John Harrison accepts the Bob Saville Award 2021

The Bob Saville Award was presented as part of the online TWIC Autumn Conference on Saturday 20 November. The award is a silver quaich which is presented annually in memory of the late Bob Saville, one of the founders and inspirers of TWIC and a well-known face in biological recording in Scotland over many years.

The 2021 recipient of the Bob Saville Award is John Harrison, who is Warden at Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve and has been a member of the East Lothian Council Ranger Team since 2007. TWIC Chair, Sarah Eno, made the presentation. John was awarded the prize in recognition of his many years of work in inspiring people, especially youngsters, about natural history and wildlife recording, as well as his efforts to coordinate and collate records for the reserve and wider Ranger Service. As of November 2021, TWIC held almost 12,500 records under John’s name and c. 15,000 for the East Lothian Council Ranger Service – the latter shared with the NBN Atlas Scotland via TWIC.

Dr Roger Powell (Senior Ranger, East Lothian Council Ranger Service) states that John’s “…vision for Aberlady Local Nature Reserve has also been about sharing his knowledge with others and inspiring people to develop their own skills to contribute to the conservation effort.” John was at the forefront of developing a volunteer hub at the reserve to support species monitoring and habitat management activities. The project has also enabled new people from diverse backgrounds to get involved in recording.

During the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, several initiatives were spearheaded by John including digitisation of c. 25,000 historic wildlife records for the reserve and developing a moth trapping project. The latter initiative helps individuals develop their moth identification skills, provides moth traps (with financial support from East Scotland Butterfly Conservation branch) to enable independent surveying, and contributes to the knowledge of wildlife at Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve and beyond.

John is always encouraging of people recording their wildlife sightings and takes every opportunity to share his expertise. Knowledge is shared in a down-to-earth manner and always with good humour and patience. Katty Baird, a local recorder describes how participation in ‘moth mornings’ (moth trapping) led by John at the Scottish Ornithologists Club (SOC) helped kick-start her own interest in moths. She says “When I first moved to Scotland… I wasn’t into moths particularly and this event was part of my baptism!” She goes on to describe how his support helped her interest blossom and the rest, as they say, is history. Katty now co-leads Butterfly Conservation’s Hibernating Heralds project.

John’s knowledge and enthusiasm also helps inspire a new generation of recorders and nature conservationists. Pre-COVID, John led regular sessions to support outdoor learning both at the local primary school and at the reserve, including supporting students working towards their John Muir award. His activities have earned him a celebrity-like status with local school pupils. According to local volunteer, Lesley Kennedy’s children, he is “Just like David Attenborough, only younger”. Lesley goes on to say John is “exactly the ambassador our natural world needs.”

John’s dedicated and hard-working approach is evident throughout. TWIC congratulates John on receiving the award.

Grateful thanks to the following for supplying information: Lesley Kennedy, Katty Baird and Roger Powell