Birder, naturalist and can’t grow a decent beard. As I write this I’m 57 years old, originally from the UK but moved to Canada in 2003 with my artist and scientist wife Sandra. In 2015 we made a move from Quebec to Nova Scotia and now I will be searching the nooks and crannies of the Cape Sable area for birds, butterflies and dragonflies.
Most birders can put their finger on when it happened, the single event when they became interested in birds. Some will say that they were always interested, often from a very early age but, if pushed, they will come up with that defining moment. For me it was when a House Martin, a bird very much of the air, was unceremoniously sliced in half by a record, a 75rpm containing the music of an unspecified artist. The record in question was being used by a gang of kids as a skimmer. The demise of the House Martin was unintended collateral damage. Naturally, after one ‘success’, we went straight home and raided our parent’s precious record collections. Elvis, The Beatles even Buddy Holly failed to repeat the trick but not before leaving a few trophy scars on the bodies of the kids too slow or too stupid to duck.
I spent a lot of time looking at that two-part martin, stretching out the wings, extending the short legs and just generally admiring it. I needed to know more. The following summer the same species, a summer migrant from Equatorial Africa, took up residence on my friend Terry’s house. I lived in a concrete house, one of many identical dwellings built to aid the slum clearance in areas of Nottingham like Basford, St Ann’s and more particularly The Meadows. Terry’s house was 150m away but was brick built with an apex, perfect for the mud built nest of the House Martin. We watched them all summer and waved the young off on their epic trek to Africa. The dead martin event took place around 1968, after that I watched birds whenever I could and, until girls and fishing intervened, I was hooked.
In the late 1970s I cast fishing aside (a play on words or pune, thanks Mr. Pratchett!) and started birding locally. In the early 1980s I graduated to twitching and have never looked back, up yes, hence the slight warbler neck but back, no.
After charging the length and breadth of the UK for a few years, building a respectable list and learning in the process, I settled down a bit and eventually got a birding job. This phase of my life is wonderfully captured in some of my birding books, see the side bar for details.
Sandra and I came to Canada in 2003 and I set about learning a new set of birds, still learning! I’ve birded all over Quebec and a few places besides, 23 countries I think but I’ll have to recount.
More to follow…