DISCLAIMER: Please note that I am not the Andrew Haynes who has displayed some fantastic bird photographs on the internet. He is Andrew J. Haynes, while I am Andrew D. Haynes — or at least I would be if I ever used my middle initial. My own attempts at bird photography are at best mediocre, since i can't afford the sort of photographic equipment used by my namesake.
Let's start at the beginning. I am proudly a Stopfordian, having been born in Stockport in 1945. But at the age of two I was forcibly removed to Burton-on-Trent when my father accepted a job back in his own birth town.
I began birding in 1957 as a 12-year-old fledgling. Over a couple of years I saved up my pocket money to buy, one by one, the three volumes of T. A. Coward’s ‘The Birds of the British Isles and Their Eggs’, at 17s 6d each. They must be worth at least twice that by now.
My regular habitats were the local Etwall sewage farm (now long gone) and several Trent Valley gravel pits. Despite the inland location of these sites, I racked up a range of interesting waders, including Pectoral Sandpiper and Killdeer.
During the autumn migration of 1963 I migrated south to study pharmacy at the University of London, intending to move northwards again after graduating. But instead I mated with a non-migratory female and have been resident in London ever since, with a territory in Mill Hill (NW7) since 1970.
When Michelle and I first moved into our nest in Bunns Lane, we could sit in our garden and listen to the song of the Skylark, which bred nearby on a patch of rough grassland between the A1/A41 Watford Way and the M1 motorway. But the larks disappeared when the site was developed into the now defunct Pentavia Retail Park. (There is currently a proposal for the construction of ugly tenement blocks here, and I have registered my objection, suggesting that the site should instead be re-wilded.)
Like Charles Darwin’s pal Edward Blyth (Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Blyth’s Pipit, etc), I began my career as a not-very-successful community pharmacist and after a few years moved on to other things. But while Blyth went on to become a naturalist in India, with plenty of time to find exciting new species, I found myself working as a journalist here in London, with just the occasional out-of-town assignment that allowed a little time for birding.
For many years, working long hours and struggling to raise my brood, I had limited opportunity or energy for renewing my interest in birds. But in 1997, once my offspring had fledged, I joined the Welsh Harp Conservation Group and I have since been a regular visitor to Brent Reservoir. Sightings of me at Brent increased significantly after I took early retirement on health grounds in 2008, but have since been a little erratic because of a renewal of my health problems.
My best find at Brent, on 16 May 2009, was the site’s first twitchable Spoonbill. The only previous Brent records were two flyovers in the 1990s and two birds shot in 1865. Other finds include Brent's 12th record of Bewick’s Swan on 15 December 2008, when four birds flew around for a while but were not seen by anyone else until later that day when they stopped off for B&B at Hilfield Park Reservoir.
I have kept detailed birding records but I'm too lazy to compile lists, so I have no more than a vague idea of the number of species I have seen in my lifetime, let alone the number I have seen in any particular place or in any particular year (or in any particular place in any particular year). I could do the sums if you forced me, but I'm sure none of my lists would be impressive.
RECOGNITION GUIDE: Although Andrew is not the commonest of forenames, I am one of three Brent Reservoir regulars of that name, and we can all often be found in the main hide on a Saturday morning. In the field I can be distinguished from Andrew Self and Andrew Verrall by my spectacles, my white hair and my more rotund shape (although I am working on the latter and hope to be much slimmer by the time I meet you).
Although I don't know why anyone might want to get in touch with me, I can be contacted at andrewhaynes [AT] live.co.uk.