19 shortly 20 (December 2011)
Where do you I live?
I live in the North East of England in County Durham. I have lived in the North East for the whole of my life so far, I love it up here and don't intend to move if I can prevent it.
What's with the name of the blog?
When I joined Durham Bird Club in the year 2008 I started to meet more birders in my area and further afield. Amongst the people who I first met Steve Evans was one of these people, for whatever reason Steve gave me the nickname Foghorn Leghorn. I believe it was used on the Durham Bird Club forum once or twice and it caught on, people started calling my Foghorn Leghorn and I didn't mind it as I found it quite humorous. This character fits me well; large, talks a lot, and of course Foghorn sounds much like Kinghorn.
When did you start birding?
I can't remember the exact year but I think it was either the year 2005 or 2006. One of those years was when I consciously started to take note of birds and what I was looking at. I wasn't really nurtured into the hobby but got into it myself. However I can remember from a young age my Grandfather (who sadly passed away in 2010) used to talk to me about birds and how he had an interest in his younger years and even once he was married and was bringing up my Mum, her sisters and brother. But it was my Grandma who really planted the seed of my interest; I used to go up to her house in Perthshire countryside before she moved to Orkney. Being a very much so countryside my Grandma mentioned these large birds she had and she thought they were Buzzards. I eventually saw one and had a look in this bird book. I can remember eliminating Honey Buzzard from the equation and trying to figure out if the birds were Rough-legged Buzzards or Common Buzzards. I eventually came to the conclusion they were the later species. However this was a few years before I really got hooked on birding! One summer of either the year 2005 or 2006 I went to Loch of the Lowes nature reserve in Dunkeld, by Grandma had decided to take me there as we had run out of wildlife parks to go to whilst I was up on my own for a weeks holiday. I can remember there was an old board outside the visitor center which showed a picture of birds present. I can remember a picture of an Osprey being on the board. "We won't see one of thoose" was my over confident reply to the boards suggestion! Then it happened, I went into the hide and saw my first ever Osprey. I can remember being very interested, then from that point on I have always considered myself a birdwatcher.
What was it like starting off?
It was a pretty slow start, I wasn't a frequent birder like I am now but just had an interest. I went to my local nature reserve Rainton Meadows where I saw my first Whooper Swan, Brambling, and Chiffchaff. I probably used to go out birding once of twice a month but it wasn't my main interest. Then I can remember I joined the Durham Bird Club in 2008 when I realised there were others in my own home county that enjoyed birding. I met a few people at Rainton Meadows who were birdwatchers, one of the first was Colin Wilson. Colin is a very keen local patcher and birder, known by many in the Durham birding scene. I got onto the Durham Bird Forum and from that point on I can remember being hooked on birding, I did a volunteer placement at Durham Wildlife Trust reserve Rainton Meadows over the summer of 2008 and enjoyed it. I managed to find my own Mediterranean Gull in the summer time! Also I had my first ever Greenshank and Green Sandpiper on the reserve, the latter bird pointed out to my by Colin Wilson.
What's birding in the North East of England like?
I don't mean to offend anyone reading but I do like in one of the best places in the UK to birdwatch. We have such a diverse range of habitats ranging from moorland to coastal cliffs and then to sea. I have seen most of my birds of my British list in the North East of England. I have seen three MEGA rare species; Eastern Crowned Warbler, and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Durham + Sykes's Warbler in Northumberland. The two warblers are extremely rare birds. Eastern Crowned Warbler was a first for the UK and Sykes's Warbler the first twitchable bird for mainland UK. The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper is a bird I never thought I would ever see, they are hard to see on the continent never mind in the UK!
Ever been a local patcher?
That's pretty much all I used to be when I started off. I am pleased I did it as well as I am very familiar with all of the common UK birds. I would like to think I know my bread and butter stuff very well so I can pick out the rarer species pretty much straight away. I am not so big on my local patch anymore but I reckon when I get older I will probably get right back into local patching, just one of those feelings.
