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Every is­sue, we ask well-known bird­ers ques­tions about their hobby. This month it’s the turn of nat­u­ral­ist and broad­caster

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - Chris Pack­ham

Chris Pack­ham an­swers our ques­tions and re­veals what first sparked his in­ter­est in bird­ing...

What first sparked your in­ter­est in bird­watch­ing, and when? For my first birth­day, my grand­mother bought me two Collins bird books, and I can still re­mem­ber every illustration – they were full of in­ter­est­ing things like Hob­bies and Wheatears. There were also al­bums of Brooke Bond tea cards, and I still have them. My in­ter­est in wildlife was all about tan­gi­ble things to start with, get­ting my hands on things, but, aged 12, I got my first binoc­u­lars.

Who was your bird­watch­ing in­spi­ra­tion or men­tor? I didn’t strictly have one to start with, but at the age of about 13 or 14, I got men­tored by my bi­ol­ogy teacher, John Buckley, who got me think­ing more sci­en­tif­i­cally. We used to col­lect and an­a­lyse Barn Owl pel­lets once a month.

Do you bird alone or with a friend? Alone, in terms of hu­mans, although also with friends – my poo­dles.

Your favourite bird­ing spot? My home patch in the New For­est – it puts you in con­tact with the world. A bit fur­ther afield, Far­ling­ton Marshes is great with huge flocks of Brents, and I like places like Snet­tisham and the Bass Rock, where ev­ery­thing’s on a huge scale.

Your clas­sic birder’s lunch, grabbed from the fill­ing sta­tion chiller cab­i­net? I’m not very food ori­en­tated, but I do like cafés, for cake and hot choco­late. Leighton Moss is def­i­nitely top of the cake league.

Goshawk or Honey Buz­zard? Goshawk – it’s an ab­so­lute avian Ter­mi­na­tor. I’m lucky to have both nearby, and Goshawks do change things in terms of driv­ing out other rap­tors, but I wouldn’t be with­out them.

Favourite bird song or call? Song Thrush. I hear them at home, and I think they’re un­der­rated, not that far from Nightin­gale. They’re that bit purer and more in­ter­est­ing than Black­birds.

Bird­watch­ing’s big­gest myth or mis­con­cep­tion? I’d like to see more bird­ers proac­tively in­volved with con­ser­va­tion. I think too many do take with­out giv­ing much back. Think what we could do if every birder went out to Hen Har­rier Day and made their voices heard.

The best bird you’ve seen? It was in 1974, at a place called Rod­ding­ton Forge, near Southamp­ton. Iwas just tak­ing my elas­tic band bi­cy­cle clips oé, when a male Spar­rowhawk pitched up above me. Our eyes met for about three sec­onds and it was just a sem­i­nal mo­ment, such a sur­prise. I felt so con­nected to that bird at that mo­ment.

Iden­ti­fy­ing gulls – night­mare or a nice day out? Nice day­out. I en­joy gull ID, and I like gulls as birds. Pipit ID, or Amer­i­can spar­row ID, are a bit diéer­ent, though.

How do we en­cour­age young peo­ple to watch birds? We need to get them close to na­ture and get them en­gaged – give them the chance to have those per­sonal mo­ments of con­nec­tion with wildlife. We also need to break down stereo­types a bit.

Stonechat or Whin­chat? Whin­chat

One place you’d love to go bird­ing? Any­where with a pink Ross’s Gull – I’ve chased them in Canada and Green­land but I would love to see one.

A bird­ing/ con­ser­va­tion is­sue you feel strongly about? The il­le­gal per­se­cu­tion of rap­tors in the UK – I want to help put an end to it once and for all. The peo­ple do­ing it are crim­i­nals, plain and sim­ple.

The bird that an­noys you the most? Not re­ally any wild birds, but asym­met­ri­cal Mus­covy Ducks and other duck hy­brids.

The bo­gey bird that still eludes you? None in the UK, but the Ca­how (or Ber­muda Petrel), is one that I’ve searched for and had no luck.

Bird book you’d never be with­out? The Collins Bird Guide – I use it as an app now, but I al­ways have a hard copy, too. And Birds of the West­ern Palearc­tic. I use it through­out Spring­watch and Au­tum­n­watch, and although some of it has been su­per­seded, it’s in­valu­able.

Why do you love bird­watch­ing, in three words? Con­nec­tion, free­dom, and aes­thet­ics.

Ad­vice for bird­ers tak­ing part in #My200birdyear? When you think you’ve seen it all, you’ve re­ally only scratched the sur­face. I got my best ever view of a Bullfinch the other day, when I was watch­ing Foxes, even though it’s a bird I’ve al­ways seen reg­u­larly. It’s an in­ex­haustible well.

Your dream bird to see? Hawk Owl – glob­ally there are other things, but I’d keep it Euro­pean.

CHRIS PACK­HAM Find Chris on Twit­ter at: @Chris­g­pack­ham

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