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!
James Delingpole suggests potting a few of the most gorgeous (and protected) birds in the country. And he has the RSPB in his line of fire too!
What do you think?
My local football team, the mighty Rushden and Diamonds is currently 8th in the Blue Square Premier League - that's 8th out of 24 teams.
Seeing your performance in the context of others is always informative and sometimes really useful.
So did you know that the UK is 4th place in the EU (out of 27) for the highest rate of income tax? and 12th, out of 15, EU countries in the proportion of our energy coming from renewable sources? and top of the EU cocaine using league? and top of the EU asthma suffering league? and we were 8th in the EU days lost to strikes league table back in 2006. This gets a bit addictive!
In terms of farmland bird population changes, the UK is 11th worst out of 40 European countries over the period 1990-2000. And we were even closer to the bottom, as I remember it, in a previous analysis which covered the period 1980-1990.
Farmland birds declined in most European countries (but increased in just a few) and I wonder what we can learn, maybe nothing, in terms of how the league leaders, Austria, practise their farming? In Austria, farmland birds did pretty well apparently. And Austria is top of the league, it seems, and if you ignore Liechtenstein (which we all do!), in terms of organic agriculture. It can't be that simple can it?
Waxwings - I actually went out looking for them in east Northants yesterday and failed completely despite many recent local records. Did see lots of rowan berries, industrial estates and redwings though! Will I ever see a waxwing this winter?
Farmland birds - a short blog of a week ago has attracted a large number of comments - mostly from a so-called 'Essex peasant' otherwise known as Essex farmer and NFU mouthpiece Guy Smith. The comments are mostly longer than the original blog! Guy has problems with Hope Farm, the Farmland Bird Index, and most things that the RSPB does. Makes for an interesting read if you are interested in that type of thing.
Dancing - now is the time to download Bird is the word to try to get it to be the Christmas Number 1.
Last date to order from the RSPB before Christmas - 15 December.