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'm a 'looking forwards' kind of guy, but the end of the year is a time to take stock too.
January is when the Big Garden Birdwatch takes place and last January it followed a prolonged cold spell (click here, here, here, here and here).
In February we handed in a massive 210,567 person petition to the government asking for birds of prey to retain their legal protection.
March - I am still thanking Alberta's Run for a big win at Cheltenham but this is a time when we are looking for sand martins and other spring migrants.
April - quite a lot about lead and why the RSPB is phasing out its use on our nature reserves (click here, here, here, here, here and here).
May - now what happened in May? Oh yes, there was a General Election and we received the gift of a coalition government intending to be the 'greenest government ever' whilst the evidence (here, here, here) showed that biodiversity was still being lost from our lives and the cuts began.
June saw the purple herons nesting at the RSPB nature reserve at Dungeness fledging some young - great news!
July was dominated by farmland birds with great results from Hope Farm, discussion of turtle doves (here and here) , the depressing latest BBS results (here, here, here, here,here), cirl bunting success, and talk of the CAP.
August brings the Bird Fair (here, here, here, here) every year but this year we were also campaigning for government cuts not to harm the countryside (here, here, here and here).
September saw the publication of Professor Sir John Lawton's review which should influence government action on nature conservation for decades ahead.
October saw the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review and, as expected, big cuts (here, here, here) which will affect the natural environment for years ahead. But our Letter to the Future campaign led to an increase in funding for environmentally friendly farming in England. And there was good news from Nagoya with Caroline Spelman playing an important role.
November confirmed the promise of late October that 2010/11 would be a significant waxwing winter (here, here, here and here) but it took me until Christmas Eve to see some.
December had us dancing in the snow to Bird is the Word as a bit of Christmas fun.
Tomorrow there will be a bit of a review of 2010 seen through this blog, so I've been checking what I've written over the year,
Here are a few blogs which I enjoyed re-reading and I hope you will too. They are selected more to give you pleasure than to be of any importance at all - I hope you liked them the first time you read them (if you did) and that you like them again now. Some at least will remind you of warmer days.
The day started with birdsong in January and December but I don't really listen (I'm a bloke). But maybe I do listen.
In May listening to nightingales at Glapthorn and corncrakes at the Nene Washes both brought poetry to mind.
Graham Wynne became a Sir at the end of 2009 and we celebrated his successes when he left in May.
Northern birds - a visit to the home of the Pink Panther.
Nightmares about cuts.
Anniversaries - for little owls and the Potters Bar beetle.
Mark among the milkmaids
I was lucky enough to visit Islay and North Uist this year - happy days!
I sometimes feel I neglect the marine environment in this blog - here are three examples where I didn't - walking on water, lines in the sea and fish in Norway.
Why is the M25 like the RSPB's nature reserves?
Where was I? and the answer.
The elephant in the room?
Time for nature.
I hope you like them.
Monday's Independent carried a story about the potential disposal of National Nature Reserves.
A group of nature conservation organisations including the National Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, the Woodland Trust and the RSPB have been working together to set out our position on the government's ideas to dispose of National Nature Reserves.
We've worked on a set of principles that we feel should govern any such moves - essentially that the land should retain its value to nature and the public and that its ongoing management should not become a burden on organisations such as ourselves.
There may well be ways in which the management of NNRs can be transferred from Natural England to NGOs but it has always seemed to us that the financial savings to the public would be real but relatively small unless nature conservation value of the sites were to be sacrificed in some way, and we aren't rolling in cash at the moment!.
It's possible that Defra may put more effort into disposal of some forest land, which has real commercial value, than in land of high conservation interest. Certainly The Treasury may regard the sale of land with capital value as the more attractive option. We'll have to see.
Some previous blogs on this subject can be found here, here and here.