Who writes this stuff?

A potted history

I’m a 56+ year old birder who first got interested in birding when a group of us accidentally found that by skimming a friend’s Father’s 78s (records) at House Martins  (Elvis, Beatles, they all work as well) we could cut one clean in half. Of course, we never managed to slice another but there are a few neat straight scars out their that bear testament to the stupidity of ten year olds.

Moving on from the excitement of martin jigsaws I started to collect eggs, get over it, all kids did in the 1960s. I soon realised two things though, birds can actually count even if they don’t use conventional numbers and by taking their eggs there would be less birds to see so, after filling a shoe box with Blackbird, Song Thrush and Dunnock eggs I gave it up as a bad job. After that I remember one summer, perhaps 1966-67,  a pair of House Martins nested on Terry Pitt’s house, we watched them to fledging, I was hooked.

I went to an all boy comprehensive school which was a bit rough, regular beatings, being dragged about by the ears and general unpleasantness and the pupils got treated even worse,. Fortunately a man called Humphrey Dobinson had started a bird club there and I drifted towards it. Later Brian Gadsby took the reins and I actually got a CSE grade 1 for a two year survey of the birds of Wilwell Cutting, now a nature reserve, then just a boggy railway siding.

Once in the real World I spent more time fishing than birding but by 1979 I had dropped that and started patch watching, Clifton Grove, Fairham Brook, Wilwell Cutting. Once I could drive I started to go further afield in Nottinghamshire, my home county, eventually finding Colwick Park.

Twitching has a big part to play in many birders’ development and I was no different. Twitching got me out to places I’d never normally see and allowed me to enjoy a lot of birds including 300+ species in the UK in 1984 (the story is  available as an excellent e-Book, see the page BUY MY EBOOKS). People can argue (and do) that spending, or wasting money on chasing rare birds damages the Planet or is of lesser value than say ‘Ornithology’. I’ve come to the conclusion, based on much research, that the Planet is screwed so I’ll enjoy it while I can and ‘Ornithologists’ , that is those who condone collecting for ‘the record’ or killed birds to produce another Biology student’s degree, a degree that will  eventually provide just another accountant, are sadly deluded.

From the mid 1980s to 2003 I was actively involved in Nottinghamshire birding, served on Committees, did field work, ran a birdline, wrote a magazine and generally tried to raise the profile of the club and birding in Notts, it worked. I also spent 15 years as a Warden at Colwick Park. For a while I taught adult education bird courses, introducing people to the wonderful World of birds.

In 2003 my Wife Sandra and I moved to Quebec. The challenge of learning new birds, new systems and a new language were enticing, two out of three is not bad, I doubt I will ever be proficient in French but I am getting better, honestly. I dearly wish my language deficiencies were not so, as the French birding scene is much more akin to the UK.

So now to present day. My local patch is St-Lazare sand pits while it lasts, I’ve seen 222 species there and counting but the pace of housing development in St-Lazare is rapacious so I’m pesimistic about its future. I’m keen on my Quebec list and would still be dumb enough to drive seven hours to Tadoussac to dip Purple Sandpiper if I hadn’t finally got one in 2013. I’m keen on birding the Neotropics and want to go there as often as cash, health and the oppressive American hand luggage rules will allow. And I’m keen to expand my knowledge of the dragonflies and butterflies of Quebec. I’ve seen over a quarter of the World’s birds and hope to make it to a third or more before my time is done.

Recently Sandra has taken an interest in dragonflying which means that she now contributes images to the odonata pages.

My football (not Soccer!!!) team is Nottingham Forest who I first saw live in 1970 (lost 3:2 to Liverpool) I think I have seen somewhere between 500 & 1,000 Forest games including the winning of the European Cup in Munich before the competition became a money making exercise. My other interests include music, reading, cats (like I care what you think!) and comedy.

I hope you enjoy reading these pages, most comments are tongue-in-cheek.

Israel 1995, younger fitter, darker of hair!


Countries birded: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales!, France, Spain, Gibraltar, Italy, Gambia, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Crete, Thailand, India, Costa Rica, USA, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Belize, Panama, Cuba.

States birded (so far): Arizona, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Texas, Vermont.


9 thoughts on “Who writes this stuff?

  1. ladyedelweiss.wordpress.com

    I’ll need help tomorrow ……………….but it’s a beginning – later then!
    (Peter has had enough – poor guy – he had to help me – because as you have stated – I am challenged!! – night!)

  2. Hi Mark, nice blog and informative. A little info, where in St. Lazare can I try to photograph mourning doves. Need reference for a painting.

    • I can’t think of a specific spot for Mourning Doves but seed baiting might work, hey certainly clean up below our feeders. Other than that I’d try perhaps the Botanical Gardens downtown where most of the birds at feeders are unfazed by humans.

  3. Mark
    I found your blog on Northern Arizona Hummingbirds from a google search. I am asking permission to use several of your photos for a Toastmaster speech I am planning in the next 30 day. I am hoping to have a 5 minute power point of pictures of Hummingbirds, no financial gain just working on my 6th speech in my Toastmaster manual.

  4. I have found your site and am most impressed!
    My wife and I are keen birdwatchers. We are due in Quebec city on sat 20th Sept (in fact we arrive the previous day but have booked an excursion that day) on a 14 day cruise from Boston. Our cruise ship leaves at c 6pm. I am having a lot of difficulty finding a local guide to show us the hotspots and to help with ids (particularly raptors, waders, and warblers). Would you be interested in showing us the best sites in and around the city on 20/9? (or maybe 19/9 if we change our ship tour date) Naturally we would pay reasonable fees for your time, etc. We could meet near where the ship (NCL Dawn) is docked?
    I have been fortunate to find local guides in the past in Italy, Croatia, Spain, Egypt, Mexico, Caribbean, and the US – with great results – but no luck so far in Quebec city. I would be most appreciative if you could spare some time with us. Or if not, maybe you could suggest someone else?
    I plan to have my scope with me as well as our binocs.

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