How it all began

Well today was the first day of the year on which I didn’t get out of the house. Brenda had a succession of meetings as well, so neither of use did any wildlife watching 🙁

So no new species for the day I’m afraid (still no moths!) and I got to the point I alluded to on Sunday – what to do on a “no wildlife” day? My decision: I’ll write something anyway.

For this first lost day it seemed natural to tell you about my start in birdwatching. Aged about 13 or 14 (I can’t remember exactly), I was living with my parents and my younger sister in Banbury, Oxfordshire, where we had been since I was 6 months old. My late Dad was a lecturer in horticulture and had a keen interest in wildlife in general and birds in particular.

I had been playing the violin for about six years and already knew that this was the career I wanted to pursue. There was no internet, no social media. So at some point my Dad must have suggested I come birdwatching with him.

Looking back I think that the choice of when and where was critical: He didn’t invite me on a local walk to Grimsbury reservoir (which was actually to become my local “patch” for several years, and at which I saw a lot of firsts), or a quick half day outing to a local reserve. No! He asked me if I’d like to join him and a couple of birding friends on a weekend trip to north Norfolk. The coincidence of the fact that I now live in Wells-next-the-Sea is not lost on me!

a greenshank – a bird I would have undoubtedly seen for the first time on that initial trip to Norfolk (photo taken in 2016)

This was to be a turning point for me. We set off (I can only remember one of the friends’ names: Mick Oliver) on the Friday evening (I don’t remember what time of year, but I think it was September or October) to Kings Lynn, where we based ourselves at the Youth Hostel 🙂 We then had Friday evening, the whole of Saturday, and most of Sunday out and about – by which time I had seen just over 100 bird species. I was captivated. I still remember some of those sightings, such as my first whinchat on a fencepost on the lane down to Holme NWT reserve.

But most of the detail is lost in the befuddled mess that is my middle-aged memory. That doesn’t matter – I got a love for birdwatching on that weekend which I have kept for over 45 years, and I have my Dad to thank for that.

Thanks Dad!

Birds = 73
Moths = 0
Wildflowers = 8