I think it all started when, aged eight, I tried to make my own Christmas cards – I needed a picture of a Robin to copy and this resulted in my first bird book.
It wasn’t long before I was drawing the other species in the book and, increasingly, watching them in the wild. In no time I was consumed by birds and other wildlife. Even through the fickle teenage years I managed to remain undeflected thanks to various fine people who inspired me along the way.
I went on to study Hen Harrier feeding behaviour at Liverpool University which was a sort of ruse I suppose for escaping to do some birdwatching on the premise of working. It also complemented the raptor conservation activity which I was then, and still am, involved with in the Welsh uplands.
The concept of making any kind of living from birds was a mere pipedream until I began taking wildlife photography more seriously and giving talks to interested clubs and societies. Little could I imagine how this would escalate and I now spend a considerable part of each year speaking to a wide range of groups. In addition, I have been a regular contributor to a range of bird publications such as Birdwatching Magazine.
Many years ago I was asked to run a birdwatching course at the Peak National Park (Losehill Hall) and these courses became a popular annual event until The Peak National Park decided that such events were no longer part of their remit. A similar fate befell Wansfell College in Essex. However, the delightful Higham Hall in Cumbria continues to flourish independently and I am there usually four times a year running both birdwatching and photography courses.
In parallel, Linda and myself also had the enjoyment of leading a number of breaks for Birdwatching Magazine where we met many people who have in many cases become regular travellers with us.
The courses naturally gave rise to more focused workshops where we explore the identification challenges posed by some of the more difficult groups of birds such as Raptors, Waders and Wildfowl and 'Little Brown Jobs'. The fact that these run full from year to year has confirmed that these groups pose problems for most.
It was not long before we were being asked to run trips abroad and in 2004 we set up Wild Insights which encompasses all these activities and was very much aimed at the bird and wildlife enthusiast who likes to take their time and savour the species on offer rather than being driven by quatitative targets. This has proved to be a popular philosophy, self-evident from the participation in tours over the last decade.
Outside of the wildlife-related activities, I enjoy playing guitar and have produced a CD – The Sun Returns. This arose from a request by good friend and fine photographer Ben Osborne to have some music to accompany his stunningly good audio-visual shows Life in the Freezer and Common Source. The result was quite a varied mix I suppose but it seemed to work. I was very fortunate to be able to include two fine musicians on the album, John Neilson (piano, accordion, whistle) and Drew Hurley(bodhran, flute, fiddle.) John and Drew's contributions did much to enhance the end result.
From time to time I do the occasional live performance and am currently working on a range of new pieces for a new CD.
So, whether you are looking for a speaker for your society, a course or workshop to improve your identification skills, ideas for your next foreign birdwatching trip, prints or greetings card or just want some new music for your CD collection, I hope there is something of interest for you here.