It’s been a very busy few weeks. May and June are always busy for me with speaking, guiding and school work. I’m not complaining…I consider myself privileged to make a living from what I love doing.
My speaking engagements have ranged from public talks on Ireland’s birds to several business presentations where I use birds as metaphors for business. The latter has gone down very well with all the audiences I have presented to. When it comes to talking birds, I love sharing my passion for our birdlife with as many people as I can.
Guiding is one aspect of my work that I really enjoy. It is such a rewarding experience. Watching someone seeing their first Pied Wagtail, Great Tit or Common Kingfisher, allows me to see these birds as if I were seeing them for the first time. Seeing the reaction of a ten-year-old keen Irish birder seeing his first Red Kite flying low over his head is a moment to savour. Last week I was in Wexford with experienced birders from South Africa. We saw some super birds that were lifers for them but the highlight of their day was listening to a singing Sedge Warbler (above). While they had seen thousands of these birds in South Africa, they had never heard one singing before. Such moments add to my experiences and make me feel so lucky to do what I do.
A dangerous world
As a Heritage in Schools Expert, the past two months have also been very active for me. I have visited a large variety of schools from big Dublin inner city schools to small rural ones. One school off Francis Street in the very centre of built-up Dublin city is actually erecting Swift nest boxes on the side of their building. How wonderful is that? Each time I visit a school, I am struck by the level of interest young people have in nature. It is such a shame that the freedom to roam and explore that I enjoyed as a kid is not there for this generation of kids. It seems the world is a more dangerous place today than it was in the 1960’s and 70’s.
However, is the world really a more dangerous place to live in today than it was 50 or 100 years ago? Notwithstanding that the 20th century saw two world wars, numerous global conflicts like Vietnam and Korea (to name just two), revolutions and dictatorships, the holocaust and ‘The Troubles’ here in Ireland, the current world certainly does seem a more dangerous place.
Is this because we can see it all happening live before our eyes on TV, on our smartphones and the internet? When a terrorist attack happens, we see it unfold in ‘real time’ on 24-hour news stations. We watch it through the videos taken on smartphones by people caught up in the attacks. We get real images of warzones. We have become almost compassionately insensitive to the plight of the refugees in the Mediterranean or the ongoing situations in the Middle East and elsewhere. I believe these constant images and the presence of conflicts and tragedies in our collective lives has created the impression that the world really is more dangerous and divided than ever.
You may say I am a dreamer
Yet, over the past month or two, I have birded with people from Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, Israel, the United States, Canada, Austria, Switzerland and from Britain. I have also had wonderful days with Irish birders from both north and south. Over the years I have met and birded with people from all over the world. All of these people come from such diverse backgrounds, cultures and religions (and none), yet all were united in one thing: a love of the natural world and birding.
Call me naive, but imagine if we all concentrated on what we have in common rather than what differentiates us.
Birding unites us all, and perhaps that is a start.
As the great John Lennon sang….’you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not only one…I hope someday you will join us, and the world could live as one.’