Birding is best with two people, three is okay but any more and problems arise such as too much noise, the group may start to split up and the chances of the whole group seeing a bird someone has spotted is greatly reduced. The point is that birding in a pair is the best way to do it (so long as you can both stand each other’s company for prolonged periods of time!) and my friend John and I make a pretty good team. How it all started is somewhat nebulous, the first time we actually went on a birding outing together is lost in the foggy depths of time and poor memory, however what is clear is that without John I would not be where I am today.
I have been interested in wildlife for as long as I can remember, as a child one is generally interested in pretty much anything and hobbies rarely last more than a few months. But my love of nature stayed with me into my teenage years and birds stood out as an area of wildlife to pay particular attention to; they are around all the time in all habitats, are conspicuous, they sing, are relatively simple to identify (oh the naivety of youth!), there are lots of them and most interestingly they change throughout the year. Now John was a family friend and was already a bit of a birder (having previously dabbled in plane-spotting – yes – plane spotting) and it was natural that he should take me under his wing (no pun intended) in order to help me get to grips with identifying birds. If this was a film then at this point there would be a training montage set to some inspiring music with a good beat; showing clips of me poring over bird books and listening to bird song CD’s while John guides me with a whistle in his mouth.
But let’s skip ahead a bit, (I should mention that my lovely mum had bought me a pair of binoculars by this point – Bushnell’s with strong magnification that have served me well and which I still use today) so John and I went on birding outings regularly to various nature reserves in the south-east, he was effectively Obi-Wan to my Luke Skywalker or Captain to my First Mate or perhaps Morpheus to my Neo and sometimes Blackadder to my Baldrick – teaching me on the finer points of identification and answering my many questions. Having an experienced (did I mention he’s in his forties/fifties?) birder in my early stages was an immense help as well as lots of fun for he is a great guy to spend time with, but inevitably my younger brain overtook John’s birding knowledge and the situation flipped around so that now I point out to him how to ID tricky birds and spot (and hear) birds that his weakening senses miss, alas I even have to push him around the reserves in his wheelchair nowadays. Only joking, I was talking about the future just then, in all seriousness John is a perfectly healthy man with excellent senses and the best birding companion I could wish for, he spots many birds I miss and still has a good edge over me with his extensive birding experience.
Now that you know a bit about my beginnings and who John and I are and our easy-going friendship I can get down to business and write about our sometimes exciting and hopefully interesting birding tales. Just so you know John and I live in Sussex and obviously make good use of the bird hot-spots on our doorstep such as Pulborough Brooks, Pagham Harbour and Ashdown Forest, however we do go further afield into Kent and Surrey and every now and again we spend a few days birding in some far off mythical land such as Norfolk or Somerset.