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!
That's the name of a project run by the RSPB with funding from Natural England.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, sees a conference at Leicester University that is so popular it has been oversubscribed. There are lots of reedbed managers out there who are eager to get their reedbeds buzzing, crawling, slithering and fluttering with life - in fact booming!
Once reedbeds were common throughout the UK but today if all UK reedbeds were gathered together they would cover an area only slightly larger than the London Borough of Ealing. A report published last year stated that out of 20 key sites, 12 were under imminent threat due to sea level rise caused by climate change.
Reedbed recreation has been a great success at many sites - including the RSPB inland nature reserves at Ham Wall and Lakenheath. And the RSPB manages big reedbeds at Minsmere, Leighton Moss and Blacktoft Sands.
But we had good news from the reedbed at Radipole too this year. Otters were caught on camera at night and have been seen by our wardens too. We even think they may have bred at this site which is surrounded by Weymouth!
Assistant Warden, Nick Quintrell, describes his latest encounter: 'I was initially curious when I saw a swirl of water beneath one of our bridges so I back tracked a few yards and saw a beautiful adult otter swimming on the surface before it dived and headed up stream.
'I followed and about 50 yards away through some reeds and in the half-light I could just make out some flashes of blue moving along the far bank. After a few seconds when my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I realised I was watching a black football with bright blue flashes being propelled across the river by the otter! I couldn't quite believe it was happening.
'I was describing events to a colleague on the phone when I told him I had to go as a second, seemingly smaller otter was coming straight towards me. It was no more than two metres away when it turned and dived into the water.
'It was amazing. I just felt overwhelming excitement and incredibly privileged'
And that's the type of experience we want more wardens and more of the public to have! Nature is wonderful - and sometimes it needs a bit of a helping hand. And that's what our nature reserves are there to do - and that's what Tuesday's conference is all about too.
Come to London (or Glasgow) on Saturday and march against climate change.
I'll be waving in London - will you?
The UK government could be forgiven for heading into the Copenhagen talks with a slightly holier-than-thou attitude. The Climate Change Act sets strict targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2050 - reductions of 80%. Other countries have done far less to set the framework for the future.
Easy to say isn't it? Do we really understand what 80% means? It means only emitting one fifth the polluting greenhouse gases that we do now. How will we do that?
We could: drive one fifth of the way to work, have the TV on for one fifth the hours, heat our houses for one fifth the time, use our computers for one fifth the time, heat our water for one fifth the time, have one fifth the number of cups of tea, travel one fifth the distance for our holidays, give one fifth the number of Christmas presents and cut everything else by four fifths too. But we won't will we?
It seems clear that business as usual, but tightening our belts by 80%, isn't the solution. Instead we are going to change the way that we generate energy so that we can continue to use lots but its production results in far less pollution - nuclear power, windfarms, tidal barrages, solar panels are all potentially part of the answer. So will be better car technology - and better public transport to replace car journeys. And cutting down on energy waste is a sensible place to start - although it won't get us very far towards the 80% needed. So there is quite a lot of belt-tightening involved too.
It's just simple maths.
One of my memories from the party conference season was from Manchester when a gentleman came up to me after a fringe event and thanked me for what the panel had said. He said that his son was doing a Master's degree on something environmental and that he himself had always thought that this climate change stuff was a bit of a left wing plot and a load of hysteria. He said that the words of the panel had persuaded him that this was a very serious problem and now he was going to phone his son to say how glad he was that he was working in this area. It was a lovely moment.