BBRC Members

Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae, eleifend ac, enim. Aliquam lorem ante, dapibus in, viverra quis, feugiat a, tellus. Phasellus viverra nulla ut metus varius laoreet. Quisque rutrum.

Andrew HoldenMemberYorkshire2019
Brian SmallMuseum consultantSuffolk2001
Dawn BalmerMember Norfolk2021
Dave CooperMember Shetland2022
Dave PullanMember Highland2018
David FairhurstMember Suffolk2015
Louise BaconSecretaryCambridgeshire2022
Martin CollinsonGenetic advisorNortheast Scotland2013
Michael McKeeMember Cornwall2020
Nigel JonesMemberHampshire2016
Reg ThorpeSummariserCaernarfonshire1995
Paul FrenchChairEast Yorkshire2015
Phil CrockettMemberNortheast Scotland2020
Roger RiddingtonVice-chairShetland2017
Stephen MenzieMemberFalsterbo (Sweden)2017

Andrew Holden

Andrew was fascinated by birds by the time he started primary school. Perhaps influenced by a chance encounter with an unsuccessful Ancient Murrelet twitch on Lundy Island, this soon developed into a passion for rarities and ultimately their identification. He is particularly interested in the birds of the Western Palearctic and as well as enjoying many British twitches throughout his teens and twenties, he undertook extensive travel throughout the region, additionally trips across North America. As well as twice entering and winning Dutch Birding’s ‘Masters of Mystery’ competition, his interest in identification has been reflected in his involvement in many identifications and re-identifications over the years, recently including Britain’s first Pale-legged Leaf Warbler. Whilst now living with his wife and daughter in North Yorkshire, his favourite place is the Isles of Scilly, where he is a serving member of the Scilly Rarities Committee and recent finds have included Grey-cheeked Thrush and Rustic Bunting.

BBRC member Andrew Holden

Dawn Balmer

Dawn Balmer grew up in Shropshire, but it was three years in Plymouth in the late 1980s and early 90s where she took at degree in Environmental Science that really expanded her birding horizons. With an active bird club at the Poly and supportive student and local birders, it wasn’t long before she was catching up with new species and seeing her first rare birds, the most memorable being a gorgeous first-winter Ross’s Gull in Newlyn in January 1989. Watching gulls on the Plym estuary, Chelson Meadow tip and around the outfall on the Hooe became a big part of birding and instilled a life-long passion for gulls. With her birding mates in Plymouth she made a couple of good finds; a Marsh Sandpiper at Bantham in May 1990 (a first for Devon) and a Bonaparte’s Gulls off Plymouth Hooe in February 1990. For the last 28 years, Dawn has lived in Thetford, in the Norfolk Brecks and is a keen local birder. A Bee-eater in the Cambridgeshire Fens in 2002 was a good find whilst on fieldwork, and two Black-winged Stilts at Hockwold Washes (Norfolk) in 2002 and a Red-rumped Swallow at Livermere Lake in 2009 were decent inland records, though not challenging any identification skills! Finding her first Greenish Warbler at Cley on her birthday was memorable. Much of her weekend birding for the last 23 years has been with her husband, Peter Wilson, and for the last 14 years, with daughter Bethany too. A good find, in inland Norfolk, was an Ashy-headed Wagtail at Pentney Gravel Pits in 2006. Between them they have found a good number of scarce birds (American Golden Plover, Parrot Crossbills, Kumlien’s Gull, Bee-eaters, Little Bunting, several Black Brants, few Red-footed Falcons etc) though she wasn’t out birding with Pete when he found his two records of American Herring Gull! The Southwest has always been a favourite place for autumn birding, and after many birding trips to the Isles of Scilly in the late 1980s and early 90s, she has visited West Cornwall almost annually since the mid-90s, though these days she has to try her luck during the school half-term October holiday, whatever the week it falls on and the weather pattern! Sometimes it works out well, and she was pleased to be ‘in-on’ the find of an American Buff-bellied Pipit at Sennen in 2019.

