A wonderful chance to share my findings with the world of ornithology

EOU2019 came at a bit of a difficult time for me within my PhD. I had just lived the nightmare of every migration researcher – the geolocators I had retrieved just months ago, and sent to the manufacturer for data extraction – had been lost in the post! For weeks I had felt demotivated. My third field season, which had finally been incredibly successful, had been ripped away from me. Thankfully though, I heard on the very first morning of the pre-conference meeting that the package with the loggers had miraculously been retrieved after a month of this emotional rollercoaster. After weeks in which “science” for me meant “angry, pleading and frustrated phone calls with postal companies”, the EOU conference was a most welcome event to get me right back on track; it was inspiring beyond anything else! I’m tremendously grateful to the BOU for the member travel grant that helped to fund my attendance.

Being an early-career researcher incorporating dispersal, migration and life histories into my research, EOU is an absolute treat, as it serves all topics very well. It is rare for there not to be at least two, if not three, relevant sessions simultaneously. Better yet, before the main conference started, there was an intimate pre-conference meeting of the Migratory Landbird Study Group. Still being relatively new to the field of migration, such a meeting is a treasure on its own. Many of the main research groups are represented during the two jam-packed, intensive but informal days. I also joined the MLSG committee because it’s such a great chance to be a part of an inspiring and young community that aims to work towards conservation of migrant landbirds through science.

Above: I attempted to visit every poster presenter; but utterly failed because there were too many posters, the discussions were too interesting, and there were far too many other ornithologists to talk to.

This was my second EOU conference having attended the 2017 conference in Finland. It was wonderful to experience how the moving nature of the conference attracts new crowds each time. I was happily surprised by all the research being done on the European Roller. The research on the Roller’s habitat use and work on identifying areas of importance is making a tremendous and direct impact on this beautiful bird’s conservation.

The oral parallel sessions were top-notch and the topics spanned an incredible breadth. I found myself intrigued by a talk on the pace-of-life at high altitudes, and could even learn in a different session about the foraging behaviour of the gulls in my birth town. A highlight was definitely getting to talk to fellow Pied Flycatcher researchers – discussing research on my own study species with people who are also so intimately familiar with it really brought the depth of the discussion to the next level.

The conference was filled with thought-provoking plenaries and presentations. One was Stuart Bearhop’s eye-opening talk on social decisions in migrants, where he presented a detailed and inspiring picture of all the useful cues an individual bird could pick up from fellow migrants. The evidence of social versus solitary migration in small passerines is scarce, but it’s almost hard to imagine how and why birds wouldn’t use those cues. Talks like this really had me intrigued, pondering about how one might go about studying this.

When I first visited the EOU in Finland two years ago, I had only just started my PhD and had next to nothing to show for it. This year however, was my time to shine. I was lucky enough to be allowed to present my work in an oral session to this fantastic specialist audience. As I’m in the third year of my PhD, I came to EOU2019 armed with three years of unique data that I freshly collected in the field. I’m finally at the stage where I have (in my opinion) incredibly exciting data to show for the many years of work! Better yet, the lecture hall where I presented was overflowing with people; there weren’t even seats for everyone!

Towards the end of this ornithology-filled week, there was time for hiking and birdwatching. The Romanians must be splendid and experienced hikers because even the people who signed up for a more relaxed excursion got a very intense workout! I visited the splendid Turda Gorge where we spotted Crag Martins and Hoopoos. The evening programme was filled with the conference dinner and an impromptu metal and rock karaoke night with the other ‘EOU Fledglings’ (thankfully I had already had my presentation earlier in the week else my voice would not have cooperated!).

This conference was a great encouragement for me to continue in academia after my PhD. On the one hand, I could see how far I have come within the two years since I first attended the EOU. Back then I had little to present and often felt out of my depth in talks and discussions, whereas now, I feel like I’ve got so much from this conference and I thoroughly enjoyed all the networking opportunities.

Overall, my attendance at EOU2019 has filled me with knowledge, brought me tons of new insights into my own research and interests, and has me brimming with enthusiasm to develop my new research ideas.

After climbing the hill and coming back down a slippery slope in the heat, the mid-conference excursion to the Turda Gorge ended with a dip in the river!