Viking Optical News

Viking Flyway Birding Team for the Global Bird Weekend 17th/18th October

If you didn’t already know, Global Birding Weekend is the brainchild of Tim Appleton, originator of the world’s first and biggest annual birdfair.

We love the idea of connecting birders from all over the world in a common cause to raise awareness of conservation issues and to help save wild birds and habitats through raising money to help Birdlife International, all while having fun doing something we all love.

Not only that, but encouraging people new to the joys of birdwatching and also contributing to scientific knowledge by entering sightings to the eBird global database!

With our long history of supporting conservation we just had to get involved.

We are proud to be part of the global birding and conservation family and the Global Bird Weekend is a perfect fit for the Flyway Birding family we’ve already been embraced by.

From the outset, we at Viking decided we wanted to reach out to our friends, supporters, partners, ambassadors and customers to form a fully inclusive team. We’re already a family because we share a common love of birds, the miracle of migration, and a desire to help preserve the things we love.

Our core team at present consists of birders, migration lovers and conservationists  from various points along the East Atlantic flyway from the UK to the Gambia.

This inaugural Global Bird Weekend is raising funds to help Birdlife International put an end to the illegal trade in wild birds.

You can donate to our team JustGiving page here – every penny is appreciated thank you!

Join our team!

Meet some of the team! 

Niki Williamson

Niki is also co-owner and partner in Inglorious Bustards, and lives with Simon in the delightful village of Facinas in the epicentre of migration – The Straits of Gibraltar, Spain.

Niki grew up playing amongst the woodlands, fields and streams of the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire.  She was given a YOC (Young Ornithologist Club) membership for her 6th birthday, and has loved nature ever since.  Somehow, Niki has managed to remain a member of the RSPB Wildlife Explorers under 9’s to this day, and has found her intellectual level in the Rookie cartoons.

Describing herself as a professional tree-hugger, Niki worked and volunteered for the RSPB for twelve years, managing habitats, brandishing chainsaws with varying levels of threat to limbs (her own and others) and honing her birding skills in amazing wetland, upland and coastal habitats.

In recent years she had the pleasure of working with Nature-friendly farmers to make the countryside a better place for wildlife.  Latterly she headed up RSPB’s Eastern England farmland advisory team which, together with the other partners in Operation Turtle Dove, were working to ensure a future for this iconic bird.

Niki is one of the original members of #teampeanut – a crack troop of A-team style conservationists looking at ways in which West African peanut growers could not only provide peanuts for birdfood but also provide habitats for struggling migratory species – including Turtle Doves – through Fair to Nature accreditation.

Seeing first hand the challenges faced by journeying birds all across the flyway has given Niki a deep passion for the epic spectacle of migration.  This, and her love of international adventure makes her a proud founder member in the Inglorious Bustards’ motley line-up  (Oh and by the way, it was her that thought of the name…).

Simon Tonkin

Simon is co-owner and partner in Inglorious Bustards, living in Facinas in the heart of The Straits of Gibraltar, Spain.

Simon was raised in Plymouth in the UK and his early birding habitats were rubbish tips, sewage outfalls and fish factories. It all started when, at nine years old, his enthralment with the natural world led him to sneak out with his father’s massive binoculars at first light, returning home many hours after dark covered in estuarine mud and other indescribable detritus, to face the music!

Fulfilling a boyhood dream, Simon worked for the RSPB full-time for fifteen years; the first projects he was involved in were to protect breeding Hen Harriers and Bee-eaters in the North of England. Simon has lectured in ornithology, specialising in a variety of subjects including bird ethology, migration and bird populations. He worked in farmland bird conservation for the most of his RSPB career, latterly working at the RSPB’s headquarters in Sandy.  He and Niki launched the first landscape-scale farmland bird initiative, The Thorney Farmland Bird Friendly Zone.

Simon has conducted research on Corn Bunting crop nest site selection and on the seed palatability of farmland granivores. He also co-launched Operation Turtle Dove, co-ordinating efforts in the UK and internationally to save the species from extirpation. Simon has worked as the Conservation Manager for Conservation Grade, working on ground-breaking and exciting conservation projects in Spain, Portugal, Central America, Morocco, Senegal and The Gambia and is widely travelled in these countries, being particularly familiar with their avifauna, lepidoptera and mammalian species. Simon now lives in the epi-centre of migration at The Straits of Gibraltar as one of the Inglorious Bustards working on a variety of conservation projects, and tour leading.

Despite this long and varied career, he was once described by an eminent public figure as having no discernible talents apart from hanging out at sewage outfalls looking at gulls!

Dr. Alejandro Onrubia

Alejandro is the project coordinator at Fundación Migres, working on a number of scientific monitoring schemes here in The Straits of Gibraltar. Many will know Alejandro from his skills in monitoring the crossing of thousands of soaring birds here in The Straits, where seemingly he spends every waking moment at a watchpoint busily ‘clicking’ each new traveler through the migration bottleneck.

Aside from monitoring work, Alejandro is also working on new sustainable eco-tourism opportunities in partnership with the Inglorious Bustards.

Alejandro is a well published ornithologist having authored a vast array of scientific studies, improving our knowledge of bird migration and the ever-increasing and changing threats these migrants face on their travels. Alejandro has vast experience and knowledge and he translates that through his friendly, patient and enlightening guiding skills.  Every time you go birding with Alejandro, you learn something new!

Tijan Kanteh

Tijan is one of the most experienced conservationists, birders and guides in The Gambia.  He is much respected by his peers and renowned for his ability to use his wealth of knowledge to train new and upcoming guides in the country.  So much so that locally he is often referred to as ‘Elder’ or ‘Uncle’!  He certainly has our respect too, and we are proud to have him on the team. Tijan is a passionate conservationist and is involved in local projects around land use policy and illegal hunting and trafficking of birds.  He even hosts the unofficial RSPB Brufut office at his home! He also was one of the original members of the aforementioned #teampeanut, working on sustainable peanut production management to protect wildlife habitats and the wider environment.  Simon and Tijan have worked with each other for nearly twenty years and are often locally referred to as brothers!

Stuart Gillies

Stuart manages the Viking Optical shop in Edinburgh. Hooked on wildlife from an early age by watching Jaques Cousteau, local birds on the nearby Union canal in Edinburgh had to substitute for the undersea world.

Six years as an itinerant contract warden for the RSPB culminated in an opportunity to join Viking Optical who had recently become the optical supplier to RSPB.

Stuart is immensely proud of the conservation work supported by Viking Optical through various partnerships and sponsorships which have grown in scope throughout his 20+ years with the company.

What he lacks in birding skills is partly made up for by an enthusiasm for migration and conservation.

We want that family to grow! To that end, here is a call – we want you! Anyone can join our team for the Global Bird Weekend of 17th & 18th October. Beginner or expert, back garden, local park, nature reserve, birds from the bus…whoever you are, wherever you live and however you see birds…we value your input. Every bird record is of value and so are you!

Please join us! Here’s how to get involved:-

  1. Please register here in order to take part. Please enter your name AND Viking Flyway Birding Team if you would like to be part of our team.
  2. Set up an eBird account here in order to log your sightings (skip this step if you already have an eBird account).
  3. Share your eBird sightings from the 17th October to the team account which is VikingFlywayBirding (no spaces).

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