BTO Bird Camp 2019

The BTO Bird Camp Is a camp specifically run for young people who love nature and want to take a step further. It’s hosted by the British Trust for Ornithology and supported by the Cameron Bespolka Trust meaning it costs around £25-£30 per person for everything. Links to social media pages/ websites are included at the bottom of this blog to everyone that was there. Please do have a look at their links after reading this blog because they are honestly some of the most amazing people I’ve met! Also any questions you have, please contact me however works best for you! Most photos are my own but if they are not then I have credited the photographer in the caption (also made sure I had permission to post their photo)!

Friday 24th May

After a 12 hour long car journey with a few stops and a bit of traffic, I arrived at camp for 4:35pm. My parents and brother dropped me off at site, then left to go down to London where they saw a show and stayed overnight. They must have been glad to get rid of me for 2 nights.

When I first arrived, I hardly knew anyone which was kind of a good thing because it meant I talked to everyone but then a while later, people I knew started to turn up so we swiftly got the tent furthest away from camp hosts; Nick, Faye and Ben because we knew we were going to be a bit loud and we didn’t want to keep them awake. Our tent filled up very quickly. This meant we had the most people (7). 2 people I hadn’t met before called Alex and Wilum were in the tent and the others I knew already includes; Rowan Wakefield , Kabir Kaul, Calum McKellar, Sam and me. We only had the chance to unpack our stuff because we had to go and eat dinner. This was a great chance to speak with people and the pizza was pretty good.

The tents
The tents

We ate our food rapidly before heading off inside the BTO HQ for a bit of an introduction session. This involved a talk from Nick Moran about general stuff and plans for the next few days. Faye Vogely also did a talk and led a ‘careers in conservation’ workshop to help us decide and plan for the future when we get jobs. This was really helpful as she gave us a taste into the real world with her fantastic presentation about her job experiences. We were also introduced to Ben Porter who is very keen to get us involved and also an amazing photographer.

After all this, we went back into our tents. We somehow managed to speak all night and morning about random stuff. Our whole tent either had no sleep at all or very little. Personally I don’t think this is a bad thing as the camp only runs once a year and it just shows how well we all got on! Although we were like the walking dead the next day and fell asleep every time we stopped moving, it was well worth it.

Saturday 25th May

A few of us went out early at 4am the following day for a look around the grounds and see as many species as we could before we left for Lakenheath. We got a good breakfast before we left which was useful to boost us for the day ahead, especially since some of us didn’t sleep. Before we left, we checked the moth trap. We had a few like white point and small elephant hawkmoth which we got some decent photos of.

White-point (Mythimna albipuncta)
White-point (Mythimna albipuncta)
Small Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila porcellus)
Small Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila porcellus)

We then split ourselves into the two mini buses which were driven by Faye and Nick. We were also joined by David Walsh, Chris Mills and a few others who helped guide us around Lakenheath and help with anything. It was brilliant! When we arrived we were split into 3 groups and went around with our guides to see what we could. My group’s guides were Faye and David. Some of the bird highlights included: Bittern, Hobby and Marsh Harrier. We saw a range of other species like Scarce Chaser dragonfly. Just as well David was there as he is very enthusiastic about Dragonflies and Butterflies as well as making sure everyone was involved. We also had Faye helping our group. She was very good at speaking to people and making sure we all stayed safe.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) Photo Credit: Wilum Johnston
Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) Photo Credit: Wilum Johnston
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva)
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)
Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)

After our adventure around Lakenheath, we ate lunch and heard a talk by warden Dave Rogers who explained so much about the reserve. He is so passionate!

