Then, sometime around the age of 12 my interest seemed to wane. I had started secondary school, birds were seriously uncool and I had a new passion........schools rugby!! I played 2 matches a week, trained 3 days a week and bit by bit I forgot about the birds. The IWC newsletter would arrive and I would barely glance at it. In the end I wouldn't even bother to open the envelope. Eventually Dad cancelled the subscription.
The years passed by, rugby, exams, college, career and all that meant I paid next to no attention to the birds. There were plenty of more important distractions. Ok, so my eye would still be caught by a Kestrel hovering on a motorway or one time a Kingfisher on the river Loire when I was in France for a summer holiday but no more than that.
Then, 20 years on I bought my first house. It was a normal 3 bed semi in Sallins, Co. Kildare. But it had a beautiful garden. I collected the keys from the solicitor on my 32nd birthday as it happened. I remember letting myself into the house and feeling that sense of pride you get as a new home-owner. I looked out to the back garden and there was a flock of birds crowding around an almost empty feeder. I could still recognise some of them, Chaffinches mainly, the odd Greenfinch and a few Blue Tits. All clamouring for the last remaining peanuts. It was my house, my garden and so my birds I thought. I went straight up to the local hardware shop, bought a big bag of peanuts and replenished the feeders. I turned a dustbin lid upside down and filled it with water. The birds seemed very pleased.
|The garden of my old house in Sallins, a great place for birds!|
That was 2002, and it had started all over again. I dusted down one of my old field guides and re-joined Birdwatch Ireland. Bit by bit I started to see more birds. A Sparrowhawk in the garden, a Kingfisher on the river Dodder beside Lansdowne Road stadium and one day while fishing off a pier near Waterville, Co. Kerry....a Great Northern Diver.
From that point on the birding just seemed to gather momentum for me. I joined up with the Liffey Valley branch of BirdWatchIreland and went on field trips to Kilcoole, Broadlough, Shannon Callows and many other places. I made some great friends in Denis Carty, David Browne and Bob Strickland. A career move to Cork really added fuel to the fire, finally getting to visit Cape Clear Island in 2006, the first of many trips there.
|Seawatching on Cape Clear Island 2006|
Indeed in 2008 I found a first for Cape Clear........a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
I don't care to think how much of my hard earned cash I've spent on birding between bins, telescopes, cameras, lenses, tripods, birding trips, clothing, books and magazines...........a lot! But worth every penny. And birding has brought me to parts of the world that I never would have gone to otherwise. The Gambia, Namibia, Ecuador, Argentina, Panama, The Galapagos and even the Antarctic.
|A break from the birding - playing footy with the local kids - The Gambia 2006|
|Paradise Bay, Antarctic Peninsula 2007|
|Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal 2009|
|Polina and I - Santa Cruz Island, The Galapagos 2010|
If you're reading this and you're becoming interested in birds then good for you......stick at it, its a wonderful pastime. Put out food for your garden birds and then go and join BirdwatchIreland or if you live in the UK join the RSPB. Birds face so many challenges now, from habitat loss to illegal hunting and trapping, they need all the friends they can get. I'm eternally grateful to have found birding again and I doubt I'll ever lose that interest. I hope the next 10 years are as good as the last!