Thursday, 25 September 2008

How I Got Here Today

This was going to be my first post, but yesterday's Dolphin excitement got the better of me! Anyway, here is a brief summary of my life so far. Hopefully you don't find it too boring!

I was 'delivered by the Stork' on 27th September 1985 in St. Peters Hospital, Chertsey, Surrey. I was the second and last child from my parents, my brother being two years older than me. At the age of six, in fact ON my sixth birthday we moved from Egham to Seaton. Why Seaton I hear you all ask? We had been coming to this part of the world for several years on holiday, and my parents long before I was on this planet. They had fallen in love with the area. Here's a photo that anyone who has been on Birdforum will recognise!

Me at the age of four at Branscombe Static Caravan Site with my old man - who was 'less old' in those days!

I was educated at Seaton Primary School, and then Axe Valley Community College, though the latter really did get in the way of prime birding time! I had always had a slight interest in birds, without a doubt because my Dad was keen, weekend after weekend he'd take me for a day out. I especially remember the time of 'Foot and Mouth'. Portland was the only place open so we went there weekend after weekend for the entire spring! Farther also took me on holidays in Scotland, Wales and Norfolk. OK so Dad started me off, for which I am eternally grateful. But who got me REALLY serious? Well that accolade goes to backwater birder Phil Abbott. Thanks to his very kind and generous self he offered me lift after lift to goodie after goodie. The bug had well and truly bitten!

I stayed on at Axe Valley Community College for my A-levels, I completed my first year but soon after I had started my second year I knew this just wasn't for me. So after a few e-mails, I left sixth form and had landed a month of volunteer work at Dungeness Bird Observatory in October/November 2003. What a lesson in life this was, living on toast and chips and even having to work a washing machine! It was a bird-filled month with lifers galore (most rather tarty ones though, to be fair!). A day trip to Holland was my first ever venture abroad and here in Kent was where I first became acquainted with Paul French, yes the one of Buff-bellied Pipit fame! He was also volunteering at the Obs. If only I knew that in several years time he would be vetting my national rarity records I would have offered to pay for a few more beers!

I returned from Kent to spend the winter months stacking shelves in the town's supermarket, Co-op. The following spring ('04) I spent another month volunteering at a Bird Obs, but this time it was Spurn. This proved a great move, as that September I landed a job here with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. It was a couple of weeks before I left for Spurn that I passed my driving test (at the age of 18). I spent the rest of 2004 at Spurn and the following year from March to November.

Spurn Point, looking south from 'Middle Camp'

The van I got to drive round in looking all important!

Spurn gave me such gripping goodies as White's Thrush, Calandra Lark, Audouin's Gull and Pine Grosbeak as well as a huge list of other rarities/scarcities. The list actually does go on for ever, maybe I will go in to it in more detail one day. Most importantly though, here I met the greatest bunch of guys and girls that could ever be wished for, and they are all missed dearly, I learnt SO MUCH from them. It was with three of these guys that I experienced my first foreign holiday, in April '05 we invaded Morocco and had a superb two weeks!

Me at the famous Cafe Yasmina - prime site for Desert Sparrow (we managed just one male). Behind me is the Sahara Desert

Me a few days later at Oued Massa, a coastal location. I was raptor watching.....honestly! Thanks to Dave Boyle for these two photos (who is now stroking Puffins on Skomer!)

I returned home from Yorkshire in mid November '05, and less than a week later turned up Devon's third Hume's Warbler less than half a mile from the front door of my parents’ house (which is where I still reside, it's cheap and easy!). I saw this as almost a sign; 'yes you can trot off around the UK and see all sorts of goodies, but see what can be found at home if all effort is spent here'. Which is partly why I am still here three years later, along with a cracking team of local birders. We are a exactly that, a team, if any of us were on our own, finding a rarity would be like looking for a needle in a haystack and so so much would go unrecorded, but together we have a chance (though I know we still miss bucket loads!). Thanks to a couple of promotions I still work at Co-op. My work list ain't actually too bad, Alpine Swift, Spoonbill and several Ospreys to name but a few.

And that brings me to today! And it's time for me to go to work, have a good day all....

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