CHAIRMAN'S REPORT

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As indicated in last year’s Chairman’s Report, OSME started 2009 facing a year of financial restraint but thanks to concerted efforts by all of Council and excellent financial planning and management by the Treasurer, John Warr, we ended the year with a budget surplus of almost £4,000. Given the turmoils of the global economy this is no mean feat. The 2009 raffle generated much needed funds to support the day to day management of OSME and the Conservation and Research Fund and we will be running another raffle in 2010 which I hope will be even more successful. However, with rising costs in areas such as printing and postage and increasing difficulties in raising income from advertising and sales, 2010 will be another year where OSME needs to manage its finances very carefully.

Two issues of Sandgrouse were published during the year and mailing of the journal was taken over by the RSPB. After some ‘hiccups’ with the spring mailing, the new arrangements appear to be working well and has resulted in savings in both money and, importantly, time spent by the Membership Secretary and Treasurer. Good progress was also made with researching the cost of digitising back copies of Sandgrouse and the OSME Bulletin both of which we hope to soon have available on the OSME website.

In contrast to recent years, the number of applications to the Conservation and Research Fund (CRF) fell dramatically in 2009 – the reasons for this decline are unclear. Hopefully this is a temporary situation, especially as OSME has now established a partnership with the Emirates Natural History Group (Abu Dhabi) which means that more funding is available for projects in the Emirates. Only two grants were awarded in 2009 - £500 for a survey of Sooty Falcons on the Egyptian Red Sea coast and £600 towards the publication of an Arabic text guide to the wildlife of Deir ez-Zor on the Syrian Euphrates. Both of these grants were generously supported by Avifauna, the latter also included the £250 won by David Murdoch in the Bird Brain quiz at the 2008 British Birdwatching Fair. Given David’s very close association with Syria, Council feels that this was a very appropriate use of the prize money. This year Richard Prior represented OSME in the quiz and won £375 for work on endangered species in the region. In addition to the grants above, OSME also added its support to concerns voiced by national and international conservation organisations over proposed developments at the Jahra East outfall in Kuwait which threaten to destroy this important wetland. At the time of writing, the results of these interventions is unknown.

Dominic Mitchell resigned from Council early in the year due to pressure of work, we thank him for his valuable contributions to the running of the Society in recent years. At the AGM Rob Sheldon was elected onto Council and Azzam Alwash, the Director of Nature Iraq, was elected as a new Vice-President. In the autumn, AbdulRahman Al Sirhan was appointed as Website Manager and has taken on the task of redesigning and keeping the website up to date, a job that has been long overdue. There are still several key roles on Council where we are seeking new members so if you feel you can help, please do contact us.

As always, we are most grateful for the continued financial support of our Corporate Members – Avifauna, Greentours, Natural History Book Service, Rockjumper Birding Tours, Sarus Bird Tours and Sunbird.

As always, I would like to end by thanking you, the membership, for your continued support which enables OSME to continue to play an active role supporting birdwatching and conservation throughout the OSME region.

Geoff Welch