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.
Birmingham was, for the first time, the host city for yesterday's RSPB AGM. The ICC provided the venue and it was great to see many new faces amongst familiar friends. I always enjoy the day - it is a celebration of what we have achieved over the year and it is nice to be able to sit back and listen to the wonderful work that my colleagues have been up to.
There is a little moment at the beginning of the day when members can ask questions and RSPB Directors have to be prepared to answer whatever is raised. But this year, perhaps surprisingly given Friday's challenge (here), there were few googlies to read or bouncers to duck. It was, instead, reassuring to hear the strength of support for our campaigning, for our casework, for our position on licensing grouse shooting and over our international work.
Once the question time is over, unless you are giving a presentation, you can sit back and be entertained.
For those of you were unable to get to Birmingham, this is what you missed...
...our former Chief Executive and current Vice-President, Sir Graham Wynne, chairing the day with authority and humour while just about avoiding telling us what to do
...our Chairman. Professor Steve Ormerod, and Treasurer, Graeme Wallace, providing the conservation and financial highlights from the year - accompanied by some of the most stunning photographs
...volunteers being awarded for their dedication to the cause
...Dawn Balmer, from the BTO, and the Bird Atlas 2007-2011 team receiving, on behalf of the 40,000 people that collected data, the RSPB Medal for the outstanding contribution that the new Atlas will make to conservation
The Atlas team with their medals
...Miranda Krestovnikof offering some highlights from her first year as President of the RSPB especially her mission to reach out to new audiences
...David Lindo explaining how we went from being a 'twitcher in the womb' to become the 'Urban Birder' we know him as today. He also made a rather unsubtle plea to RSPB Members to vote for the Hen Harrier as Britain's National Bird.
...the weekend after the EU agreed its 2030 package of action to tackle climate change (here). great talks from my colleagues on the impact of climate change on wildlife (Richard Bradbury) as well as what we are doing on our nature reserves (Jo Gilbert) and the action we are taking with others on a landscape scale (with a focus on the Trent and Tame Futurescape) to help wildlife to adapt to climate change (Adrian Southern).
...my colleague, Laurence Rose, highlighting how the RSPB has, for thirty years, been working with our Birdlife Partner in Spain, SEO, to protect and restore the magnificent wetland, Cota Donana.
...the boss, Mike Clarke, providing a 125 year retrospective on the history of the RSPB, our founding mothers and fathers and why we are as true to our mission today as we were when we were formed in 1889.
We're back in London next year and, if you have never been, I would encourage you to put the date 9/10 October 2015 in the diary now.
As for me, I am now on half term with the family. I hope you have a great week.