2019 AGM Report and Illustrated Talk

From the Falklands to the Arctic …

Another well attended Cornwall Birds AGM took place on Saturday 13th July at Stithians Lake Watersports Centre. Chair Mark Grantham took members through the formal business, including welcoming Membership Secretary, Carol Hughes, updates on Middle Amble Marsh and presentation of the CBWPS accounts for 2018. Of special interest were the recent cuts in conservation work by the RSPB, as a result of which Cornwall Birds has taken on maintenance of the Chough sightings database. There is concern about the work done so far with Corn Buntings and members asked that we try to work with landowners help protect the remaining population in North Cornwall. The formal business concluded with the election of David Collins from Constantine as a new Board member. David is a professional ecologist and long-time birdwatcher. Welcome David!

Following the formal business, we were treated to Keith Cowiesons’ excellent semi-autobiographical talk ‘From the Falklands to the Arctic’. Highlights included Penguins everywhere in the Falklands, being dive bombed by Great Skuas, hand feeding a Swallow chick in Afghanistan and a Snow Bunting nesting under a toilet seat in Svalbard. Keith clearly showed the threat to seabirds from plastic and demonstrated how numbers of species such as Arctic Skua and Kittiwake are declining. Keith closed his informative and entertaining talk by reminding us of the fantastic birds we have on our doorstep in Cornwall, where Peregrine Falcons, Choughs and Corn Buntings can all be seen.

Refreshments were enjoyed, and it was a good opportunity for society members to meet from all parts of the county.Over £110 was also raised for the Society from the sale of books from the estate of Steven Pilbeam.

Q and A with Keith Cowieson (click on the images for slideshow):

Cornwall Birds asks: What camera makes (and setup) did you use?

Keith replies: I have always used a Pentax camera going way back to their ‘Spotmatic’, one of the early single-lens-reflex models, coupled with various Tamron telephoto lens up to 500mm, although most of my recent stuff has been taken with a 300mm which is a nice compromise between magnification and weight/portability – important when on the hills. However, I am thinking of moving up to a full-frame DSLR and that may rule out Pentax/Tamron combos in future, so who knows….


Bonxies (Great Skuas)

King Penguins squabbling

Dotterel female

Cornwall Birds asks:What would you say was your favourite bird and why?

Keith replies: I have always had a special liking for seabirds – hence all the skuas and terns, but I do like upland birds too, particularly waders, whose nests can be quite a challenge to find, let alone photograph.

Bonxie attack (defence)

Cornwall Birds asks: Do you have any regrets you didn’t get posted to any sub-tropical regions with eg lots of Rainforest birds??!!

Keith replies: As you probably gather, I am very much a man of the temperate/colder regions, so was not at all sad to have never served in the tropics etc I am not a great fan of 100% humidity and in any case the UK was withdrawing from east of Suez when I joined the military, so there was no option of serving in Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong, Borneo or Belize etc for someone with my specialisation. I enjoy being on the moors and mountains, so the Cold War NATO focus of the Northern Flank suited me perfectly.

Keith Cowieson
RAFOS Field Activities Liaison Officer

King Penguin incubating


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