Chief Operations Officer
Fenland Cambridgeshire, UK
Find Steve on Twitter @stevedudley_
Involved with the BOU as:
I’m the senior staff member here at the BOU with my fingers in all or our many pies!
BOU member since: 1997
Most likely to be found . . .
. . . when not at my desk I’m either gardening in our Fenland wildlife garden, or birding my local area of the fens with my dog, Jax-the-Spanish-Water-Dog.
Why are you a member of the BOU?
To be honest I only joined the BOU when I became a staff member. The BOU used to feel very aloof and high-brow to pseudo-ornithologist birders such as myself. But now I believe passionately that all avian researchers should be a member, and many higher-end birders like me, with a deep interest in ornithology and not just birding, and who contribute to ornithology, e.g. BTO survey work, should be members. And we work hard to make the BOU appeal to everyone!
What is your role as the BOU’s Senior Administrator?
I have a great job! The BOU is largely volunteer-based (we only have two staff members) so I get to work with everyone who does anything for us – from the President down to whoever is running the AV at a conference. We have a great and very active BOU community which help to deliver everything you see to do with the BOU and IBIS. As well as all the background (dare I say boring!) admin stuff I have to inevitably oversee and do, I’m hands on in delivering all BOU events, the business side of IBIS, the website, our social media – pretty much everything the outside world sees from the BOU I will have played a part in somewhere – making me the classic Jack-of-all-trades, but master of none!
What do you enjoy most about your involvement with the BOU?
I love the community aspect of running a membership society. The BOU was set up as social community for ornithologists to meet up and exchange news (and often specimens) back in the 1850s. Community has always been at the root of BOU activities, but it seemed to have slipped in to the background somewhere along the line. In recent years I’ve been responsible for bringing it back to the foreground and back to the heart of the BOU today. Community is what we are and there is no better time to get that across than in this social media age. Engaging with ornithologists all over the world with social media and educating them about the role social media can play in their research is particularly important to me, and I have written a series of BOU blogs on this.
What would you say to anyone who is considering joining (or leaving!) the BOU?
Join, and don’t go! If you are active in any way in the science of wild birds and their conservation you should be a member of the BOU. Being a member supports the BOU deliver so much for the ornithological community including supporting early-career researchers (ECRs) entering bird research, funding research grants and bursaries, delivering IBIS – we do so much that needs the support of all those working within in ornithology.
When did your interest in ornithology begin?
I’ve been a manic birder since my teens and I was quick to make birds, and then ornithology, my career. At 18 I was working for the RSPB as a reserve engagement officer (it was no doubt called something else back then but I forget). Two years later I was working for the BTO, first in their Ringing Unit, but later as their Membership Development Officer, charged with communicating the BTO’s science and surveys to the membership and wider birding public. It was this role that got me hooked on ornithology and I’ve been involved in communicating ornithological science for over 25 years, including since 1997 for the BOU.
What is your most memorable bird-y experience?
Wow! There’s been a lot, especially whilst bird guiding over the last 25 years. But seeing my first White-throated Robin on Lesvos in 2013 was pretty special. I have a long-standing love affair with the island (having penned the birding guide A Birdwatching Guide to Lesvos) and seeing the ‘robin’ had long eluded me until a pair took up residence in the island’s Petrified Forest in spring 2013. The singing male was relocated the day I arrived on the island and the day before my first day trip of the season, so I was duty bound to take my group on the day trip they had booked and paid for – to another part of the island. But my group had a different idea and mutinied, all voting we go see the robin. I wasn’t going to argue!
Finding Diademed Sandpiper-plover at over 5000m in the Peruvian Andes comes a very close second.
What is your favourite outdoor place and why?
I love the fens where I live, but birding the western side of Lesvos, Moni Ipsilou or the Meladia Valley, searching for spring migrants, is where I’m always happiest. The search for the unexpected, the thrill when you find it, and sharing it with others, is my drug of choice.