Wirral Bird Club - Chair's Reports
WIRRAL BIRD CLUB: 39th ANNUAL CHAIR’S REPORT 2016
I must, of course, begin this report with some words about our Honorary President and founder member, Hilda Truesdale, who died on 13th of April, aged 91. It’s no exaggeration to say that, without Hilda, there would have been no Wirral Bird Club. Some people, even her friends, said at its beginning, that she would be lucky if it lasted 5 years. But Hilda was a remarkable woman, strong-willed, intelligent, and had a capacity for hard work, which meant that in those early years she did most jobs on the Committee, not least organising speakers whom she often made welcome with bed and breakfast accommodation.
For Hilda the Bird Club was a labour of love and it played a large part in her life in her 50s, 60s, and 70s: she finally retired from the Committee in 2004, after 27 years, by which time failing health and eyesight meant she could no longer carry on.
But she always maintained an interest in the Club and remained alert and strong-willed right up to the end. She even did my crosswords in the Newsletter as long as there was somebody to read her the clues! I’ve no doubt the Committee will be thinking of some kind of permanent memorial for Hilda. If you have any thoughts about the nature of such a memorial please let us know.
And now to less serious matters. This is our 39th year and we have some reasons to be cheerful even though, year on year, our membership numbers continue to fall. I must confess that at the AGM twelve months ago I was somewhat pessimistic. The Committee seemed to be in freefall with a slew of resignations in the pipeline, my own included, But, thanks to a combination of internal transfers and a modest influx of new blood, we are nearly back to normal.
Attendances have usually been very encouraging at our Indoor Meetings, and even our Field Meetings have seen an increase in turnout. Our Publicity Department has done sterling work this year and I want to thank them, especially Bill, Jim and Margaret for their continued efforts to ‘spread the word’.
I also should single out Hugh who resigned as Field Trip Organiser; if there was ever a Committee member who could be described as ‘indispensable’ it seemed to be Hugh, and I wish to give my (our) thanks to him for making the Club such a success over the last 20 years. We are mainly a Birdwatching Club and Hugh never lets us forget that essential part of our activities. I have always been in awe of his ability, with the naked eye, to find and identify a speck at 200 or 300 yards (or even further) - a bird which many of us then spend the next 10 minutes trying to find with binoculars! Hugh is still on the Committee but now as Treasurer, where no doubt he will keep his eagle-eye on the state of our finances. Hugh is to be replaced by Mike to whom we are all greatly indebted, as he seemed to be the only willing recruit! Also I must mention Hazel who has taken on Joyce’s role as Speaker Organiser for our Indoor Meetings. Again, she seemed to be the only volunteer for what can be a frustrating job. So we all thank you, too, Hazel.
It was 24 years ago that I was approached by Muriel in the old Music Room. Apparently Hilda was having trouble doing the Minutes at Committee Meetings (her eyesight was beginning to fade) and Muriel wondered if I might be willing to join the Club as Minuting Secretary.
This was the era when Hilda filled about five roles on the Committee as Chair, Secretary, Field Trip Organiser, Minuting Sec. and Membership Sec (?), which I thought was a bit much, so I said, ‘Yes’. That was in 1992 and 11 years later, this time on a Field Trip to Deeside, at Shotton, it was Hugh who approached me to ask if I was willing to become the Chair of our little Club. It was at this point I should have said, ‘Only if I can give up taking the Minutes’ - but I didn’t, so I ended up doing both jobs right up until last September, when Joyce finally relieved me of the burden of minute taking. Thanks Joyce.
So, after 24 years, the last 13 as Chair I am retiring from the Committee. I hope I may be forgiven for relating some personal reminiscences from my years with the WBC. Don’t worry; this isn’t the prelude to an interminable list of memories from 170 Field Trips, 200 Indoor Meetings and 65 Committee Meetings. Just some random memorable or amusing highlights, I promise.
