A big thank you!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday 8 December 2010 17:59

We had a very interesting discussion about mentoring and the next generation of naturalists today during a biological recording committee meeting. It got me thinking about how lucky I was to have enthusiastic teachers willing to spend time with me in the field when I was a kid, something that I imagine is very unlikely to happen these days. If it wasn't for them, I would literally not be doing what I am doing now. Richard Berry and Ewart Gardner (primary school and outdoor education teachers respectfully) got me into birding before I reached double figures and Ewart also gave me some old wild flower books and took me out botanising, skills that I went on to develop to the point of becoming a professional. Steve Cooper at my high school heard I was into wildlife and showed me a moth trap full of moths. I remember seeing Angleshades and Canary-shouldered Thorns for the first time and was instantly hooked, now I'm the chairman of Sussex Moth Group. 

I grew up in a council estate in a small town in Staffordshire, we didn't have a lot of money or the means to go to many places so without the time these people invested in me, I would not have had the experience of so many different species and habitats. I have some pretty amazing memories but perhaps the one that I remember the most was twitching in 1991 (19 years ago!) at Spurn and surrounding areas, in one day, the following:
Desert Warbler
Isabelline Shrike (I think the above photo is the exact moment I saw the bird, taken from 
Hume's Warbler
Pallas's Warbler
Richard's Pipit
Whilst we were going between these birds a Great Grey Shrike turned up and we saw some Shore Larks. Four of those birds I have never seen since! So I thought a long overdue thank you was in order to the people that gave up their time for someone else's kid! I'm not in touch with Ewart or Steve at the moment but would like to be. You just can't get that level of interaction from a course and it makes such a difference starting to learn when you're young. So, from someone who could so easily not be doing their dream job now, I have nothing but appreciation and thanks for my mentors.

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