Above: one of the 2020 AS Raymond Sawyer scholarship winners: Mischa Hiltpold feeds a hill myna at Zoo Basel. Philip Schofield, one of four judges for the AS scholarship, said: ‘Mischa impressed me with his history of hobby aviculture from the age of 12; Nicola impressed with her wide range of experience and obvious passion for the subject.’ Fellow judge Simon Bruslund, a conservation coordinator at Vogelpark Marlow in Germany, said both showed ‘a demonstrable ongoing mission to develop their knowledge further’


STRONG CANDIDATES FOR the 2020 Raymond Sawyer Scholarship has led the Avicultural Society (AS) to offer not one but two young birdkeepers a place on an avian incubation course at Durrell Conservation Academy (DCA) in Jersey.

Applications for the AS-funded place on the DCA’s “Avian Egg Incubation” workshop this November closed on July 1. However, the current pandemic has meant the course has been postponed until December 2021.

“The AS was pleased to receive 13 applications for this year’s scholarship, the largest number for several years,” AS chairman Nigel Hewston told C&AB.

“Because of the pandemic, and because of the number of strong applicants, the AS decided to award two scholarships this year, so Nicola Cooke and Mischa Hiltpold will both be attending the course in 2021.”

Nicola Cooke, 24, from Urmston, Manchester, recently completed her degree in Wildlife Conservation and Zoo Biology at Salford University and is in training to be a qualified bird ringer with the BTO. She described the scholarship as “a huge stepping stone” for her birdkeeping career: “The egg incubation process is not something I have had the chance to delve into as it is such a specialist area, so the opportunity to do so on the course will provide me with a wealth of both theoretical and practical knowledge.”

Swiss 21-year-old Mischa Hiltpold is the second successful scholarship candidate. He works as a birdkeeper at Zoo Basel. He told C&AB that the postponing of the DCA course has worked in his favour: “By the end of 2021, the new birdhouse at Zoo Basel will likely be near completion. With the workshop being postponed to this date, I will be able to apply my newly gained knowledge into the process of equipping the new breeding and rearing facilities.”

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