A perfect sunny spring Sunday on Hilbre and, being delightfully compelled to stay there over the tide watching flocks of Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones, so crowded together on the rocks that some birds were standing on the backs of others; a talk on Robins by a true fanatic for his subject; the reliable Kingfishers of Carsington Water; my personal record of 17 minutes for an AGM when I somehow forgot to put anything to a vote; the wheeling and pulsating clouds of Starlings preparing to roost when we delayed our departure from Leighton Moss until dusk one winter; the obliging Smew at Fairburn Ings which flew in just as we were about to pack up for the day; the synchronised diving display of Gannets seen from Bempton Cliffs; looking forward to the start of our birding year in September with one of Gordon’s films, always worth watching even though they seemed to be only the size of a TV screen; being locked out of Kingsmead one July and when we managed to gain access having to project the slides across the room because the front wall was missing - we drew the curtains and the speaker seemed to forget this at times and wandered perilously close to the edge and taking a 5-foot dive into the gym.
I could go on, but mostly I will remember the friendliness and good humour of the members over the years. Thanks for putting up with me and overlooking any errors and omissions I have made; you won’t be totally getting rid of me however, I will still be a member of the Club, of course.
It only remains for me to thank anyone I haven’t named who have done their bit for the Club during the past year, from the commissionaires on the door to our domestic staff, those who take the register and, of course, Jean who may have relinquished the job as Treasurer but is still Membership Secretary and Newsletter Editor, and finally you, the 80% of the membership who are NOT on the Committee, for turning up, even for an AGM; without your support there wouldn’t be a Wirral Bird Club! So thank you!!
Colin Garside, Chair (Retd.), Wirral Bird Club, May 2016
WIRRAL BIRD CLUB: 38th ANNUAL CHAIR’S REPORT 2015
You will be pleased to hear that this report will be shorter than usual but with one or two surprises!
It has been mainly a year of consolidation - simply put; your Committee has been streamlining its operation. For instance, we decided to ignore the Constitution (yes, we do have one!) which states that we should have four meetings each year; we now have just three and nobody, I hope, has noticed the difference. Similarly, we have been managing with only seven officers on the Committee when we are supposed to have twelve. Thanks to Barry and Mike on the door and Pam i/c the domestic arrangements we seem to be performing quite efficiently, for the moment.
Everyone must have noticed the results of one addition to the Committee; in fact, Bill is not officially a member of the Committee - though he does seem to be busier than most of us with his work for our Website. All the innovations he has made - regular reports of Field Meetings, increased publicity and reminders of meetings, Hugh’s News, accounts on Twitter and Facebook etc. all came from him. We all thank you Bill for the success you have made of the post.
Now for a little anecdote which I assure you has some relevance for what is to follow. When I was a child I used to go and get my hair cut by a barber who called himself The Professor. When any new schoolboy customer sat down in his chair the Professor used to ask him, ‘Do you want the 9d haircut or the shillin’?’ ‘What’s the difference?’ the new lad would ask. The answer was always the same: ‘For a shillin’ I do it properly!’
‘To do a proper job’ with the Club’s finances we may need to increase charges or simply subsidise everything from our reserves. Clearly, we can’t continue indefinitely with the latter option.
Now I come to a matter which is even more pressing than the Club’s finances. We can’t expect members of the Committee to continue in office indefinitely. Joyce, Jean and Hugh have all expressed a wish to resign sooner rather than later! I don’t need to remind you that they all play key roles in the Club: Joyce as Secretary is mainly responsible for organising the Speakers’ Programme for the Indoor Meetings, Jean as Treasurer, Membership secretary and Newsletter Editor, and Hugh i/c Field Trips with everything that entails. So, we are asking for volunteers to join the Committee to take part in a period of training and joint responsibility for a few months.
Everyone will be informed of the situation, either by letter or email, in the near future. The Committee will be holding a special meeting in early August when we should have had some feedback from members, one way or the other.
The programme for next year, 2015/16, has already been finalised. This will be the 39th year of the Club’s existence but, obviously, we can only continue if we have a viable Committee.
And so, on that bombshell, I’m going to conclude. I’d just like to express my thanks to everyone who has contributed to another enjoyable year with the Club, not just the Committee but ordinary members too.
