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!
Tomorrow is April the first - April fools' day.
Government is running out of time to make any significant announcements before the General Election campaign starts, and so tomorrow may (or may not!) see an announcement on the future of the Chagos archipelago (see here, here and here).
But if an announcement is made before noon how will we know that they aren't pulling our legs?
As we await a government announcement on open habitat policy two birds have arrived at The Lodge which, one might think, would be seeking different outcomes - but it's not that simple.
Here at the RSPB's Headquarters we have been recreating heathland from some rather ghastly, wildlife-poor and not very useful conifer plantations. There is a long way to go with the heathland recreation but we have removed trees from part of our land here (don't worry - there are plenty of trees left and plenty of woodland walks and woodland wildlife to enjoy). But our aim is to recreate some of the heathland that used to be here and which will be so necessary if heathland wildlife species are to move north in response to climate change (yes, I know it's snowing in Scotland and Northern Ireland!).
Last weekend, in a party of common crossbills, an observant birdwatcher spotted a rare two-barred crossbill - it's been seen every day since including today. I haven't seen it - maintaining my almost unimpeachable record of missing any rare birds seen at my workplace. But lots of people have enjoyed this rare bird.
Maybe because of the increase in birdwatchers at the site, yesterday, a singing woodlark was seen on the heathland area. This isn't the first to have a look at this area (and last year a nightjar took a peek too, regular readers will remember) but it is a very encouraging sign. The true test of habitat restoration and recreation is whether the right species turn up - and they are!
Both the crossbills and the woodlark are using the area of scattered trees on the new open heathland - maybe a good sign that with targetted removal of non-native conifer plantations at the end of a commercial rotation the resulting mix of habitats can be great for a whole range of wildlife. That's certainly what we would expect to happen - and have seen many times with our own eyes.
PS As I write this blog a hen harrier has just been seen over the same area of open ground habitat
As well as being a staff member of the RSPB, I am an RSPB member too! And proud of it!
But it does occasionally mean that I write to myself! I recently got a nice letter from me asking me whether I will write the RSPB into my will - I have!
If my Mum gets the same letter from me - which is entirely possible - I hope she doesn't take it the wrong way!