My great­est mo­ment in 40 years of writ­ing

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

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.

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