HDNS Guest Lecture – 3rd October 2019

Harrogate District Naturalists’ Society is hosting a special Guest Lecture this October in advance of our Winter Programme.

We are delighted to announce that acclaimed ornithologist and scientific author Professor Tim Birkhead will deliver our Guest Lecture on 3rd October 2019.

From tales of the eccentric and obsessive Victorian egg collectors through to weird and wonderful facts about the miracles of hen and cuckoo eggs, Tim Birkhead will share with the audience just why the egg continues to be a source of fascination. As he describes a journey of a bird’s egg it will answer many of those popular questions such as why eggs are the shape they are and why some contain double yolks.

During October’s talk he will focus on his fascination with eggs that led to him writing a third book in 2017: The Most Perfect Thing: the Inside (and Outside) of a Bird’s Egg, described by Sir David Attenborough as ‘magnificent’.

The Wonder of Birds’ Eggs: Thursday 3rd October 7.30pm, Hampsthwaite Memorial Hall, HG3 2EJ.

There is ample parking at the venue and good access for the disabled. Free refreshments will be available.

Admission by ticket only (£5)

To secure your ticket in advance, email or phone one of the organisers:

Muff mjupsall@btinternet.com 01423 340694 or 07812 356177
Nigel nharcourtbrown@gmail.com
Kerry kerry.morrison5@gmail.com 07811 806409 or 01423 540267

Tickets can be bought at Hampsthwaite Village Store or Crab Lane Vets, Bilton.

If there are any tickets remaining, they will be on sale at the door on the night.


About the speaker

Professor Tim Birkhead

Professor Tim Birkhead

Professor Birkhead is well known in research and education circles as he has made important contributions to the field of behavioural ecology. As a young science graduate he started looking at the guillemots on Skomer in 1972. In the 1930s, this population of guillemots had been around 100,000 pairs but by 1972 the numbers had fallen to just 2,000 pairs, probably owing to oil spills from ships sunk nearby during the Second World War. Since the 1980s, the numbers have increased, and there are now around 25,000 pairs. Forty-six years later he is still studying these birds in order to understand their population biology.

Many interesting discoveries have come from this project. Few species of birds have been studied properly for this length of time. As the guillemots return to land only to breed, this aspect of their life has been a major part of Tim’s study. He has developed a particular interest in their eggs, which were collected in Victorian times and have a wide range of colours, which meant that specific eggs often changed hands for large sums of money. The guillemot’s eggs also have an unusual, characteristic shape with one end very pointed. Many scientists have speculated about why this is but until recently, no satisfactory explanation has been proved.

Tim has also worked with other birds looking at their breeding strategies. Using DNA identification of parents and their offspring he has found that many birds that appear to pair closely, either for life or at least that breeding season, often have ‘extra-marital’ relationships. This results in male birds rearing other males’ chicks. The male birds in the pair have adopted strategies to try to avoid this; equally the females have strategies that will allow them to continue their liaisons!

Professor Birkhead has had many awards for his university teaching and he has a very entertaining as well as informative lecturing style. As well as his academic role, Tim has found the time to write several popular science books: His first was The Red Canary (2004). Others followed: The Wisdom of Birds; Bird Sense, which was a bestseller that sold translations in ten countries.

The venue

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society have decided to use the Memorial Hall in Hampsthwaite near Harrogate as it can accommodate more guests (up to 200) than the hall on Roberts Street where they usually meet. The Memorial Hall has good disabled access facilities and a car-park.

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