My greatest moment in 40 years of writing
THERE is a good chance that regular readers will get fed up of this announcement over the coming months, however, here goes...
I have now been writing weekly wildlife articles for 40 years, including 30 years in this newspaper and sister titles, and I’m chuffed with that, so thanks for all your kind comments, stories, photographs and support, it has always meant a great deal to me, and indeed to all the editors down the years who I have worked with, and long may it continue.
Ironically, Eamonn O’Neal, the current managing editor, was at Christ’s College with me in Liverpool, and it was the year after we qualified that my first piece appeared in the Liverpool Weekly News. ‘A Kestrel Kills In Liverpool’, was the headline, a reference to the pair of these little falcons which were nesting in the Anglican Cathedral. I could see the impressive building from my first school, St Martin’s Secondary Modern Catholic Boys School, Toxteth. I went on to write about urban wildlife, including foxes, for the newspaper, long before it became fashionable, and carried on after I moved to Derbyshire, for both national, provincial and international publications.
At a guess, you’re talking two million published words. I still collect every article I have written and get the same pleasure from seeing my material in print, and more importantly, still retain the same sense of wonder about the simplest of things, like the blackbird I heard singing this morning.
There has obviously been many highlights during my writing career so far, and some amazing sightings, but I suppose my favourite moment would have to be when my work was recognised by my peers, and I was made a fellow of the British Naturalists Association, on the same day that Sir David Attenborough got his. As you might guess, he’s an absolute gem of a man.
These days, everyone knows about urban wildlife and tens of thousands of schoolchildren across the UK, including in Greater Manchester, will be peering out of their classroom windows this month to take part in the world’s biggest school wildlife survey. Now in its 15th year, the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch helps to track numbers of birds in school grounds, giving the charity an insight into the wildlife which is doing well or not so well, and providing schoolchildren with a great learning experience.
Running from January 4 to February 12, 2016, the survey encourages schoolchildren of all ages, and their teachers, to count the birds in their school grounds for one hour of one day. Each school’s findings help the RSPB’s experts to build a picture of bird populations and monitor any changes, while carrying out the survey helps children to improve their observation skills.
Last year, a recordbreaking 90,000 pupils and teachers across the UK took part in the Big Schools’ Birdwatch, which revealed the blackbird as the most commonly seen bird in school grounds, with 85 percent of schools seeing an average of five.
Now the RSPB is looking forward to receiving this year’s school wildlife sightings, which also contribute to the results of the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch – the biggest wildlife survey in the world, taking place on January 30 and 31.
Research has shown that children are increasingly disconnected from nature which is linked to poorer physical and mental health, so this event is a great way to get young people excited about the world around them.
There is still time for schools to sign up to take part in the birdwatch. teachers, helpers or children don’t need to be experts to take part in the survey.
Everything a teacher would need to plan a fantastic Birdwatch, and develop their children’s knowledge and interest in the birds they see everyday, is available to download, including guidance notes, things to make and counting charts.
To register to take part, visit rspb.org.uk/ schoolswatch.
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop
●» Your columnist together with Sir David Attenborough, when they were both made fellows of the British Naturalists Association, on the same day.