|Jeff in full flow|
Jeff Clarke's “Making a naturalist”..
At the February Liverpool RSPB monthly meeting I listened to Jeff Clarke, one of our group’s favourite speakers. As fellow ecologists Jeff and I have known each other for many years on a professional basis. Each year he produces a brilliant and entertaining talk, laced with loads of humour and this was no exception. He tested out a brand new talk on us under the title of “Making a naturalist”. Basically he told us his life story, of how he was hooked on nature from his very earliest days as a child. He spoke of the explorations into nature on his own and the help and encouragement he received from his mum and dad with books and a pair of binoculars. He went through the various stages of his career into his life as an ecologist with a particular interest in birds (feathered of course!) He went through the different jobs he did, including his employment as a ranger for Halton council. He left that service after a disagreement with the director and went free-lance, the best thing he ever did, he said. After that the world was his oyster – so to speak – almost literally. He has gone all over the world on his own, with his wife and daughter or else with small groups
All through the talk he kept telling us of the thrill he gets from sharing nature with others, from the very youngest children to the oldest wrinklies. Jeff is a born communicator and it is the enthusing of the younger generation that inspires him most. Show a kid the beauty and fascination of nature and you have that child hooked for life, his own daughter is a prime example. All the time he kept repeating what a lucky guy he was to be doing the things he loved most of all in his life and being paid for it
There is a lot more I could write about the talk, but what I really want to share, is that so much of what he had to say strongly resonated with me. I was drawn back to my own life story and my own early explorations of aquatic life in the ponds of North Wirral and my trips out to Hilbre Island on the Dee estuary in wild wintry weather to watch the birds and the seals. My mother often told others she knew when I was 8yrs, I was going to be a water biologist, at the moment she saw me eating a buttie, whilst I watched with fascination as a giant diving beetle larva ate a chunky tadpole in a jar of water on the table.
I have also derived enormous pleasure from showing nature life to my children in their childhood. We have had some great times out together over the years and I am so pleased their interest has continued into their adulthood – a matter of great pride of achievement for me. And now it continues with my grandson, Jamie. He is developing a fascination for all forms of nature and I can see him turning into a budding bird watcher. Jeff has really inspired me to put even more effort into nurturing his interest in nature. We have some very special granddad – grandson days ahead of us I guess.
Thanks Jeff for a truly inspirational evening - David Holland