Birders' Choice Awards 2019
It’s time to cast your vote in this year’s Birders’ Choice Awards! Recognise the best – and worst – in birding and conservation in the past 12 months and you could win a Kite Caiman 8x42 binocular worth £249.
1 Conservation Hero of the Year
David Attenborough: over the years, Sir David’s contributions to conservation have been unparalleled. This year he even gave a speech on Glastonbury’s famous Pyramid Stage.
Greta Thunberg: this 16-year-old Swedish girl is an environmental activist on climate change whose campaigning has gained international recognition, but has also made her a target for abuse.
Jonny Rankin and Nick Moran: in an epic bid to raise money and awareness for European Turtle Dove, this pair cycled 160 miles and the next day ran a marathon. They raised £3,105.
Mya-Rose Craig: known as Birdgirl, this 17-year-old activist and naturalist has been campaigning for more diversity in birding, organising nature camps for teenagers.
George Monbiot: the environmental journalist, author and broadcaster has campaigned on climate change – taking part in Extinction Rebellion protests – and rewilding Britain.
2 Local Hero of the Year
3 Campaign of the Year
#NetsDownForNature: this Twitter campaign against anti-bird netting resulted in a grassroots movement that led to a government petition and forced councils and businesses to remove the nets.
Wild Justice: launched in February, this non-profit legal entity has already won a challenge to the General Licences and forced a review of gamebird releases.
Extinction Rebellion: the global socio-political movement that aims to use civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to compel government action on climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.
Birds and Debris: this new project aims to better understand the impact our rubbish has on birds by encouraging birders to report incidences of entanglement or incorporation of debris.
Come fly a kite with Chris Packham: a kite-flying event at the National Trust’s Box Hill reserve in Surrey raised awareness of the dangers faced by Hen Harriers.
4 Guano Award for Environmental Harm
North Norfolk District Council: the council came under fire after erecting netting at a Sand Martin colony to prevent the birds accessing their nesting holes.
Jair Bolsonaro: since taking office at the beginning of the year, the Brazilian president has had a terrible track record on the environment, culminating in mass destruction of the rainforest.
Élisabeth Borne: France’s Minister of the Ecological and Solidary Transition approved the legal trapping and hunting of more than 150,000 wild birds in the country this season.
DEFRA: this year the government department responsible for protecting wildlife allowed the controversial brood management of Hen Harriers to go ahead and extended the badger cull.
The Trump administration: the US government continued its ‘war on wildlife’ by further loosening environmental protections and even approving the use of cyanide bombs to kill certain species.
5 Birding News
Millions of birds vacuumed to death annually in Mediterranean: new research discovered that the practice of nocturnal suction olive harvesting is decimating wintering bird populations in Iberia and beyond.
Record-breaking Two-barred Crossbill irruption: this year saw an unprecedented arrival of the species into Shetland and further afield, with hundreds of birds recorded.
Brazilian Amazon burning at an unprecedented rate: in an ecological disaster for the entire world, fires, many of which were deliberately started by farmers, tore through the world’s largest rainforest.
White-tailed Eagles released on the Isle of Wight: the six birds, the first to be reintroduced to England, head up a five-year project to restore the species to southern England.
Record year for Western Cattle Egret in Britain: the colonisation continues, with the species breeding in three new counties and several pairs across England successfully raising chicks.
6 Rarity of the Year
Brown Boobies: previously never seen in Britain before there were four reports this year, with one in Kent and three in Cornwall, the last lingering long enough for many birders to connect.
Little Bustard: this rare European visitor proved popular when it spent the first half of August at Methley, West Yorks, having relocated from Slimbridge WWT, Glos.
Tengmalm’s Owl: Shetland’s remarkable rarity remained on the archipelago for several weeks earlier this year, prompting many birders to make the long trip north.
Giant petrel species: somewhat remarkably, this giant seabird from the southern hemisphere was logged past Co Durham Northumberland, in early July.
Common Nighthawk: the unlikely setting of inland Co Antrim hosted this long-staying and showy Nearctic mega in October.
7 Site of the Year
Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire: the National Trust’s first-ever nature reserve celebrated its 120th year in 2019 and also saw its first Common Crane chick successfully fledge.
Nanjizal valley, Cornwall: this south-west coast location has proven a consistently good spot for ringing totals, as well as pulling in rarities such as Red-throated Pipit and Aquatic Warbler.
Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire: one of the best reserves in the country for breeding waders, it also holds small numbers of European Turtle Dove and Tree Sparrow.
Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk: the RSPB’s flagship reserve and the home of the BBC’s Springwatch could be significantly affected by the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power plant.
Tacumshin, Co Wexford: well known for attracting rarities, this popular Irish site can attract double figures of North America waders and wildfowl and has even hosted national firsts in the past.
8 Product of the Year
Viking Scout IS 12x30: the new image-stabilised binocular from Viking is light, compact and delivers a bright image that is impressively free of shake.
Nikon Coolpix P1000: Nikon’s latest bridge camera boasts an incredible 125x optical zoom, producing high-quality images, with natural colours, very good sharpness and little ‘noise’.
Where to Watch Birds in Scotland: this new free app from the Scottish Ornithologist’s Club maps Scotland’s best birding locations, with interactive maps, species lists and site details.
Opticron MM4 77 ED/45: the latest addition to Opticron’s renowned MM series of travelscopes is smaller and lighter than its predecessors, but delivers a brighter, sharper image.
Benro Wild 2 Carbon Fibre Birding Kit and BWH4 head: Benro’s new Wild tripods have been designed principally for the birding and nature observation market, providing sturdy support for your scope.
9 Book of the Year
Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness: this personal account of how nature improves mental health is timely and important, a book that could save lives, according to Chris Packham’s foreword.
Gulls by John C Coulson: while not without its flaws, this enjoyable and informative text is a fantastic reference with a wealth of useful and interesting information.
Rebirding: Rewilding Britain and its Birds by Benedict Macdonald: stuffed full of information and ideas, this well-researched book makes a detailed and well-investigated case for the restoration of our wildlife.
Oceanic Birds of the World: a Photo Guide by Steve N G Howell and Kirk Zufelt: this new photo guide to seabirds provides a comprehensive and up-to-date look at this fascinating group of birds, all in a field-friendly format.
RSPB Guide to Birdsong by Adrian Thomas: a groundbreaking and easy-to-use guide to help you learn and identify bird sounds step by step and at your own pace.
10 Discovery of the Year
Three billion birds lost across North America since 1970: researchers have warned that a wide range of species is disappearing from the USA and Canada, some at an alarming rate
Pallid Harrier breeds in Spain for first time: in one of the most unexpected discoveries of the year, the species has been confirmed to have bred in the country for the first time ever.
Canary Islands Oystercatcher was not a distinct species: DNA testing has provided a surprising conclusion on the taxonomic status of the extinct shorebird, showing it to most likely be a subspecies of Eurasian Oystercatcher.
Black-eared Wheatear two species, not one: a new genetic study has demonstrated that Eastern and Western Black-eared Wheatears should be treated as separate species.
Fossils of world’s largest parrot discovered in New Zealand: the remains discovered by paleontologists suggest that the species was a metre tall and double the size of any living relative.
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