Andrew Haynes

From Londonbirders

I began birding in 1957 as a 12-year-old fledgling in Burton on Trent, where my regular haunts were the local sewage farm (now long gone) and various Trent Valley gravel pits. Over a couple of years I saved up my pocket money to buy, one by one, the three volumes of T. A. Coward’s ‘The Birds of the British Isles and Their Eggs’, at 17s 6d each. They must be worth at least twice that by now.

During the autumn migration of 1963 I drifted south to study at the University of London, intending to fly northwards again after graduating. But instead I mated with a non-migratory female and have been resident in London ever since, with a territory in Mill Hill since 1970.

Like Charles Darwin’s pal Edward Blyth (Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Blyth’s Pipit, etc), I began my career as a not-very-successful pharmacist and after a few years moved on to other things. But while Blyth went on to become a naturalist in India, with plenty of time to find exciting new species, I became a journalist here in London, with occasional out-of-town assignments that allowed a little time for birding.

For many years, working long hours and raising my brood, I had limited opportunity or energy for renewing my interest in birds. But in 1997, once the offspring had fledged and left the nest, I joined the Welsh Harp Conservation Group and have since been a regular visitor to Brent Reservoir. Sightings of me at Brent have increased significantly since I took early retirement on health grounds in 2008.

My best find at Brent, on 16 May 2009, was the site’s first twitchable Spoonbill, the only previous Brent records having been two flyovers in the 1990s and two birds shot down in 1865. Other finds include Brent's 12th record of Bewick’s Swan on 15 December 2008, when four birds flew around for a while but were not seen by anyone else until later that day when they stopped off at Hilfield Park Reservoir for bed and breakfast.

I keep birding records but I'm too lazy to compile lists. So I have no more than a vague idea of how many species I have seen in my lifetime, let alone in any particular place or in any particular year (or in any particular place in any particular year). I could do the sums if you forced me, but I'm sure none of my lists would be impressive.

RECOGNITION GUIDE: Although Andrew is not the commonest of forenames, I am one of three Brent Reservoir regulars of that name. In the field I can be distinguished from Andrew Self and Andrew Verrall by my glasses, my white hair and my more rotund shape (although I am working on the latter and hope to be much slimmer by the time I meet you).

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