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I was a crazy keen birdwatcher when I was a boy. My Young Ornithologist badge was my most prized possession. I couldn’t wait for the YOC magazines to arrive each month. But I was ill a lot of the time and was confined to bed for weeks on end in our drafty old house in Suffolk. While everyone was out at school or work I whiled away the hours drawing. And what I drew was the birds I dreamt of seeing. Golden Oriel and Kingfishers. Avocet and Mandarin Duck. I loved the colours and the subtle shapes. I think drawing birds got me through some pretty tricky times.

To recuperate I was sent to spend my summers with a couple of very eccentric and very elderly ladies, who lived near Aldeburgh. They kept ornamental ducks, which were perfect for sketching. If I wasn’t by the duck pond, we would to potter down the river in an ancient open day boat called Anna. We often explored Havergate Island hoping to find Avocets or Curlew.

And of course we visited Minsmere. I’ve been many times since, always hoping to spot a bittern, or perhaps something special like a Marsh Harrier or more Avocet. My big ambition is to hear a Bittern booming. I imagine the haunting boom of a Bittern at dusk would send shivers down my spine!

I’ve always had a soft spot for waders, growing up on the Suffolk coast you’re bound to I suppose.

My greatest pleasure has been re-visiting Minsmere with my children. I have three girls who are just old enough to think bird watching isn’t very cool any more. But get them up there and they soon forget themselves.

A couple of years ago I took the family on a visit to Minsmere and it must have been a special event or something. There were loads of fun things going on! The minute we arrived the girls were whisked off to dissect owl pellets. Then they were helping tag birds caught in huge nets. We did pond dipping and the kids made badges. And there were all sorts of games and trails to follow. The East hide was great, I can’t remember what we saw but there were plenty of birds and the girls loved the whispering thrill of watching from a hide.

Peculiarly, the best part of the day, was when we got home. The kids got their pencils out and set about drawing everything they’d seen rather than turning the telly on… perhaps things haven’t changed that much after all!

Alex will be giving a talk and demonstration at RSPB, Minsmere on Saturday 29th October. Tickets can be purchased here. The collection will be launched online on 3rd October.

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