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Written by Toby Payne, BA in History 

Gathering outside the Print Room Café, I joined a group of enthusiastic students from the UCL Conservation Society and set off on a walking Bird Watching tour of Bloomsbury. Armed with binoculars and cameras, we started off by heading to Gordon Square, filling up with people on their lunch breaks. The first thing I noticed was just how obvious the birdsong was, something I hadn’t really ever heard before having spent many a short study break in the park.

The society goes bird-watching every week on either a Thursday or Friday morning with the aim of recording the species that are present in the area surrounding UCL. They mainly spot wood pigeons and blackbirds, birds many of us would be able to identify but occasionally spot more unique species that they rigorously document each time they go out. Society members also venture beyond London to see what birds they can see.

Founded by Lucas, then an undergraduate and now a PhD student, with a passion for the natural world, the society has increased from a small base to a decent sized cohort who join him on their bird recording events.

Lucas birdwatching in Gordon Square

Naturally, the early walks often mean some students can’t make them, but Lucas is mooting the idea of expanding into evening walks beyond the centre of London with the hope of attracting a wider and different group of students. Even this Give it a Go (GIAG) event attracted some students who had not yet been to the morning walks. Oriana, a PhD student, saw the event advertised as part of GIAG week and came off the back of seeing the event on Facebook. She said how much she had enjoyed stopping her day to take in the wildlife on our doorstep and wished she had come earlier in the year to more of their events.

Lucas and another committee member near the IoE

The UCL Conservation Society’s aim is to build a platform to share ideas and to organise events and campaigns to raise awareness of issues concerning wildlife conservation, within and beyond UCL. They do events beyond the bird walk of course, and I spent some time speaking to Poppy, now working for Sustainable UCL. The society have campaigned to have bird huts put up and to monitor the pond activity at Bentham’s Farm. Conservation efforts and environmental activism are areas which many students gravitate toward, and I would highly recommend getting involved in the UCL Conservation Society.

Three birdwatchers monitor for birds in Russell Square.

n such a high pace and loud world, the concept of stopping, listening and watching intensely for birds is quite an alien concept for many of us. But how relaxed I felt and how much I enjoyed this short activity is testament to how powerful an effect it can have on our wellbeing. Make sure you check out all of the events offered by the UCL Conservation Society and consider joining them on one of their future morning or evening strolls around Bloomsbury.