Every issue, we ask well-known birders questions about their hobby. This month it’s the turn of naturalist, author and TV producer, Stephen Moss
This month we ask naturalist, author and TV producer Stephen Moss a series of birding questions
What first sparked your interest in birdwatching?
I started before I can remember! My late mother always said that she took me to feed the ducks, and I asked her what the ‘funny black ducks’ were – she then got hold of the Observer’s Book of Birds and identified them as coots. I was three years old and have been interested in birds ever since then!
Who was your birdwatching inspiration or mentor?
Lots of ‘big names’: Ian Wallace – I wrote to him and he kindly replied, Bert Axell who I met at Minsmere, and Eric Hosking – I used to read Eye for a Bird from cover to cover! Also John Gooders and Birds of the World.
Do you bird alone or with a friend?
Initially, with my mum who ferried me around various places; then from the age of about 12 with my schoolfriend Daniel (now a Professor of Biology at Sussex University) – we cycled to places like the New Forest and Dungeness!
Your dream bird to see?
Resplendent Quetzal, or a cock-of-the-rock.
Your favourite birding spot?
My local patches on the Somerset Levels, Trinidad & Tobago, where my wife Suzanne and I got together, and The Gambia, where we had our honeymoon.
Your classic birder’s lunch?
BLT, orange juice, Snickers bar.
Redstart or Black Redstart?
Tricky – but male Black Redstart I think!
Favourite bird song or call?
Duetting pair of Mrs Moreau’s Warblers in Tanzania’s Uluguru Mountains – the bird in the title of my forthcoming book on the origin of bird names.
What do you think is birdwatching’s biggest myth or misconception?
That you have to be an expert to enjoy it.
The best bird you’ve seen?
Emperor Penguin in Antarctica, Plains-wanderer in Australia, Mrs Moreau’s Warbler – again!
Identifying gulls – nightmare or a nice day out?
Bit of both.
Your favourite bird joke?
Can’t think of any (except terrible puns…)
How do you think we can encourage young people to watch birds?
By listening to them, mentoring them and spending time in the field – as a director of A Focus on Nature I have really enjoyed meeting the new generation of birders…
Wheatear or Ring Ouzel?
Wheatear – great name (from Anglo-saxon for ‘white arse’) and great bird!
The one place you’d love to go birdwatching?
A birding/conservation issue you feel strongly about?
The bird that annoys you most?
Feral Greylag Geese.
The bogey bird that still eludes you?
Nutcracker – anywhere in the world!
The bird book you’d never be without?
Handbook of The Birds of the World – my Desert Island Discs book choice – all 17 volumes!
Why do you love birdwatching in three words?
Escape. Surprise. Birds.
Advice for birders taking part in #My200birdyear?
Take time to enjoy the common birdsas well asthe rare ones. Every bird really is special.
THEN & NOW Above: a young Stephen Moss with sparrows, and top: with Bill Oddie at Birdfair