Review – April Indoor Meeting – Peter Holden – Birds Without Borders

The annual cycle of bird migration has intrigued people for hundreds of years. With current research technologies of increasing sophistication, the distance and speed of some migrations continue to astonish us. Peter Holden started his presentation by asking which movements of birds “count” as different types of migration, outlined some of the theories about how birds navigate, and then used many examples to illustrate both the general principles and the exceptions which show that you cannot always generalise. He finished by describing a few of the non-avian species that also undergo regular migration.

Swallow fledglings – Peter Holden

Some impressive images of the birds under consideration proved that you don’t need exotic species for excellent slides. Interspersed with these were plenty of maps and diagrams, well-chosen for conveying the information described – for example, the distinct routes of different sub-populations of red-necked phalarope or knot, or the comparison of individual cuckoos’ flights in recent BTO studies. That some birds display east-west migration, rather than the more-common north-south, was something of which we’ve heard previously (most recently in John Buckingham’s talk on Georgia), but the phrase “moult migration” (pochard, shelduck) was new to me. 

Red-necked Phalarope – Peter Holden

With an involvement in initiating the Young Ornithologists Club (now Wildlife Explorers) and the Big Garden Birdwatch, and authorship including the current RSPB Handbook of British Birds, Peter has long been recognised as one of the RSPB’s great educators and communicators. This reputation no doubt helped to draw the largest audience that we’ve had since our post-Covid resumption of in-person events at St John’s. No-one will have been disappointed – it was another thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Tony Corps