The inaugral meeting of the Cornwall Bird Watching & Preservation Society was held in Truro on 17th January 1931, making us the second oldest county bird club in the UK.
The inaugral meeting of the Cornwall Bird Watching & Preservation Society was held in Truro on 17th January 1931, where it was unanimously agreed that a Society be formed. Lt Col Ryves outlined the ideas which he had in mind when he conceived the hope that an Association of bird lovers in Cornwall might be formed. These had been clearly stated in an appeal published in the ‘Western Morning News’ on 3rd October 1930. It was unanimously agreed that a Society on the lines indicated be formed, and Lady Vivian was elected President, Lt Col B.H. Ryves and Mr G.H. Harvey Joint Honorary Secretaries, and Mr C. Nicholson Honorary Treasurer. The following were also elected Members of an Executive Committee: Lady Vyvyan, Mrs Bewes, Major John Williams and Messrs A.C. Polwhele and R.H. Meares.
Rules were then drawn up and approved, subject to scrutiny by the Committee and to final confirmation at the first general meeting. A programme of work for 1931 was discussed, and it was decided to concentrate specially on the Chough, with a view to locating the few nesting sites still occupied and to arranging for their safety. Members were asked to record the arrivals and departures of migrants and to report all interesting observations of birds and their distribution. Mr P.D. Williams suggested that the county be divided into four ornithological districts by drawing a line on the map from Launceston to Penzance and another from Trevose to Veryan. The districts thus formed might be numbered as follows: 1 (NE), 2 (NW), 3 (SE) and 4 (SW). The Scilly Islands would make a fifth district. It was agreed that the proposed division would prove useful both in recording bird distribution and in reporting any rare bird. In all cases of doubt in reporting a rare bird, the fullest possible details of size, plumage and other distinguishing features should be given. Other matters discussed included illegal setting of gins, swaling, wanton destruction of birds and the oil menace. As regards the last, the best help the Society could give was for members to report to the Hon. Secretaries all cases of oiling of birds for submission to the RSPB.
The First General Meeting was held at Truro on 28th March, at which 26 new members were elected and the Rules of the Society approved. The Committee’s recommendation that a Watchers’ Fund be formed by the transference of one fifth of all annual subscriptions and by the appropriation to it of all donations to the Society was adopted. It was approved that members should forward their bird records twice yearly, namely as soon as possible after the 31st July and again at the close of the year.
Those who had not the opportunities to make regular observations could submit records as they occurred. The following Sub-Committees were formed:
The first Executive Committee Meeting was held on 6th February. Two further meetings were held on 15th August and 20th November. At the end of the year there were 102 members and the ‘cash in hand’ amounted to £8 3s 3d. The annual subscription was 5 shillings. There were 22 contributors to the first Report which commented that only six or seven occupied Chough sites remained. The rarities noted were Bean Goose, two Dotterel, Golden Oriole and Dartford Warbler and 103 Dunlin and three pairs of Montagu’s Harrier nested. The only special rarity was an Alpine Accentor.
It is notable that one of the first Rules of the Society declared that “no person shall become a member of the Society until he declares in writing that he will not take the eggs or skins of any birds protected by law”.
From the first published report it is interesting to note that even in those early days it was recognized that the future of the Society depended on encouraging the young as the following extract demonstrates:
“Members are reminded of the importance of educational work among children and farm labourers. Among the latter are many obscure bird lovers who, with their intimate knowledge of local conditions and inhabitants, make the most excellent Watchers. Every effort should be made to increase the numbers of Council Schools competing in the Bird and Tree Scheme of the RSPB, the efficacy of which is undoubted.”