I grew up in Bristol and went to Bristol Grammar School where a couple of masters (Derek Lucas and Tony Warren) were instrumental in fueling my interest in birds. I was in the Young Ornithologists' Club.
In the school holidays I practically lived at Chew Valley Lake - a bicycle and a pair of binoculars were all I needed.
My parents liked nice scenery and walks in the countryside and that gave me plenty of opportunities for birding.
I spent a few years when rare birds were very important to me but aside from the very occasional lapse they aren't any more!
I did a Ph.D. on pipistrelle bats but most of my research before joining the RSPB was on bee-eaters in the south of France (nice eh?) and great tits and marsh tits around Oxford. However, the first scientific paper I wote was about the lekking behaviour of great snipe.
I joined the RSPB staff in 1986 as a researcher, became Head of Conservation Science in 1992 and Conservation Director in 1998 - all have been great jobs!
I've been reading a book for quite a while - some bits of it I've read about six times! Is this because the jokes are so good? or because I can't understand it? you might ask.
The answer is closer to the latter suggestion because there really aren't many jokes. But the book is an absolute model of clarity - a real tour de force. I keep re-reading bits because I am very keen to understand what it is telling me.
The book is Sustainable energy - without the hot air by David Mackay, an academic from Cambridge University. It's not about climate change, though it is very relevant, but it is about renewable energy and whether it is feasible for us to produce enough energy from a combination of wasting less energy and producing more from nuclear, wind, solar, tidal etc.
Every policy maker should read it - it should be compulsory for civil servants and ministers in the Department of Energy and Climate Change. There are many interesting messages in the book - and although there aren't many jokes it is written in a very readable way (and it is all online) - and I'm sure I'll come back to some of them over the next few weeks.
But let's just start with a graph - I like graphs. This graph shows how long a bit of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, emitted now, will stay in the atmosphere. Before you look at the graph - what's your guess for how much of a dollop of carbon dioxide will still be floating around in the atmosphere in 100 and 1000 years time? Now have a look - how close were you?
Quite a lot isn't it?
We all, I think, want to leave the world in a better state for our children and future generations. Those dollops of carbon dioxide are quite a legacy - and quite a long-lasting legacy.