Colin Garside, Chair, Wirral Bird Club, May 2015
WIRRAL BIRD CLUB: 37th ANNUAL CHAIR’S REPORT 2014
The theme of this year’s report is simply an account of some highlights and lowlights, or vicissitudes if you like long words, of a year in the life of the WBC as recalled by me, of course.
The first disappointment was exactly 12 months ago, when, at this AGM, I had to report that Pam was resigning as Publicity Secretary. She had done such a conscientious job over the last 2 years that we had indeed stemmed the decline in our numbers and managed to increase membership thanks in no small measure to her efforts. Fortunately Margaret and her husband Jim have taken over the Publicity portfolio and continue to build on Pam’s foundations; many thanks to all three.
Another unexpected blow came in March. Jennifer let it be known that, after 12 years, she wished to give up running our website - someone else needed to have a go. Jennifer is one of those people blessed with rare commonsense - much more than I have, that’s for sure. She was the initiative behind our Lottery bid about 7 years ago and has learned all about Website creation from scratch, setting up the WBC site and running it ever since….and most successful it has been, with hundreds of hits each year. I am sure you all wish to join me in expressing our sincere thanks for everything she has done for us, not least for having introduced Joyce to the Club, who became our Secretary 3 years ago. Thank you so much, Jennifer.
We are mainly a Birdwatching Club so it is dispiriting that so few of our members manage to turn up on Field Trips which are so carefully and laboriously planned by Hugh. A few figures: Brockholes, near Preston in May - 3, Heswall Shore, July - 4, Redrocks, September (lovely day!) - 7, Kinmel Bay, December - 4. Hugh tells me that on one occasion some years ago he was the only who turned up!
You never know what you might see during a Field Trip; on that Redrocks visit, for which I was nominal leader (Hugh being in foreign parts) the highlight was seeing Natterjack toadlets scurrying back to the pond after a night out.
September’s Indoor Meeting began, I remember, rather inauspiciously. I had phoned the Caretaker to make sure that, after the Summer holidays, everything was back to normal and they had remembered we were coming. I was assured everything would be fine. Only one slight snag - we couldn’t get in! The key-code had been changed, no-one had been informed of the new code and our members were queuing outside the door. Gordon was not pleased! Fortunately a Deputy Head who lives nearby was able to help. Had he been out for the evening I really don’t know what we would have done.
Gordon Yates, by the way, will be making his final appearance in October this year (not September) so that will really be the end of an era for the Club. Don’t miss it!
If numbers attending Field Trips are a disappointment the same can not be said for our Indoor Meetings. Jean is happy with an audience of 30. In February we had 64! As a Committee we often wonder just what it is that brings in the bigger attendances. It’s not simply the familiar speakers we have every year and it’s not merely a catchy title for the talk. For example, ‘Extremadura—not just Montfrague’ isn’t being that informative, especially if you’ve never heard of ‘Extremadura’ let alone ‘Montfrague’ and yet that presentation, given by a speaker we’ve had only once before, attracted the record audience. Sometimes, I’m sure, wet weather has kept the numbers low, or even a good night on TV, or might it be simply down to luck - a combination of imponderables..and while I’m on the subject of what affects the size of the gate, I wonder if the £4 we charge for visitors might be putting more people off than, say, a £2 charge would attract. Discuss!
After the wonderful show our members put on following last year’s AGM, the highlight of the year for me (bird-related if not Club-related) occurred one early evening in November. Attracted by a colourful Turneresque sky I drove down to the shore at Thurstaston, went down the steps by the Shore cottages there to watch the splendid sunset over the Welsh hills. It was high tide and the weather was perfect now after a miserable wet day. Suddenly, from stage right, a huge flock of Knot entered my vision and started their balletic gyrations, perfectly choreographed, with alternating smoky clouds, now white, now grey, as thousands of birds turned in unison, expanding and shrinking as they changed direction. Then, for a finale, they split into two separate clouds and proceeded to compete with each other as to which flock could produce the most impressive shapes and movement. It was a stunning performance and lasted for all of ten minutes..and it all seemed to be just for my entertainment - certainly I could see nobody else on the beach. I remember thinking, “If only the WBC could see this!” I’m sorry you missed it.
