I first became aware of the Observatory in the late 1990s when I bid for and won a promises auction ‘lot’ donated by the Obs, to watch a ringing team at work on a trip to Stodmarsh. I had always had an interest in wildlife and particularly birds, so this was an interesting experience. I wasn’t really a proper bird watcher – more an incidental birder, just observing what was around as I went about my daily life.
Family life and work (34 years at Pfizer as a research chemist) kept me fairly busy but in 2009 I took voluntary redundancy and early retirement and wondered what I was going to do with my new leisure time. Surprisingly, it was an impending trip to the Caribbean island of Gaudeloupe in 2013 to visit our daughter (there as part of her university degree in languages) that reconnected me to the Observatory. I had bought a camera to try to photograph some of the birds I hoped to see and I needed to learn how best to use it.
My wife bought me membership at SBBOT and visits to the hide at Restharrow Scrape proved a perfect training ground; the diversity of birds I saw there amazed me. Although I’d lived locally all my life I just hadn’t realised the number of species that visited the area. We started attending the evening talks as well as well as frequent trips to the reserve. It was a great environment to learn more about birds, birding and photography from the many knowledgeable people there.
I was asked if I would join the Council and did so in about 2015. I have been there ever since and it has been an eye opener to me to see just how much work, time and effort members of the Council put into their roles.