Upcoming Meetings

PROGRAMME for 2019


Monday 20 May 2019 (plus Annual Review Meeting)6.30 pm—Julian HumeBirds of Lord Howe Island: past, present and future

Abstract: Lord Howe Island, situated 790 km north-east of Sydney in the Tasman Sea, was first observed on 17 February 1788, making it one of the last islands to be discovered by Europeans. An endemic gallinule, pigeon and parakeet were quickly hunted to extinction, but habitat alterations were minimal; therefore a diverse forest bird fauna remained intact. The accidental introduction of Black Rats Rattus rattus in 1918 and barn owls (Tyto) in the 1920s resulted in another wave of bird extinctions, but several endemics survive including a flightless rail. Seabird diversity is also high and they still breed in large numbers, although rat predation is an ongoing problem. I present the results of a recent palaeontological and ornithological survey of Lord Howe Island, highlighting fossil discoveries and conservation successes, and also discuss the pros and cons of plans to eradicate rats entirely from the island in 2019.

Lord Howe’s Currawong

Biography.—Julian Hume has travelled widely in search of avian palaeontological deposits, especially in the Mascarene Islands of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues, on Madagascar and in Hawaii. More recently, he has turned his attention to islands off the Australian coast and most recently spoke to the Club in early 2017 on his research into the dwarf Emus Dromaius spp of the South Australian islands. By profession he is an artist specialising in extinct birds, but also has a Ph.D. in avian palaeontology and is a Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum, Tring. He has written a number of books and published many papers on birds and their fossil history, his most recent book being the second edition of the widely acclaimed Extinct birds.


Monday 16 September 2019—6.30pmPLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DATE—
Pat MorrisThe Hastings Rarities—taking the long view

Abstract.—It is now over 50 years since hundreds of bird records were dismissed as potentially fraudulent on the grounds that it was unlikely that so many rare species would turn up within a short period of time and a limited area around Hastings. Statistical analysis confirmed a significant difference between the number of records within that area and time compared other areas of Kent/Sussex and with later. In ornithological terms it makes limited difference, as most of the suspect species have been found subsequently in that area. It has long been widely accepted that fraud occurred and that a local taxidermist, George Bristow, was responsible for perpetrating this. Bristow was unable to defend himself, having died, and the taxidermy profession was besmirched. Although protests were made at the time the issue appears closed. However, there remain worrying doubts when the evidence is examined closely. At the same time, in retrospect there may be further evidence to confirm Bristow’s guilt. A colleague, Philip Redman, who has also been studying details of the Hastings affair, may hopefully be able to join us from Paris.

Dr Pat Morris

Biography.—Dr Pat Morris was Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Royal Holloway, Univ. of London, and well known for his studies of mammal ecology. He is a past Chairman of the Mammal Society, a former Council Member of the National Trust, and has published >70 scientific papers and c.20 books. A consultant to several major publishers and the BBC Natural History Unit, in his spare time he has pursued a long-standing interest in the history of taxidermy and was appointed the first Hon. Life Member of the Guild of Taxidermists. He was awarded the Founder’s Medal by the Society for the History of Natural History and made MBE in the 2015 Honours List ‘for services to the natural and historic environment’.


18 November

Details of this talk will be posted as soon as they are available, but please make a note of the date in your diary!


In addition the club will be holding a one-day joint conference with the Neotropical Bird Club on 26 October 2019 in the Flett Theatre of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London. Attendance is open to all and entrance is free.   The conference will include a range of talks on Neotropical ornithology and full details of the programme will appear on this website in due course.