For the love of Birding: Jacob Spinks

In today’s post we switch from Manchester’s finest young birder to Northamptonshire’s in the form of outstanding birder and photographer Jacob Spinks. I first came across Jacob a few years ago on Flicker where when I came across his stunning photo stream which I was just amazed by: White-tailed Eagles fishing, Barn Owls staring right into the lens and Great crested Grebes attempting to swallow there catch. Since coming across Jacob on Twitter it’s always been great to have a talk and share photography tips, comparing patch notes, assist on bird ID and our plans for the future. Like Jacob, we both had our problems with bullying and it was then when we both start off our amazing stories with Mother Nature. Again like me Jacob isn’t mad about twitching and is a down to earth devoted birder and patcher who has had some incredible finds ranging from Wryneck to Hume’s Yellow-browed Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher. I hope you enjoy reading his post as much as I did and if you have the chance I highly recommend taking a look at his brilliant Flicker account – Jacob Spinks Flicker

When – Did you start birding?

I am similar to Elliot in this way, I first fell in love with the natural world as a toddler when my parents would walk me to my local reserve (Pitsford Reservoir) and I would use my cheap binoculars and other people’s telescopes. However I first started to go birding properly at the age of 12 when I was getting heavily bullied at my Secondary school.

This really put a lot of anxiety in to my life and birding would take that stress out of that as it is a place for anyone of any background. Upon my first couple of visits at 12 I was already joining in doing surveys and ringing activities. This really helped as the trainer in ringing went through similar circumstances at school.

I remember on my first day of getting a training permit for ringing and being worried about if the Blue Tits would peck me. Then after that ringing session sitting in a hide watching a gull roost listening to the sounds and the spectacle of the birds almost in a cloud flying around me. I also remember being pointed out a stunning adult Mediterranean Gull, this really hooked me as I love the challenge of identify birds.

Who – Got you into birding?

At first it was my parents which inserted the thought about nature but it waited 8 years to really take hold when one evening I was taken down to Pitsford Reservoir and I met up with some birders who pointed out a Hobby hunting some dragonflies through their telescope. Then in the dying light watching a large flock of Lapwings fly off to roost calling with their mixture of calls.


Barn Owl by Jacob Spinks


Why – Do you go birding? What drives you?

I go birding as there is always something new or something to learn about Mother Nature, for example I was out recently and observed a Kestrel take a Redpoll, which I have never seen a Kestrel do before which immediately fires up questions. Also there is always something new every day, for example you could be at one site one day and go the next day and see a complete different mixture of birds. This is shown when I went birding at one site all-day one day went again the next day after a clear night only to find a Wryneck and two Common Redstarts.

I also like to attend a few twitches and day trips away from my usual area, for example the Brunniches Guillemot, Glossy Ibis, Red-Flanked Bluetail, Masked Shrike and Surf Scoter which was funnily enough my first type of Scoter. I also enjoy day trips to places like Norfolk and Forest of Dean. However nothing is better than finding your own little rarity, a few of mine are Hume’s Leaf Warbler which I found with my ringing trainer, Wryneck, Red-Necked Grebe, Honey Buzzard and Red Breasted Flycatcher.

What – Is your best birding moment?

My best birding moment has to be Spurn Bird Observatory in autumn in 2014. This isn’t just because we ate a lot there and on the long journeys there and back, also best chocolate cake made by mum! It is because of the sheer numbers of birds which were on show and the amount of ticks I got. We ended up seeing over 80 bird species, these included a lovely juvenile Masked Shrike which was only viewable from a 20ft x 20ft paddock with around 40 birders packed in also excellent views of Jack Snipe at last light, a juvenile Barred Warbler along a beach, Red-Breasted Flycatcher in a hedge next to the Kilnsea road, Pied Flycatcher with the RBF. Also other nice birds included a load of waders and sea birds, a Brambling, Wheatears and Common Redstarts.


White-tailed Eagle by Jacob Spinks

The Future – What do you think the future holds for the world of birding?

To the same as what Elliot has said, I think that the birding world will have its good and bad times however on the way it is looking, the bad times will far out way the good times. This shows when we have rare birds for summer like the Hoopoe, turning up in the winter. As this may be good for twitchers, more and more birds are being put on the Red List, at the moment there are 67 species on there for the UK some of which is due to them declining rapidly from things like habitat loss and global warming.

However there is some light at the end of the tunnel, as some of the long staying birds which were on the Red List have been taken off. These two birds recently are Bittern and Nightjar, the reason why they were taken off was due to their population increasing as targeted conservation work took place. Also the Green List has 81 species currently, this includes a massive success story, the Red Kite which once people had to travel long distances to see.

For those who are interested Jacob runs his own Blog which shows more of his stunning images and his days out birding, twitching and ringing – Northants Wildlife


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