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And finally, here is a blog to celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science #WomeninScienceDay

Celebrating women in science: Evelyn Vida Baxter and Leonora Jeffrey Rintoul - Scottish Seabird Centre

Our Project Officer, Dora Roden, celebrates the work of pioneering ornithologists Evelyn Vida Baxter and Leonora Jeffrey Rintoul.

Two of Scotland’s most influential ornithologists were lifelong friends Evelyn Vida Baxter (1879-1959) and Leonora Jeffrey Rintoul (1878-1953). First making their mark over a century ago, their work remains important today. True pioneers in their field, “the good ladies” as they were known, were first to theorise that the wind could affect bird migration routes and were instrumental in the establishment of the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC).

Born less than a year apart and growing up within a mile or so from one another near Largo in Fife, Evelyn and Leonora also shared a passion for the natural world. Both kept diaries from a young age of the wildlife they observed in their daily lives. In one entry from May 1890, for example, Evelyn wrote "saw a tree sparrow and found its nest and eggs in the beech hedge, round the kitchen garden." These diaries evolved over time into meticulously kept field notebooks on birdlife, kept for decades.

The pair were kindred spirits, who, while still in their teens began field trips to places such as bird-rich Tentsmuir on the North East coast of Fife. At that time, the area was being made into a nature reserve and eminent ornithologists involved in the project gave the young ladies every encouragement to study birds. After meeting ornithologist Dr William Eagle-Clarke and hearing of his trips to Fair Isle to study bird migration, the ladies began their own regular trips to the Isle of May to do the same.

The pair studied bird migration on the Isle of May for a quarter of a century, from 1907 until 1933, visiting every Spring and Autumn and generating vast observation records. It was the ladies who introduced thorough record keeping on the weather conditions each day, allowing a link to be made between wind and migration routes. It became clear that migration routes were not rigidly fixed but rather birds could, in certain conditions, be blown somewhat “willy nilly” by the wind.

As the duo built up knowledge of the ‘normal distribution’ of bird species, they were able to spot variation more easily and were able to comment upon anomalies and pattern changes over time. Baxter and Rintoul began to publish papers and books. In a 1929 publication they reflected that "though there is a long way yet to be traversed, the continued work done in bird observation is steadily bringing us nearer to our goal of a correct knowledge of the status of every bird in Scotland".

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