BBRC member Dawn Balmer

Dave Cooper

Originally hailing from Sussex, Dave quickly made his mark around the Beachy Head area with finds such as Desert Wheatear and Bonaparte’s Gull, before wider travels and explorations saw him finding rarities all over the World, inc Greater Sandplover on the Ythan estuary, Franklin’s Gull in Australia and the first Yellow-eyed Doves for Gujarat. It was to be his repeated visits to Hegura-ijima, the “Fair Isle of Japan” that saw his name become more well known, finding the first Japanese record of American White-winged Scoter and second Whinchat among others, and his published ID articles on Red-headed Bunting and Pin-tailed Snipe were well received. His impact on the British birding scene took a dramatic upturn when the opportunity to move to Unst arose, and so in 2016 he upped sticks and settled in Norwick. The list of memorable finds since then is truly too long to fit in here, but highlights have included the first land-based Fea’s type Petrel for Shetland, a fly-by Brünnich’s Guillemot (winner of the Carl Zeiss Award), Siberian Accentor, White’s Thrush, Tengmalm’s Owl, Marmora’s Warbler, Upland Sandpiper, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, four Black-headed Buntings, Pechora Pipit and two Lesser Grey Shrikes. He was also instrumental in the identification of Britain’s 1st Long-legged Buzzard, as well as a Short-toed Treecreeper in Sussex. He has twice served on the Sussex Ornithological Society Records Committee and currently serves on the Shetland Bird Club Records Committee.

BBRC member Dave Cooper

Dave Pullan

Dave is originally from Yorkshire but is now based in Speyside after an early career in conservation took him to the Scotland where he has been based for over 30 years, frequently birding in Highland and along the Moray coast. He now work as a freelance wildlife tour guide and has birded in over 50 countries on 6 Continents, with extensive travelling in Europe and North America (as well as Japan, China, Thailand and India to name a few). Like so many of us, his early years in conservation were spent on Shetland where he was the RSPB’s first seasonal warden at Loch of Spiggie, leading to him finding a hatful of rarities in the Northern Isles during the 1980’s, including Blue-winged Teal, Great Snipe, Black-eared Wheatear, Yellow-breasted and Rustic Buntings and Aquatic Warbler. Elsewhere, Dave played a key role in the identification of Britain’s first Short-billed Dowitcher and has found many a good bird in Highland and the Moray Firth areas, including Steller’s Eider, Black Scoter, Terek and Baird’s Sandpipers , Wilson’s Phalarope and Pied Wheatear. He also serves on the Scottish Birds Records Committee.

BBRC member Dave Pullan

David Fairhurst

Dave has been birding as long as he can remember. Originally from the north-west he is very much an honorary Suffolk-boy now living on the Suffolk coast with his wife and two young daughters. He is a warden for the RSPB and when not working and birding he leads tours for Limosa and Shetland Wildlife. Prior to settling down, Dave worked on various projects including studying Woodlarks on the Dorset heaths, Bittern monitoring throughout the UK, species protection on Anglesey, bird monitoring in Jordan, Griffon Vulture research in Israel and habitat restoration on the Seychelles. Dave has a very impressive UK self-found list with it at present standing just over 320 and includes Marsh, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers, Pacific Golden Plover, Laughing Gull, Lesser-crested Tern, Isabelline and Pied Wheatears, Brown Shrike, Thick-billed and Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers, Red-flanked Bluetail, Two-barred Crossbill, Yellow-breasted Bunting and Red-eyed Vireo.

BBRC member Dave Fairhurst

Louise Bacon (Secretary)

A lifelong birder, Louise started out in the Young Ornithologists Club (YOC) then birded her way through the University of East Anglia and has been based in Cambridgeshire ever since. She graduated as a biochemist studying the human immune system, but her love of data and wildlife soon took over, becoming an Environmental Records Centre data person. After almost a decade in the Cambridgeshire Records Centre, she embarked on a life of short contracts wrestling with data backlogs, massive spreadsheets and databases before a 3-year stint with the UK Polar Data Centre. She now works for the BTO ringing team. Louise has given many years of voluntary time to the Cambridgeshire bird club; as research officer, Atlas organiser then county recorder, before stepping down in 2021. As well as birding, Louise has been an active nest recorder and still holds a ringing permit. When not birding, it is butterflies and moths which take much of her attention, regularly running a moth trap and walking a butterfly transect. She is also an active conservation volunteer, involved in woodland management through the winter and wetland management in late summer with the Wildlife Trust and with the Cambridge Conservation Volunteers.

