We often read about people who talk of someone who has significantly influenced some aspect of their life; whether it’s someone who has supported them through a particularly difficult chapter in their life or simply someone who has inspired them to follow a particular path or to achieve great success. Well my influencer is Ron Sheldon, a close family friend for well over forty years, who is like an uncle to me and my two sisters.
Alongside bird watching, my other great passion is music and when I was around the age of 13 and learning to play the drums, having grown bored of piano lessons, Ron clearly felt I was ready to be audibly introduced to Ginger Baker (Cream) and Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix). Aside from the legendary drumming, I too fell in love with the music and this helped to broaden my own taste and style of playing away from pure Hard Rock and Heavy Metal.
But this is really a precursor, in terms of significance, of the main influence that Ron is responsible for. When I was around the age of 7, Ron took me for a walk alongside Breydon Water estuary to see the many waders, ducks and other associated birds, all of which I was experiencing for the very first time. Needless to say I immediately felt connected and the rest is history.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to have visited a number of the UK’s great reserves as well as witnessing the tail-end of the summer migration around Gibraltar and Tarifa in southern Spain. The highlight to date though was to see the most incredible variety of birds while holidaying in South Africa in early 2014.
What I am not.
Well I’m certainly not a twitcher; chasing around the country and beyond trying to accumulate as many ‘ticks’ as possible from year to year. I’m also not an expert in differentiating gulls in their various forms of plumage (and I’m not sure who is come to that) and I’m also not able to identify every British bird without the use of a good reference guide at times (some feel almost embarrassed to admit carrying one among the experts!).
What I am.
I’m an enthusiastic birder with enough experience to take you to the right places to get the best variety of birds at that given time and will be able to identify a good number just by their calls.
I’m also a very sociable and easy-going father of three who’s spent 19 years working within the wine industry and therefore have a healthy passion for all things vinous, hence the sociable nature! I am also a good listener (which is a great advantage when you’re bird watching I can tell you!) so my aim is to make the experiences light-hearted, informative, and most of all, great fun!
Though I have never felt a passion to go bird watching, when I had the opportunity to accompany Justin on one of his outings I was keen to take the opportunity. I immediately felt at ease with Justin, who welcomed the non-experienced to his group, as warmly as those who recognised their birds! Justin took us on a lovely walk, and pointed out the large variety of birds on his chosen route in a relaxed manner. I found that Justin passed on his knowledge in a delightfully straight forward way, and it was a pleasure to be in his company. I was glad I decided to experience bird watching.
A very enjoyable morning’s walk with Justin. He was very knowledgeable and patient. I would highly recommend his tours, and look forward to doing it again.
The bird walk was a fantastic day out, and I so enjoyed the relaxing walk and the variety of birds that we saw on the route.
Thank you so much for the bird watching day yesterday, I enjoyed it immensely. I have spoken to the others in the group and they all say the same. Your knowledge on birds and their habitats really opened our eyes to the variety of bird life around us.
The sheet you gave us to tick off all the species of birds showed that we had seen 44 separate species and had heard a number of others which were in our vicinity. I came away inspired to continue to develop my knowledge of bird watching and would love to hear about any other walks you plan to do.
I would definitely recommend your walks to anyone with even a slight interest in bird watching.