My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
The weather is terrible, the economy is in a mess, which means we all need something to bring cheer this weekend.
Here's my top tip: why not make yourself a cup of tea, sit down and count the birds in your garden for an hour.
If you want to be really indulgent, you could do this while listening to Sir David Attenborough's Desert Island Discs on Sunday. What could be better - watching wildlife while listening to a national treasure?
Yes, it's Big Garden Birdwatch weekend.
For my sins, I hope to be herding five kids (not all mine I hasten to add) to join in the fun. And I really do need those long-tailed tits (like the one below courtesy of Jogn Bridge and RSPB-images.com) to turn up in the garden at the right time.
Last January a record 609,000 people took part. We're hoping to top that this year. So, go on, take part. It will cheer you up! I promise.
And do let me (and the rest of the RSPB) know what you found...
Seven months ago, I blogged here that a Derbyshire gamekeeper, Glenn Brown, had been found guilty of attempting to illegally trap and kill birds of prey.
What I failed to report was that the gamekeeper later appealed this decision. However, yesterday, we heard that he lost his appeal and the Judge upheld his sentence of 100 hours community service while increasing his costs from £10,000 to £17,000.
I am delighted by this news. There is no place for illegal killing of birds of prey in 21st century Britain.
I am also delighted for all those involved in bringing this case to court including RSPB investigation staff who had to put up with sustained attacks on their integrity from the defence lawyers in both trials.
I am proud that RSPB has such dedicated and professional investigation staff. They work tirelessly with the police to bring these criminals to justice and this verdict sends a signal that those who illegally kill birds of prey will be caught and will be punished.
Crimes such as these illustrate links between driven-grouse shooting and the illegal killing of birds of prey. This is why industry leaders and employers need to do more to stamp out these crimes. It is an inconvient truth that since 1990 there have been over 100 gamekeepers convicted of crimes relating to the despicable persecution of birds of prey.
More needs to be done.
We believe that land managers and owners should be held legally accountable for any wildlife crimes that are committed by their staff, as is the case in Scotland. If you agree, please sign this petition calling for introduction of an offence for vicarious liability for raptor persecution. We shall be encouraging the Law Commission to give this serious consideration as part of its review of wildlife management legislation in England and Wales.
Finally, if you have not done so already, do read more about the investigation here.
Sometimes you just need space to think.
If Transport Secretary Justine Greening needs a little time to reflect on the big decisions that she needs to make about the UK's future aviation capacity, she should go for a walk in a flower-rich meadow. Last week I was reminded of a paper by Sheffield scientists and published here. They concluded that psychological benefits increase with species richness ie the more species, the better your brain works!
Now, I know that our meadows are not at their best at this time of year, but I am sure that the research could be applied to species other than flowers. If so, perhaps the Transport Secretary should pop up to the Lodge (pictured below courtesy of Jesper Mattias rspb-images.com) where last week we reported that a staggering 1,915 native species had been reported at our headquarters. Last year’s total brings the list of native and non-native species recorded at the site to 4,035 - the third highest RSPB nature reserve for the number of species recorded.
So, if officials are reading this, can I suggest you find some time in the Secretary of State's diary to visit the Lodge? It will help her take time to reflect on the draft aviation white paper. She could always pop in for a chat with a few RSPB colleagues to hear what we think about the proposal for a Thames Estuary Airport. We spend a lot of time at the Lodge benefiting from all that species richness - so we are worth talking to.
Alternatively, why not schedule an hour recording birds in her garden this weekend? That should do the trick because, yes, it's Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend!
Where do you go to reflect on life? Are you taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend? If not, why not?
It would be great to hear your views.