Before photography, I am an animal lover. Watching and enjoying nature has always been more important to me than taking photos or creating art. Birds are my main passion, and I've been lucky to see many varieties all over the world both with and without my camera. And recently on my Italian photo tour, I reached a personal birding milestone: I saw my 1000th species!
Bird #1000 was a rare White-Backed Woodpecker, a bird native to Central Italy and parts of Eastern Europe. Whilst sitting in my hide at 6am in the Abruzzan mountains waiting for wolves, it was the distinctive "ping-pong ball" bounce of the White-Backed's drumming that alerted me to its presence. Similar to the Great-Spotted Woodpecker but with much more white on its back, these birds are hard to see as they favour the leafy woodland canopies. So to have one then fly in front of the bush where I was hiding was a wonderful moment - topped off by the fact that a wolf also passed by minutes later!
Since my return from Italy and Svalbard, my life birdlist has gone up a bit. Although the Arctic Circle doesn't boast many bird species, being a cold barren landscape where only a small number of animals can survive, I enjoyed magnificent views of tundra specialists like Red-Necked Phalarope (pictured above) and Grey Phalarope (pictured below). An uncommon autumn visitor to the UK when it lives up to its name, the Grey Phalarope turns a lovely rusty red during the breeding season. It was a beautiful and intimate moment watching the courtship of both phalarope species just inches away from me, one of many special wildlife encounters that I'll remember for a long time.
For those interested, I have posted a list of all the birds I have seen here: Paul's World Bird List!
(There are roughly 10,000 known bird species in the world, so I'm a long way off yet!)