Monday 21 May 2018: Dr. Bård G. Stokke gave a talk entitled Host selection by the Common Cuckoo. The Common Cuckoo is a generalist brood parasite at the species level, known to have utilized more than 100 host species in Europe alone. However, individual females are in general host specific, utilizing and often mimicking the eggs of a particular host species. Dr Stokke’s talk focused on the spatial variation in host use in Europe, and he discussed characteristics that are important for parasite utilization of passerine hosts. The research and results that were described stem mostly from a thorough search for cuckoo parasitism events throughout Europe, which has so far resulted in approximately 65,000 cases of parasitism.
Monday 19 March 2018: Justin Jansen gave a talk entitled The Ornithology of the Baudin expedition (1800–1804) and provided the following summary. The Baudin expedition to Australia and Timor of 1800–04 has largely been overlooked by the ornithological community, due to the effects of the Napoleonic Wars, personal rivalries, the death of Baudin himself during the expedition, and the lack of curatorial knowledge. The Baudin collection was the first large, significant and relatively complete collection of natural history specimens ever to arrive at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. A fair number of the specimens were to become the types of species ‘new to science’, and they included at least two taxa that are now extinct. The importance of the collection was at first not fully understood, and its specimens became dispersed all over Europe, ending up in collections such as Blois, La Châtre, Edinburgh, Florence, Geneva, Leiden, Nancy, Paris, Pavia and Vienna. Nevertheless, the expedition paved the way for the ‘father of Australian ornithology’, John Gould, who embarked on his journey to Australia almost 40 years later, in 1838.
The talk related the story of the remarkable avian collection acquired during the Baudin expedition, its historical context and importance, and the challenges of its preservation. The vicissitudes of history form the backdrop for the author’s fascination with reconstructing the expedition’s exploits and the difficulties involved in this. Over the years, only small parts of the Baudin collection have been researched and publicised. The talk aimed to provide a complete, detailed and comprehensive catalogue of the expedition’s ornithological exploits. By bringing together what is known about the collection and its dispersal, it will hopefully take research a step further and stimulate the search for the pieces that are still missing.