Two fellow "bloggers", of similar vintage and, scarily, parallel life stories, have been instrumental in sowing the seeds for this post. Steve Gale (North Downs and Beyond) started the ball rolling with his wonderfully descriptive post entitled "Utter Bollocks" a phrase I used to summarise my thoughts on "Channel Wagtails" way back in my "Non-conformist" days.
Paul Trodd is a fellow QPR supporter, ex Dunstable SF birder (I saw my first Black-winged Stilt there way back in the mists of time) and is also now a resident of Kent. He has paid a superb tribute to the memory of P.A.D. Hollom and the contribution that a revolutionary book (Collins - A field guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe) played in his formative years as a birdwatcher. http://ploversblog.blogspot.com/
|My original 8th edition alongside a 10th edition which Bev discovered in a local charity shop
I do own a copy of the 10th edition, yet I received my first copy (the 8th edition) of this ground breaking book on my 8th birthday - 1963. Before this date, my bird identification library consisted of two Ladybird books by Brian Vessey-Fitzgerald; illustrated by Allen W. Seaby. Just like Paul describes, the Collins book was an inspirational gift which started me on a journey which I am still on; half a century later. Birds and natural history/enjoyment of being outdoors is a fundamental part of my being and there have been many experiences that have left indelible marks on my memory as I have meandered along life's pathway. It was Steve's post that attempted to describe the various phases we pass through - I'd like to attempt to give an insight into my own journey and the key moments that have gotten me to where I am today (within a natural history context)
|An original (above) and a facsimile copy of my original bird id library
As a very young boy, growing up in the "New Town" of Hemel Hempstead I was fortunate to enjoy the sight of a Barn Owl on our garden fence (No. 27 Cole's Hill - Gadebridge) to be able to wander freely down to the River Gade (Gadebridge Park) and fish for Minnows and Bullheads. Water Voles were common, the river teemed with life and Kingfishers were exciting, yet expected, whenever we visited. My first roach was a magical gift from the angling gods - bright red fins on a silver plated work of art; 2oz of perfection. The Grand Union Canal was to provide me with some further encounters as perch, gudgeon, bream and tench fell to my rods. They were happy, carefree, times which were a period of blissful innocence. Birds were always there, in the background, by the age of nine I'd already found my first "BB" rarity - a Snowy Owl during a family holiday to the Scottish highlands. It wasn't reported, but I had mum, dad and my two brothers as witnesses - and in the wider scheme of things it's not that much of a big deal!
|A super little male Zebra Finch - Bev and I called him "Beck's"
|November 1981 - my first 20lbs+ pike
Quite a personal milestone; it means nothing to the wider world
|Madeira magic - four guys hanging over the side of "Margaretta" recuperating an
Atlantic Blue Marlin in the 800lbs class
I think that it is safe to say that fishing remained my first love, my driving passion, right through the 1980's (the carp bug taking hold, yet being sated in the 1983 - 85 period and quickly I moved on to other species) and into the early 1990's - but birding had certainly taken a hold. My 1993 trip to Madeira was pivotal - a couple of Atlantic Blue Marlin later UK fishing seemed pointless and birding took over completely. My family had relocated to Kent, Dec 1993, due to my work, and the county held such potential that my "twitching" eagerness couldn't ignore. Within six years of arriving, I'd smashed Don Taylor's Kent Year List record by 21 species - I recorded 263 in 1999 - but I never did do things by halves; all or nothing being my only approach.
It was this particular bout of stupid, selfish, self-indulgence, that was to be the catalyst to my first marriage going down the tubes. It hurt and I know that my behaviour was 100% responsible for the situation; my salvation was finding Bev (or did she find me?) - second time around I'm a little less intense in my pursuits?
My interest in moths and mothing stemmed from the time (1994 onwards) spent around the H - block that used to be Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory (during the reign of Rab Morton). Andy Johnson and Tony Harman instrumental in my early endeavours, I'm now latterly aided by the considerable expertise of one Francis Solly - natural history freak/geek extraordinaire.