I grew up in Bristol and went to Bristol Grammar School where a couple of masters (Derek Lucas and Tony Warren) were instrumental in fueling my interest in birds. I was in the Young Ornithologists' Club.
In the school holidays I practically lived at Chew Valley Lake - a bicycle and a pair of binoculars were all I needed.
My parents liked nice scenery and walks in the countryside and that gave me plenty of opportunities for birding.
I spent a few years when rare birds were very important to me but aside from the very occasional lapse they aren't any more!
I did a Ph.D. on pipistrelle bats but most of my research before joining the RSPB was on bee-eaters in the south of France (nice eh?) and great tits and marsh tits around Oxford. However, the first scientific paper I wote was about the lekking behaviour of great snipe.
I joined the RSPB staff in 1986 as a researcher, became Head of Conservation Science in 1992 and Conservation Director in 1998 - all have been great jobs!
The seasons come around with their mixture of regularity and unpredictability.
Last week it was thoroughly predictable that I would be standing on the Members' lawn at Cheltenham racecourse for much of the week. It was fairly predictable that Sizing Europe would win a 2-mile chase (last year the Arkle, and this year the Champion) and that Alberta's Run would win the Ryanair Chase (just like last year). These two are spring horses who like Cheltenham and whatever they have or haven't done in the season running up to the big day they are worth keeping in mind - so I did. And thanks to them it was a winning Cheltenham.
It was also a good Cheltenham for the excellent company of friends and the fact that I added four species to my racecourse list during the week - great-spotted and green woodpeckers, wren and raven.
And it was very spring-like at Stanwick Lakes yesterday. Chiffchaffs were singing, as were lots of resident passerines. And later, a brimstone butterfly flew through my garden.
At Nene Park, the mighty Rushden did not have much of a spring in their step as they drew with lowly Southport. That seems to me to be the end of any realistic hope of getting into the play-offs come May - but then, some things are predictable in spring.
At least someone picked some winners at Cheltenham! lol