Meet Anna Webberley, Marsh Young Ornithologist of the Year 2022
7 November 2022
Anna is studying a BSc Biological Sciences and won this prestigious prize after reviving Cardiff University’s Ornithology Society, which was forced to shut down during the Covid-19 lockdown
When did you first become interested in ornithology?
I have always had a keen interest in wildlife and nature, but got into ornithology specifically over the last couple of years. I have a particular interest in British coastal birds, especially puffins! Some of my main inspirations have been people such as Iolo Williams and Chris Packham, but also people from within Cardiff University like Rob Thomas, whose Year 2 lectures were what inspired me (along with some friends) to restart the Society.
How did you restart the Ornithology Society after the coronavirus pandemic?
Along with a couple of other students who enjoyed wildlife and birding, I posted on social media and advertised around the Bioscience building and in lectures. We managed to get a small group of people together to become members and to form a committee. We got in contact with the previous president of the Society who gave us some really helpful tips on running it.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
Balancing workload was definitely the main one. At first I struggled to keep on top of managing my university placement, part-time work, language classes and running the Society, but I eventually managed to get into a routine, which became easier once the Society had found its feet a bit more and we had a good core group of members!
Tell us about some of the events you’ve organised.
We have had lots of great events running over the last year, including a Q&A with Iolo Williams, a camping trip to Pembrokeshire to visit Ramsey Island, trips to Cardiff Bay Wetlands, Forrest Farm and many others, as well as taking part in the monthly Wetland Bird Surveys in Roath Park, the BTO's nest box scheme, the rook survey and the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. We also run some popular socials including bird-themed board game nights, pub quizzes, our end-of-year ‘Dress as a Bird’ social and our infamous ‘Battle of the Biscuits’ social (which was unfortunately slightly less bird-related).
One of the reasons you won the award was because of the contributions you made to the national database through encouraging Ornithology Society members to take part in multiple surveys (e.g. the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Wetland Bird Survey and nest box scheme, RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, the Welsh Ornithological Society’s 2022 Rook survey). Why are these so important?
These events are hugely important to help make up national databases that can be used to inform conservation decisions and research work, and are a fun way to volunteer and get involved in birding and wildlife. I would definitely encourage anyone interested in birding or wildlife, or considering a career in conservation to come along, whatever your level of birding experience (we can always pair you with someone more knowledgeable!). It’s a great way to sharpen up your ID skills and meet like-minded people.
What does it mean to you to be named as Marsh Young Ornithologist of the Year 2022?
I feel extremely honoured and it means a huge amount to me to receive this award. I have greatly enjoyed running the Society and volunteering with the BTO this year. I would also like to thank everyone who has helped with the running of the Society and all the Society members – I have made so many great new friends. The prize money I received enables me to make a significant donation towards the Society to help with the cost of running trips and activities so that we can continue to make birding more accessible to everyone.
What’s next for the Ornithology Society?
We have lots of great events planned for this year, including trips to Newport Wetlands, Forrest Farm, Nant Bran Woodlands, plenty of fun socials, hopefully a ‘Careers in Wildlife’ session as well as another residential trip to Pembrokeshire. There will also be plenty of opportunities to take part in volunteering again this year, as we will be continuing to take part in the monthly Wetland Bird Surveys in Roath Park, the Big Garden Birdwatch, and hopefully participate in the BTO nest box scheme again.
If someone reading this is interested in joining the Ornithology Society, how would they do that?
Please have a look at our social media pages or our website to see our events. Membership is only £3 but we also have plenty of Give It A Go’s running throughout the year which are open for non-members to join. You can also email us or DM us on social media if you would like to be added to our group chat or mailing list to keep updated with our upcoming events!
Find out more here:
Join via the Students’ Union: www.cardiffstudents.com/activities/society/ornithological/