Afterwards we headed nearby to see some stone curlews and have a walk in some woods with a few open spaces within (I don’t know where because I’m not familiar with the area). This was us all in hope of seeing Firecrest, woodlark, tree pipit and some butterfly species! During this time, we were all together as a big group again which was nice because I could go about with different people than those from Lakenheath! We saw pretty much all target species. We heard Firecrest and caught a few quick glimpses of it. Some people even saw a Crossbill fly over! We also got decent Red Kite views.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus)
Red Kite (Milvus milvus)
Red Kite (Milvus milvus)
Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

After our walk, we went back to HQ and got our dinner which was kindly made by Nick’s wife and their daughter. It was really good chilli and filled me up, preparing me mentally for seeing NIGHTJARS in the evening! Greg Conway came and talked to us about them before we went out with him and some others to see them up close! They ring the birds as part of a very valuable project that has been running for a while. At first we saw the cuckoos fly over the net but we didn’t catch them. Within no time we were amazed to catch two birds (a male and a female). This meant we could go back early and get some sleep.

Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus)
Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus)
Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

Sunday 26th May

The next day came on us very quick because we actually got sleep this time. This day involved a Bird ringing demo, Nest finding and Territory mapping. There were 3 groups of about 8 in each. I was in a group with around 8 people. During our bus journey we saw stone curlew, red legged partridge and hares! We started off at the bird ringing demo where we got Reed Warbler, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Chiffchaff and Wren. We stayed at this station for a while because the other group got distracted with a Golden Plover. This gave us extra time to finish all the good breakfast. When they arrived back we moved onto territory mapping lead by Nick. Some highlights included Garden Warbler, Cuckoo and Green Woodpecker. Our final activity was nest recording with Lee Barber. We found plenty of pigeon nests without eggs and one Dunnock nest which appears to have been predated. As well as the activities we fitted in some birding (pics below)

Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) Photo Credit: Wilum Johnston
Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) Photo Credit: Wilum Johnston
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) nest
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) nest
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

We the headed back to camp (seeing stone curlew again on the way) for the last time and summed up. We spent a while packing up, looking at the moth trap and lots of time sharing our ideas with the BTO on how we can help encourage more young people to get involved. Then finally we all got together with our family and sat in a room with a projector where we showed everyone some of the highlights from the camp!

Stone Curlew (Burhinidae) Photo Credit: Jack Jones

Summing Up!

I have been to a few camps so far and it’s honestly so good! We saw a great amount of species over the time and met some amazing people. Everyone got on so well with one another which makes it even better. Something I admit I thought and first when I went to the camp back in 2017 was that there would be some weird people there who only cared about birds and wouldn’t shut up about them but that is far from what it is actually like. People were so chill and funny which was probably my favourite part of the camp.

The Squad (Photo Credit: Ben Porter)

Rest of holiday!

Since my blog is so long I think I’ll do a separate blog about other stuff I did after camp. So keep an eye out for that!

Links related to camp:

British Trust for Ornithology – @_BTO

Cameron Bespolka Trust – @Cameron_B_Trust


Nick Moran – @sconebirding

Faye Vogely – @FayeVogely

Ben Porter – @bardseyben

David Walsh – @DavidWalsh22

Chris Mills – @Norfolkbirding

Dave Rogers – @DaveRLakenheath

Greg Conway – @conway_greg

Justin Walker – @arcanelove

Dawn Balmer – @DEBALMER

Lee Barber – @lee00barber

Joe Myers – @joemyers2k

Karen Hunt – @HullabooHunt

People! (Most are twitter links)

Alex Liddle – @Alexbirder1

Alice Mortimer – @Adhelade_Nature

Ben Rumsby – @BRNature1

Calum Mckellar – @mckellar_calum

Jack Jones – @theriversidenaturalist

Josh Hill – @JoshHil34960913

Kabir Kaul – @Kaulofthewilduk

Luke Stoppard – @LukeStoppard

Sam Newcombe – @SamN92637877

Simon Ball – @SimonBallYVCP

Wilum Johnston – @JohnstonWilum

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.

8 thoughts

  1. Brilliant blog post Michael. Some cracking images there too – the scarce chaser is a beaut.

    Great to meet you and hopefully see you at Birdfair or the next event! Take care, Ben

    1. Thanks, it was great to meet everyone! It was originally down as a scarce chaser but turns out it’s a four spot. I had been looking through all my scarce chaser images but turns out I took a few of a four spot in between which is why there was a mix up!

      Really hope I get down to BirdFair!

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