Being born on the infamous north Norfolk coast, I guess it is in my blood to birdwatch, however it took until April 2013 until I really started to take note of this calling. My dad was also brought up in Norfolk and used to visit many of the reserves we all know and love, so I guess it was a given when one afternoon in the aforementioned April when I threw out the suggestion of going birdwatching.
As a youngster, I was fortunate enough to have a field to play in and Nature was just part of my everyday life, birds, insects, amphibians… even plants! I had an interest in it all. One of my earliest memories is my mom making nets for moth trapping which me and my dad used to do in the summer, and also being woken “late at night” aged about 5, to my dad showing me my first privet hawk moth which landed on my head. However, a visit to the local falconry centre stole my heart when I was allowed to hold a barn owl. He was called Oscar, and I remember being in awe and blown away from his beauty.
At age 10, we moved away from Norfolk and made home in Worcestershire. We always fed the birds and always kept a record of what came in to feed in the pokey 10mx15m garden. Highlights have including, siskins, goldcrests and hobby, and mammals including foxes and hedgehog.
Aged 18, I was fortunate enough to travel to Zakynthos, Greece to work with ARCHELON, to aid in the breeding season for the Loggerhead Turtles, which enabled me access onto protected sites, and have been fortunate enough to sit behind a female and watch her lay eggs… not a lot compares to that! However, whilst I was there, I was able to observe a pair of breeding Eleonora’s falcons, and also be literally surrounded by Barn Owls on a regular basis.
Now in the “real world”, I work in radiotherapy, and as well as working full time, I am studying for a graduate diploma and a masters… some say I am a glutton for punishment, however come September I should be free of academia and plan on pursuing my hobby further, hopefully find my own patch, and potentially get involved in ringing.
I guess I can say that I have been inspired by the usual greats; David Attenborough, Steve Backshall, the team from the really wild show, Simon King and the team from Big Cat Diary….. Pretty much any TV show that had animals, birds, insects etc, I was sat in front of. As a physicist, I guess there has always been a lack of female inspiration in work and I guess nature isn’t much different so Michaela Strachan I guess was quite important and I am glad she is still on the TV for the next generation of girls!
Also my Dad is a pretty big inspiration as he was always very encouraging and since April 2013 we have learnt a lot together! And there is also another NGB member who I won’t embarrass too much, but he has really helped both my dad and I develop ours skills, but both of us wish we had his knowledge in the field!
Best Birding Experience
It is really hard to pick just one, so, I am going to choose a month of birding. October 2014. The first weekend of October, I was on a birding trip to north Norfolk, and we had an incredible weekend. The Friday night was pretty epic, sat in Burnham Overy overlooking a pool watching a Black Necked grebe as the sun went down, the starling roost and Chinese water deer. Then there was 2 barn owls hunting, followed by thousands and thousands of pink footed geese overhead, which was awe inspiring. The weekend was finished off with going out to Thornham point, after a black redstart, and strangely enough it seemed the only place I could get 3G phone signal to hear about the Steppe Grey Shrike…. The yomp back to the car included jumping down the dunes and walking very quickly through RSPB Titchwell telling people as we left.
Mid October we were back in North Norfolk, and again, an epic day. Started with sea watching for Skua, which we did eventually get, we decided to head home. Walking back through RSPB Titchwell, Craig Reed, stopped to look at a female stonechat and he called a Penduline Tit. I remember just thinking get the photos!!! Record shots were poor but enough to get the bird accepted by the BBRC and Craig spent most of the time getting others over to see the bird…. Causing a twitch in Norfolk is a funny experience really!
This is a really tough one for me as I have a general love of a few. I have to say, I do like ducks. Strange really… it seems that it just happens that way, my teddy growing up was “quack quack” and you guessed it, it is a duck. I have also fallen in love with Eiders. I mean what’s not to love! I saw my first wild eider at Penmon Point, Anglesey, in April 2014, and close enough to hear them calling! I can often be found near the Eiders at WWT Slimbridge, and I will admit (and anyone that has been birding with me can vouch) my incoming text message alert in indeed an Eider!