HDNS Guest Lecture – 3rd October 2019

Harrogate District Naturalists’ Society is hosting a special Guest Lecture this October.

We are delighted to announce that Professor Tim Birkhead FRS, eminent ornithologist, author and Professor of Behaviour and Evolution, has agreed to deliver our Guest Lecture on 3rd October 2019, when he will speak to us about his work on birds eggs. His research includes promiscuity in birds and the physiology of birds’ eggs; for over 46 years he has monitored populations of Guillemots on Skomer.

The lecture will be held in Hampsthwaite Memorial Hall, HG3 2EJ, at 7:30 pm on 3rd October. There is ample parking at the venue and free refreshments will be available.

Admission by ticket only (£5)

To secure your ticket, 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 will also be on sale at the Corner Shop in Hampsthwaite.

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.

In 2017 his book The Most Perfect Thing: the Inside (and Outside) of a Bird’s Egg was described by Sir David Attenborough as ‘magnificent’. We know that he is going to give an entertaining and informative lecture based on the information that allowed him to write his book on the egg. For this reason 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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