Saturday 28 September 2013

About me

I could say my birding CV begins around age 10, wandering around the neighbourhood on Tyneside as far as my feet would take me and co-opting a willing uncle to drive me to places they wouldn't. But my pitman grandfather could've staked a claim to setting me on my birding path even earlier, taking me for long walks across the fells revealing industrial as well as natural history; a working pithead, the worlds oldest single arch railway bridge (ca.1726), Lapwings' nests and leverets. But as I'd already experienced the thrill of finding my first rarity, a party of Snow Buntings in the garden, I suspect my fate had already been sealed. I'll knock any chance of the nature versus nurture question on the head before it arises. Apparently my mother used to lay me as a baby in a window overlooking the garden to watch the birds coming to be fed. So after years with a foot on the slippery birding slope, joining a Young Ornithologist's Club outings group gave me the final push into what sometimes feels like a lifetime of dips with just enough "Snow Buntings" to keep me going. By age 14 I was hitch-hiking around the UK to see birds and from there it was mere hop, skip and a jump to see me fetch up in Japan.

After an initial dash around the country in the late '80s I spent more time focusing on birding in Asia but since about 2000 I've turned my attention back to Japan. Apart from plugging away in Kansai I try to get to the Japan Sea islands for a week every spring and autumn, often Mishima in spring but also Hegurajima, Tsushima and Yonaguni in recent seasons. Hegura remains the big draw in autumn. Summer and winter usually see my heading north or south to see birds that don't occur closer to home.

I started digiscoping, mainly gulls, in 2000 but didn't invest in an SLR much later. Finding a Eurasian Crag Martin (probably a first for Japan) in a huge passage of hirundines and swifts on Mishima made me realize it might be prudent to be prepared for any more sole observer vagrants. Coming along so late it's not surprising photography is very much secondary to birding, I'm still satisfied with my Canon D40 and Sigma lens, but it is growing on me! 

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