species that we’d seen over the weekend – 104 in total!  What more can I say other than THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE!!

People Involved:

BTO – @_BTO =

Cameron Bespolka Trust – @Cameron_B_Trust =

Landguard Bird Obs – @LandguardObs =

Ieuan Evans – @_Ieuan

Viola Ross-Smith – @Viola_RS

Greg Conway – @Conway_greg

Justin Walker – @arcanelove

Lee Barber – @Lee00Barber

David Leach – @Rock_nester

David Walsh – @DavidWalsh

Harry King – @HarryKing152001 = hharry884 Flicker

Amy Hall – @AmyHallWildlife = Amy Hall Wildlife

Ben Porter – @BardseyBen =

Max Hellicar – @MaxHellicar1

James Miller – @JamesNaturalist =

Elliott Roberts – @elliottrob11 = elliottroberts1 Flicker

Toby Carter – @TobyWarbler =

Louis Driver – @BirderLouis =

James McCulloch – @My_Wild_Life =

Michael Sinclair – @Mikenature =

Kai Gordon – @Kai_Gordon

Samuel Levy – @samuel86902343 =

Angus Jennings – @angus77

William Coase – @CoaseWilliam

Luke Nash – @Young_birers99 =

Ben Moyes – @Ben_Moyes16 =

(more photos will be up tomorrow as there were some problems)

30 days wild

Today I was at school again and so when I got in made a nest box. I also took a more scenic root home. The nest box was not finished at this point but I did finish it late that night.

Author: Michael Sinclair

My name is Michael Sinclair and I’m a young naturalist from Glasgow although I can be seen all over the place doing crazy things.

6 thoughts

  1. What a fabulous blog! I really enjoyed reading about your birding adventures (also a great passion of mine!). I shall look forward to hearing more in the future 🙂

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s