Welcome to my blog. If you live in Surrey and birding is your obsession (to get out of bed at some ridiculously early time of the morning, no matter what the weather, to go and look at birds isn't normal behaviour, believe me) and you're still a bit of a novice (like me) then, hopefully, this blog is for you.

Wednesday 18 December 2013


After a lull of seven weeks (could be more, I've lost count) without writing a single word on the blog, the Randon’s Ramblings Birding Awards are almost upon us (next week).

I haven't written much recently or been birding, mainly due to other commitments, some good (plenty of work), some bad (death in the family).

On a personal level life could have been a lot better. The death of my father-in-law in July, a great man who succumbed to a ten-year battle with dementia, had a big impact on our family and was followed a few weeks ago by the death of one of my uncles.

I wasn't that close to my uncle but it was when I became aware of his situation and then personally involved in trying to help him prior to his passing that affected me greatly. I experienced what can only be described as gross ineptitude by those who should have known better and acted sooner.  

The Dusky Thrush saga
It's when you are dealing with real life that you realise pastimes such as birding should be enjoyed for what they are rather than used to pontificate over whether it is the right of all birders to see a rare bird, especially when it appears in someone's garden.

While glued to a computer for most of the past month and a half I'd been engrossed by the Devon Dusky Thrush saga. It was fascinating and ridiculous in equal measure. The finder, the recorder, the photographer and the artist all played their parts commendably (the artist's illustration of the bird was quite brilliant, I have to say). The problem the finder made for himself was naively waiting for the bird to disappear before announcing he had invited a handful of mates to come and see the bird.

That in itself wouldn't be much of a big deal in every day life, but having a rare bird in your garden unfortunately exposes you potentially to the extreme end of the pastime – the obsessive, compulsive birder. The hard-core twitcher.

For a hard-core twitcher nothing will get in the way of seeing a rare bird, no matter where it may be, whether it affects family, friends, work, finance, sanity, whatever. The only thing that will stop a twitcher seeing a rare bird is if he doesn't know it exists. So it was inevitable there would be a reaction once it was known the finder of the Dusky Thrush had suppressed the information, whether it was his intention or not.

There is no clear answer to this argument, no right or wrong. It was just the way it happened. But perhaps the most disappointing element of the saga from my point of view was the decision by Gavin Haig to close his excellent blog Not Quite Scilly.

Coming from a media background I have had my moments when I've written something, or orchestrated something to be written, I knew was likely to create a reaction. In my days at Motorsport News, I had run-ins with the likes of the Jaguar F1 press office, David Coulthard (via his manager), Ross Brawn and Tom Walkinshaw (who threatened legal action).

None of these instances actually came to anything, as the usual 'clarification' printed somewhere discreetly as a means to settle a disagreement usually solved the problem with the minimum of fuss. And frankly, all these people were/are big and ugly enough to deal with it if a clarification wasn't justified. Also, and more importantly at the time, I was paid to deal with these situations.

If a blogger gets inundated with responses he doesn't want, however, there's no financial gain at the end of the day to make up for it.

A blogger has no comfort blanket. Nail your colours to the mast and write a piece that is likely to be inflammatory, be prepared to take the flak.

Unfortunately, Gavin couldn't. It was disappointing because his blog was so good and the piece he wrote – at the time he even stated he might regret writing it – was from the heart and was something he believed in.

Whenever someone writes afterwards 'I didn't mean to cause upset', you have to ask the question: If that is the case, why write something that has the potential to upset someone? Unless you are willing to stick to your principles when you write something publicly, then frankly, it's not worth bothering.

We have to remember a blog is simply an indulgence. None of us get paid for writing what we do. We're on a hiding to nothing. Maybe that's why Gavin ditched it. A great shame, as I miss it.


  1. You've been missed Neil. Let's hope next year is a better one for your family.

  2. I look forward to the awards Neil, I'll send you a few bribes in the hope of winning something, Brandy? Beer? Scotch?...it's yours!
    On a serious side, I'm sorry to hear of you and your familys' tough times and hope 2014 is a brighter year for you all.

  3. Thanks guys. Winners and losers will be announced next week