BBRC member Louise Bacon

Michael McKee

Michael is originally from Fort William in Scotland and moved to Berkshire when he was 11. An interest in wildlife developed at a young age but it was after the move south that an active birding life began with school weekends spent around the local sewage farm and west London reservoirs. After graduating from Exeter University, every autumn was spent on trips to Shetland. His first trip to Foula in 1993 produced a Pechora Pipit and Rustic Bunting which kicked off the rarity finding bug. Since then almost every trip to Shetland has produced at least one rarity with highlights being White-crowned Sparrow, Bobolink, Brown Shrike, White’s Thrush, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Isabelline Wheatear, Lesser Grey Shrike, Pechora Pipit (6), Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler (2) and Lanceolated Warbler (7). Other rarity highlights include 2 Buff-bellied Pipits in Berkshire and a Gull-billed Tern on Tiree. He has carried a camera since these first Shetland trips and spends a lot of time photographing any rarities he sees. Many of his photos have appeared in British Birds and in 2017 he was awarded the Carl Zeiss award. He has birded widely around the world including North, Central and South America, the Middle East, Asia and North Africa. In 2016 Michael moved to west Cornwall where he now birds the valleys and headlands of Penwith in search of that next rarity.

BBRC member Michael McKee

Nigel Jones

Based in Romsey in Hampshire, just on the edge of the New Forest, Nigel has been the managing director of the tour company Ornitholidays since 1990 and has travelled extensively around the world, visiting all seven continents. His interest in birds started at age four, but his first encounter with rare birds happened while still at school, when he found Hertfordshire’s first Cetti’s Warbler in the 1970s. A job as assistant warden on Fair Isle in 1979 helped expand his knowledge and he was lucky to add Cretzschmar’s Bunting, White-billed Diver, Yellow-breasted Bunting and a fist-full of other rarities to his self-found list. From the 1980s onwards, Nigel has been part of the rarity hunting scene in the UK and has found a number of good birds in his adopted county of Hampshire, with recent BBRC submissions including Savi’s Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper, Iberian Chiffchaff and Spectacled Warbler. He is also involved in research and is one of the co-founders of the New Forest Woodcock group where they have started an in-depth study of breeding and migrant birds.

BBRC member Nigel Jones

Paul French (Chair)

Paul has been a birder since about 8 years old when he identified his first Greenfinch. The obsession has lasted ever since. His education took him to the dark streets of London, and after graduating from the University of East London with a degree in Wildlife Conservation, he embarked upon a career within the bird conservation and monitoring sector, becoming assistant warden on Fair Isle in 2001-02, assistant warden for the RSPB on Fetlar and Sumburgh in 2003-05 with a spell in Devon for the Barn Owl Trust, then warden at Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore between 2005-10 and finally as restoration advisor for the RSPB’s ‘Nature After Minerals’ project in 2010-11. Ultimately, he decided that more time for actual birding was required from life, and he became a freelance ornithologist in 2011. Paul moved to East Yorkshire in 2014 and now lives in Easington, within an easy sprint of Spurn. Migration and rarity finding are Paul’s main drivers, and over the years has been fortunate to find a few good birds, with highlights including Oriental Turtle Dove, Pacific & Pallid Swifts, Black-faced, Yellow-breasted and Black-headed Buntings, Buff-bellied, Pechora and Red-throated Pipits, Desertas type Petrel, Least Sandpiper, Booted, Paddyfield, 2 Lanceolated and 5 Blyth’s Reed Warblers, Swainson’s Thrush, King Eider and 2 Two-barred Crossbills. After eight years as a voting member of the committee, he became Chairman of BBRC in 2015 and also sits in an ex-officio role on the BOURC. Paul now splits his time between working as a Senior Ornithologist for HiDef Aerial Surveying, doing the occasional tour for WINGS and expanding his Spurn and garden lists.

