I often find myself searching my memory as far back as I can go for the spark that started me birding. I know where and when I started being a birder, that bit is easy. A warm summer morning in the late eighties, a fretful baby waiting for a hernia operation and a long calming walk in the hours when only the birdsong and milkman were company. We stopped on a small bridge over a stream, a Grey Heron stalked slowly downstream amongst the streamside vegetation, then a burst of iridescent blue tore along the watercourse and my first Kingfisher left me wanting more.
I go further back into the origins of my interest in birds, how I knew that a Kingfisher was a Kingfisher even though I hadn’t picked up a bird book for many years. A schoolboy egg collection and a house near the sea, as well as a childhood that allowed me to become acquainted with almost every nook and cranny for 4km in any direction. was perhaps no different to many of my peers.
Earlier still to the mid-seventies, the car, now filtering into every household, allowed my parents and me to explore our county; summer weekends invariably ended in a picnic in an upland valley with a Dipper on the stream, a Wren churring in the bracken and the leftovers fed to the foraging Black-headed Gulls.
As a small child my grandfather had an allotment ( a vegetable garden) not too far from where we lived. A twice-weekly trip allowed me long afternoons digging for worms and watching the local Robin and Blackbird devour them a few yards away. Perhaps my earliest bird memories.
Why the journey back through my own ornithological odyssey you may wonder. Well I’ve read the posts James and Mike wrote about their kids and can appreciate and share their desire to see their progeny follow in their footsteps. When I look back though no one pushed me to birding, I found it on my own. I had no mentor guiding me to the promised land, I got there because it was where I wanted to be; because it’s where I am myself more than at any other time or in any other way.
Outside under a big sky, feeling the warmth of the sun and letting the sights and sounds of the birds wash over me feels like the right way to be. I can lose track of time and all else when I’m birding.
For nearly two years now much of my time out birding is with my twins who are in their 4th calendar year. Sure I point out the birds and I name the birds and ask them to listen to their songs and calls. They eat chocolate and they poke mud with sticks, throw stones into rivers and occasionally, just occasionally, stop and look and stare at a bird. Last week they had their own up close encounter with a confiding Robin, the individual in the picture below, along a quiet woodland path as we wandered on one of our daily rambles.
As they stood, in a silent staring contest with the lady above, I wondered if this was the start of their own birding journey or perhaps they will head down a different path. I hope that whatever choices they make they will never feel out of place under a big sky or a dark wood; whether on a windswept beach or by a mountain stream I hope that they’ll feel right at home just as I do.