I can’t finish, of course, without thanking everyone on the Committee whom I haven’t yet mentioned for all the hard work they do throughout the year, not forgetting the ‘domestic staff’(usually Sylvia, Kaye and Helen) for manning the trolley. And finally - thanks to you, the members, who continue to support the Club in this, its 37th year.
Colin Garside, Chair, Wirral Bird Club, May 2014.
WIRRAL BIRD CLUB: 36th ANNUAL CHAIR’S REPORT 2013
In my Annual Report last year I pointed out that this is a Bird Club, not the TUC and fortunately (or unfortunately, some may think) you have a Chair who believes in informality. Practically everything in an AGM is routine: you may notice, for instance, that I usually don’t bother with proposers and seconders (or voting!) for the purely formal business of the meeting - I mean, what’s the point? And the mystery of the disappearing minutes no doubt confirms your judgement of me as a not very punctilious Chair.
However, if anyone out there would like the job I’m more than willing to relinquish my lofty position!
Twenty years ago we had 180 members in the Club, 10 years ago just over 100 and now it stands at about 75. It sounds like a history of steady decline – yet it isn’t! We now have to compete with many other interests. When the Club was founded by Hilda Truesdale in 1977 it soon attracted over 200 members and a waiting list had to be opened for those wishing to join. I don’t think that would be the case to-day, no matter what we did.
At our last Committee meeting in April, Jean, our Treasurer, was heard to utter the following shocking statement, “I don’t think we need to increase the annual subscription this year”! After a thorough analysis of our finances she had decided that we were, indeed, solvent. This, despite the fact that Insurance has increased by nearly £40, and gratuities/donations have gone up £70. By the way, the tip to coach drivers had remained at £10 for as long as anyone can remember so we thought we had better double it forthwith.
There are two main reasons for our continuing solvency: firstly, our attendances at Indoor Meetings have improved – the average ‘gate’ is 37.4 Jean informs us; secondly, our £4 for visitors has been a success.
Of course, without the hard work of your Committee, we would not have had such an encouraging year. Pam took over from Bill two years ago and has done a splendid job as Publicity Secretary. We now have a wider exposure in the various media – local magazines, especially the various editions of the Messenger, newspapers, on-line, posters, radio, our website and, very important, word-of-mouth – all of which have helped us maintain our membership numbers,
Unfortunately, Pam is leaving the Committee to-day as she was serving on so many committees she had little time for anything else. So something had to go. Thus we have an obvious vacancy on the Committee for a dynamic Publicity Officer who will be helped into the task by Pam, of course.
So, thank you Pam for your initiatives and efforts over the past two years – they have been greatly appreciated. I’m sure you will get some token of our appreciation in due course!
Jean, as well as being Treasurer and Membership Secretary, has also edited the Club’s Newsletter for the last 12 years – believe it or not, that’s 36 issues. So you can see, she’s a very busy lady.
Joyce is another very busy lady on our behalf. She has been our Secretary for the past 3 years. Her main chore is arranging the Speaker Programme and I must say she has done wonderfully well. She’s extremely conscientious, produces a varied programme and has come up with many new ideas.
Hugh is the third workhorse on the Committee. His expertise, enthusiasm and common sense result every year in a series of carefully planned Field Trips he (and we!) can be proud of. It’s just a pity that we don’t see more of our members out enjoying them.
If Jean, Joyce and Hugh do most of the work, others aren’t exactly idle. I’ve been going on a bit too long already, so I’ll just mention Margaret who organises our Coach Bookings; Jim, her husband, who is active in Publicity; Jennifer who is i/c our website (very important!); Sylvia, who hosts our Committee Meetings (and makes some wonderful pastries) and also helps, with Kaye and Helen as our ‘trolley-dollies’; Heather, Frank and George, who help in any way they can, even if they don’t have a specific ‘portfolio’.
And lastly, I must thank you, our members, for turning up, even for AGMs. This is our 36th year, though it certainly doesn’t seem like 12 months since I was last sitting here. As someone once said (it might have been me!), “The hours may drag but the years go flying by”
And on that paradoxical note, I’ll finish.
Colin Garside, Chair, Wirral Bird Club, May 2013.