BBRC member Paul French

Phil Crockett

Phil started his birding life in Cambridgeshire after been introduced to the interest by his father. He spent long hours in the countryside around about his home after school with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker one of his earliest memories, as well as the local Corn Buntings. The passion became obsessional once he got to Aberdeen to attend University and he joined the University Bird Club. This gave him the taste for finding local rarities and he graduated to national rarities when the club found the first of three Ross’s Gulls that turned up at Fraserburgh in 1993. Even before then he was spending time in spring and autumn on Shetland, initially twitching the rarities. As time went on though he, with like-minded friends, became more driven by the bug of finding his own. Having by the late-nineties decided to settle back in Aberdeenshire, it was an easy choice to move to Collieston with its close proximity to the Ythan Estuary and the Forvie NNR. He is now reasonably well tolerated by his neighbours. Since then he has travelled more widely to different world locations, but his chief passion in birding is the Collieston patch and the surrounding areas. Finding the first Eastern Olivaceous Warbler for NES had cemented his belief in patch birding and he spent several years on the local rarities committee. His more notable finds include several regional firsts, and finds he has particularly enjoyed through this time include; Isabelline, Pied and Desert (2) Wheatears, Great Snipe, Pechora and Red-throated Pipits, Pacific Golden Plover (2), Lanceolated Warbler, Semipalmated Sandpiper (2), Moltoni’s Warbler and Brown Shrike. He has learnt the most from the people he has spent time birding with, both finding and studying birds with them and from their knowledge. He hopes to continue that development, whilst still spending as much free-time as his family will allow wandering in and around Collieston, where there are still a few pairs of Corn Bunting to enjoy.

BBRC member Phil Crockett

Roger Riddington (Vice-chair)

Born and brought up in Lincolnshire, Roger started birding in his schooldays. Rarities barely featured for ten years or more, in fact not until he started his PhD, when the availability of lifts to various rare birds in Britain provided the perfect antidote to nesting Great Tits in Oxford. His first visit to Shetland was in 1992, when he spent six months as an assistant warden on Fair Isle, learning a lot, including how to fill in a BBRC form. He returned to Fair Isle as the Observatory warden in 1994, then after four years at the helm moved to mainland Shetland, where he still lives. He became the editor of British Birds in 2001 and that job is currently still keeping him occupied and at a computer for more hours of the day than is healthy. Moving to Shetland cured his desire to cultivate a large British list but he is always keen to see, and especially find, rarities in Shetland. Species on his find list include Red-necked Stint, Thick-billed Warbler and Taiga Flycatcher, although more regular rarities that he’d always dreamed of stumbling across, including Ross’s Gull and White’s Thrush, gave particular pleasure, as did a Yellow-rumped Warbler in his garden. Rarities are an important part of his birding year in Shetland, but by no means the only thing to look forward to. He has been an A-ringer since 1993 and is equally enthusiastic about a morning in a Guillemot colony as an unstreaked acro in the hand. He also enjoys the shoulder season of Shetland birding, and months such as July and November, when the chances of something good are slimmer but the pace is more relaxed. He is currently in his second spell on the Shetland rarities committee, has served a term on the Scottish Birds Rarities Committee (latterly as chairman) and is a former chair of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust.

BBRC member Roger Riddington

Stephen Menzie

Originally from Liverpool, Stephen grew up birding in the northwest. Far from Britain’s liveliest birding region, the lack of rarity-finding opportunity gave him time for focus on some of life’s finer details, such as ageing and sexing of common birds. Naturally, this led on to ringing and expanding his interest in ageing and sexing of birds beyond the northwest. Stephen has birded across Britain and the wider Western Palearctic, including leading tours for Sunbird in Oman and Morocco, and has experience of ringing in multiple countries. He currently lives and works in Sweden as manager of Falsterbo Bird Observatory, one of Europe’s biggest and busiest stations – a job that sees him ringing anywhere up to 20,000 birds a year under a backdrop of up to 3 million birds migrating annually. Suffice to say, Stephen is never short of birds to look at! From March 2021, he will also be editor of British Birds – a position that may limit the number of birds he rings and sees each year but that will no doubt provide fulfilment in so many other ways. While Falsterbo is famed more for its passage of common birds that for its rarities, Stephen nonetheless gets to see and handle a number of rarities each year plus a host of species that are regularly encountered in Sweden but are rarities in Britain. He has found or been involved in finding a number of locally rare or very rare species in the region, including Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Yellow-breasted Bunting and three Collared Flycatchers in southern Sweden (where the last species is still a rarity), and the fifth record of Watercock in Oman.

BBRC member Stephen Menzie