November 2016: another busy summer for Biocensus

Well another classic summer passed in a sleep deprived blur. November already? Really?

As some of you may remember I shouted my mouth off once too many times about the lack of industry best practice guidance for ornithological impact assessments, and this culminated in me talking at the CIEEM spring conference in London. This gaping hole in the impact assessment world is at complete odds with the advanced position of organisations like the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) when it comes to many other aspects of bird conservation.  As I say, I was a bit too vocal about this and now find myself leading the effort to produce some best practice guidance in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM).

It was obvious to me from the outset that in order for any guidance to get ‘buy-in’ from our industry, it needed to be endorsed by some key organisations such as CIEEM, BTO, RSPB, the Association for Local Government Ecologists (ALGE), the statutory nature conservation organisations such as Natural England, and of course our fellow consultants. In order to set the ball rolling I convened a meeting with the BTO a few weeks ago. It was an incredibly positive affair with six people from BTO in attendance and comprised enthusiastic discussion of what was needed. It’s very early days yet but my intention is to set up a working group of interested parties and then to have a workshop where the future structure and scope of the guidance will be established. The next stage for me is to have similar meetings with the other main players and get this workshop planned. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated through this blog as things progress.

One direct effect of my being involved in this, is that this year I was “back on the tools”. It had been a couple of years since I did any breeding bird surveys, and it occurred to me that if I was going to write the best practice guidance then I should remind myself of the job and the challenges it presents. In reality it also reminded me how hard it is to get up to do dawn surveys in June! Especially when you then have to do a full day in the office afterwards. You know you’re pushing it when colleagues in the office, are asking if everything is alright! Having said that, it was nice to be out and about at dawn some mornings…..I suppose!


The other major change for Biocensus over the last couple of months is the addition of one office and four new members of staff. Gavin who has been with us for 18 months has now established an office in Stroud, Gloucestershire where he is overseeing the delivery of our projects. As a result of a fairly full Bath office and the fact that Gavin lives in Stroud we decided to expand the team up in Stroud. Thanks to some insanely large and challenging projects they’ve all been kept more than busy!

Stroud Office

Finally, last month saw the official launch of the bird book ‘Britain’s Birds’ at the annual Bird Fair. This was a special moment for us as Biocensus helped produce the publication. The reviews so far have been outstanding and thanks to a piece on Radio Four’s Today programme the book was briefly outselling the latest Harry Potter (albeit very briefly!).

Britain's Birds front cover

Britain's Birds

The launch at the bird fair went off extremely well and the signing session seemed to go on and on. Many of the comments we’ve had back have been praising us for producing a bird book made up entirely of photos (3200 of them!). This certainly isn’t the first book to have tried this (there have been some truly awful attempts down the years) but arguably is the first to have pulled it off so convincingly. Obviously I am biased! Clearly the advent of digital photography and the staggering advancements in associated technology have meant that the quality, range and sheer volume of images being taken, allows such a project to be undertaken. The book contains an image of every species of bird ever recorded in the British Isles and in each type of plumage. If you haven’t got a copy yet you can buy one from here. There are also very quiet rumours of Biocensus being involved in more WildGuides projects in the future, which is very exciting.

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