Welcome to our 2016 Advent Calendar series (#AFONAdvent)! This year, our theme is “The Gift of Inspiration”. For each day, one of our members has written a blog post about someone who has inspired them, and how that inspiration has lead to them being where they are today. Each member is a shining example of a young person who is acting Now for Nature. We hope that you enjoy the series and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Allan Conlin is undoubtedly a Wirral & Cheshire birding legend. His identification skills, dedication and experience in the field are like that of no other, as his finds over the years have proven: Surf Scoter (1st for Wirral & Cheshire!), Radde’s Warbler, Citrine Wagtail, Tawny Pipit, Subalpine Warbler, Caspian Tern, Bonaparte’s Gull, Fea’s Petrel & Western Sandpiper to name a few. Along with this, he is the proud patcher of the “Lighthouse of Legend” aka Leasowe Lighthouse.
When I was younger I didn’t inspire to become anyone, because I never thought that I could become anyone. I’d look at the all-time greats: Sir David Attenborough, Chris Packham and Bill Oddie and think “WOW, I’d like to be where they are”, but deep inside I knew and told myself that I couldn’t and that was my mind set for the majority of my childhood. A couple of years down the line on the 4th of January 2015 I was on an average day out when I stumbled across a rather lovely 1st winter Grey Phalarope along the banks of the River Mersey; it was my first twichable find and it was that day I came across a bloke known as Allan Conlin.
When I arrived home later that day I had an email from Allan congratulating me on my find and gave me his number “For the next time”. Since that day we’ve become close friends and been on a number of twitches and days out birding together; over the past year Allan’s been a great resource of both confidence and inspiration. Why? Because like me he’s from Birkenhead, like me he loves the Wirral and everything about it, he’s down to earth and someone who I can relate to, something I struggled to do in my earlier days. He showed me that a lad from Birkenhead with a love for birds could become something worth being.
The end result of Allan’s inspiration is that, like him, I now put my heart and soul into observing the ever changing avian world. If it wasn’t for Allan getting in touch with me that day, then I wouldn’t of changed my ways and made birding and everything that goes with it my life. At every available opportunity I’m out there in the field – no matter whether its rain or shine I’m out there with my eyes & ears focused, picking up each and every minute bit of sound and movement. And it has paid off: Ring-billed Gull, “Orange-billed Tern”, Golden Oriole & Richard’s Pipit to name a few.
But I think that the greatest thing to come from Allan’s inspiration is the result getting a patch myself; I’ve always liked the idea of a patch, it was once explained to me, “A patch is like a relationship; you’ll have good ones and bad ones, the end result may not be the one that you immediately thought you’d patch, but it’s the one where you feel the connection is strongest that you end up patching”. It was Allan who said this to me on our way for the Kentish Plover at Audenshaw in Manchester. Allan was right, after going through a number of sites all over Wirral I eventually found my patch and yes, it was rather unexpected. Birkenhead Docks is an urban misconception were I felt the connection was strongest and a year on things are great. If it wasn’t for Allan then I would have never got a patch, never have been as devoted to birding as I am and I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Thank you Allan Conlin.
Elliot Montieth is Young Birder, Wildlife Photographer & devoted Geologist from the Wirral in the North West. He’s on the Committee for Wirral RSPB as their Social Media Officer and also assists other groups in development as he hopes to raise the profile of Wirral and everything wild for others to see and understand its importance, because after all we are guests to natures once bountiful table. You can follow him on Twitter: @Elliot_Montieth and on his site Elliot’s Birding Diaries (https://elliotsbirdingdiaries.wordpress.com/)