I’ve been a birdwatcher for as long as I can remember. From a bit earlier than this in fact.
My birding developed in England, but I’ve been fortunate to travel quite a lot, for work and pleasure. In 2006 I settled with my wife and daughter in India, an amazing country full of diverse experiences whether bird-related or not!
For the first few years this was great, bringing up my young daughter whilst getting the opportunity to visit the fantastic jungles of south India, the majestic Himalayas and the bird-rich rainforests of the northeast. Unfortunately, some stressful jobs, followed by a period of unemployment, living in the heart of a crowded, noisy and dirty city, and a spell in hospital with life-threatening dengue, developed into anxiety and depression. I realised that I had got caught in a busy material life where I was failing to appreciate the positives in life.
I started taking more notice of the birds around me: watching the antics of nesting Ashy Prinias and Common Tailorbirds, and smiling at the cheery call of Red-whiskered Bulbuls. A little stint (sorry, pun intended) working with Bird Count India gave me the opportunity to help shape the direction of birdwatching in India, and spending time with upcoming birdwatchers made me appreciate that sharing my birding knowledge and experiences with others gave me a great sense of enjoyment and fulfilment.
I’m fortunate to live in a country that, despite immense population and development pressures, has a remarkable natural environment, and cultural appreciation for it. Yet it is amazing how little we really know and have documented about even some of our common birds. It is a combination of my desires to ‘show off’ India’s amazing birdlife, share my experiences of birding and living here, and encourage ‘better birding’, that led to Bubo Birding. I’m delighted to collaborate with Asian Adventures, India’s most respected and conservation-oriented wildlife travel company, to offer a collection of unforgettable birding tours with a difference, that make a difference.
Please browse our upcoming tour plans and join us for the best of Indian birding and hospitality. If you are unable to travel with me personally, you are welcome to contact me to arrange a custom tour, to join one of Asian Adventure’s scheduled tours, or even just to chat about birds and India!
More about Mike
Ever since his childhood birding in England Mike has been fascinated (obsessed?) with watching birds and recording and documenting bird sightings. Whilst still at school he was a volunteer guide with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, and he undertook many fieldwork surveys for the British Trust for Ornithology and Sussex Ornithological Society, towards publications such as British Bird Atlases and The Birds of Sussex.
In an attempt to avoid getting a proper job Mike spent more than a year in Israel, working on raptor migration surveys and ringing programmes. This in particular stoked his enthusiasm for bird migration: hard not to be excited after experiences such as a single flock of 21,000 White Storks passing overhead, and counting 40,000 Honey Buzzards flying over in just an hour and a half (having spent the previous four hours without seeing a single raptor of any species!) However, he is equally at home seawatching in Sussex in the spring, anticipating a flock of Pomarine Skuas but typically watching a birdless sky and sea.
Being a busy IT Consultant professionally, Mike’s birding took a hit for several years but he was able to add to his world list thanks to work assignments across the world, including Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Australia, although he admits that he was seldom allowed out of the office during daylight hours.
Mike has always documented the birds he sees and over time has progressed through notebooks, index cards, hardbound logbooks, chart paper, Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, commercial recording systems and is now a major contributor to eBird. In 2006 he launched the bird listing site BUBO Listing which predominantly showcases the fun and competitive site of keeping bird lists, but also demonstrates his commitment to open data and access to all. BUBO Listing predates the major online bird recording systems including eBird and BirdTrack and has formed addictive niches across the world.
The popularity of BUBO Listing has led to ‘Bubo’ Mike being well-known. Indeed, whilst watching a Pied Falconet at Nameri in Assam several years ago, he was greeted by a well-known international birder with ‘Ah, Mike, Prince of the Internet’ (at least, I think the commas are in the right place). He isn’t always popular though, being particularly unwelcome in West Bengal for some reason: see photo!
Mike lived in Delhi for just over a year and was a very active member of the Delhi Bird Club, and contributor to the Atlas of the Birds of Delhi and Haryana. After he moved to Bangalore, he soon got interested in exploring seldom-visited sites. Even a relatively urban lake could produce a list of 70 or more species in a couple of hours birding. Realising the birding potential Mike decided to concentrate on birding rather than bird photography because he realised that he wasn’t spending enough time on the ‘watching’ aspect of birdwatching and was also sure he was missing good birds flying overhead by spending too long looking through a lens! He often still carries a camera though, and posts some of his birding travelogues on Flickr. A combination of his IT skills and interests in bird recording and migration led to a short-term assignment running the BTO’s BirdTrack programme, which he did secretly from India before they were able to recruit a UK-based replacement. Each week he would check the BBC weather pages to find out what the weather had been like in Britain, so he could write an article discussing recent bird occurrences!
India is seeing exciting times for birding with a rapidly increasing pool of new and young birdwatchers. Mike works with Bird Count India to help promote Indian birding, and especially high-quality data recording. He is an eBird reviewer for the entire country, and for a while was the single largest contributor to eBird in India. He likes to encourage birders to reach out to unexplored areas and was himself instrumental in starting the first ever Indian pelagic trips, and promoting patch birding. He regularly contributes to Indian BIRDS magazine.
Mike is known for his integrity, patience and desire to help others. He has a unique perspective on India and its birds having spent half his adult life living in the country. He also has an excellent sense of humour, without which he doesn’t think he would have survived and enjoyed India for so long! With Bubo Birding he is excited to be sharing some of his experiences, and India’s fantastic places and birdlife, with you.