Twitching; all for or all against?
All for it! But I would advise anyone new to birding to ignore all these immature comments such as; "my list if bigger than yours", "you haven't seen one of those yet?", "I'm catching you up on the year list", these sorts of comments make me giggle now. I don't treat birding as a competition; its a hobby that I enjoy. I would rather learn about birds and build up my own personal British list over a period of time appropriate for me. Sure there will be some birds I will never see in the UK. I dipped the Glaucous-winged Gull at Teesside and I don't honestly think I will see one in the UK ever, it saddened me so much I went of Gulls for a while and have only recently got back into them.
But I am all for twitching. If a bird turns up and you want to go and see it then do! I have seen some fabulous birds and had a good time twitching them. One memorable day was in 2011 when I had American Bittern and Green Heron in one day on a twitch to Cornwall. The Eastern Crowned Warbler just down the road was truly unbelievable the bird showed really well was a first for the UK AND my first ever MEGA rare bird for the UK. I love twitching; I am defiantly hooked!
Listing; all for or all against?
Although this might sound like a contradiction to my above statements I am all for listing. I enjoy doing it, I keep British Life, British Year, World List, County List, and occasionally County Year List. I join in with the young birders year list challenge and I also take part in the SurfBirds year listing BOU guidelines challenge. This year will be my final year of listing as a young birder as when I turn 20 I am ceasing to list under any young birder related competitions as it would be unfair to others.
So your a Christian?
I am indeed a Christian, I don't really stick myself into any denomination as I simply follow the teachings of the Bible word from word and was born again a few years ago. I have changed my opinions on some things over the years, for example I am open to be persuaded one way or another regarding some aspects of faith. However I subscribe to every point in 'mere Christianity', by this I mean the central doctrines held by the various Christian sects such as the divinity of Jesus, doctrine of salvation, etc.
Now a few questions based more on birds and your birding. Whats your favorite bird?
My favorite bird of all time is the White-tailed Eagle, what a superb bird and a one I hope to eventually see in County Durham. Here's waiting.................
Although this might be painful; what are the most painful birds you have dipped in the UK?
To date the worst has to be Glaucous-winged Gull in Durham, it was seen my most of my mates and some of them saw it really well. It was very painful as it was showing the best it ever had since it arrived on the morning when I was going. On BirdForum everyone said I should see it no problem and that they had really good views of the bird only a couple of hunderd yards away sitting on the ice pretty much all morning. I went on the afternoon and it wasn't seen ever again. Very painful.
I also dipped the Slaty-backed Gull at Rainham Marhes RSPB twice, expensive and painful. I love Gulls but never really had much chance with them and dipped pretty much all rare gulls except I did see Bonaparte's Gull in 2010 at Whitburn Steel thanks to a call from Mark Newsome.
Whats the rarest bird you have ever seen?
The rarest bird I have ever seen to date is the Eastern Crowned Warbler; it was a first for the United Kingdom and only the fifth ever record in Europe. I got absolutely superb views of this exceedingly rare bird, it was the first bird in Europe ever that stayed for longer than one day making it the first ever twitchable Eastern Crowned Warbler in Europe. It was also great that it was in my own home county and it was my first mega rare bird I had ever seen.
What is the most attractive bird you have ever seen?
Its so difficult to say for sure. But I think Red-flanked Bluetail takes the biscuit. What a superb looking bird I saw my first at Newbiggin in 2010 and then the next day saw a different bird at St Mary's Island which is just a little further south. The later bird showed really well sitting on a fence perched out in the open for fairly prolonged periods of time as it was being chased around by some of the more commoner migrants in the area.
What are your birding aspirations?
- To reach 400 British Bird Species seen going by BOU guidelines.
- To travel the world birdwatching seeing species I really want to see.
- To become and better birder as times goes on until the day I die.
Well thats all I can think of for now. I might add or emend stuff in the future so you might want to keep checking if you want to learn more about me.
Until next time, Foghorn out!