To be a birder you have to be….

….anybody at all.

Birdwatching – or birding to give it the modern word – is for anyone from any social or economic strata or ethnicity. All you need is a pair of binoculars and a sense of fun, the kind of person who likes quests and puzzles and clues and…um, that’s beginning to sound like a fantasy reader, isn’t it?

For the project I am working on at the moment, a little sidebar is going to be famous people who are or were birders. I have met one or two: Queen Noor of Jordan for example, who admired the bird T-shirt I was wearing. Yep, that’s another good thing about birding: you don’t have to dress up to meet royalty.

Dennis Yong and I once took Michael Heseltine (the guy everyone once thought would be Maggie Thatcher’s successor) and his wife out birding. We arrived early at the forest site to find the place absolutely crawling with Malaysian soldiers there to take care of his security – they were everywhere! Before the official car arrived, they all melted away into the forest, and we didn’t see them again, but – guess what – we didn’t see much in the line of birds either. They were spooked out of their feathers by the sight of all those guns, I guess. Talk about embarrassing.

That night I met Heseltine again at a fancy reception and he cut me dead. I don’t think, though, it was because of the lack of additions to his lifelist; I think it was more that he really didn’t recognise me, all dolled up and wearing national costume … It happens often enough. I have a dual persona.

Anyway, here are some famous people who are – or were – birders.

Laura Bush, wife of US President George Bush
James Schlesinger, former US Secretary of State
Jimmy Carter, former President of the USA
Members of band British Sea Power
Norman Lamont, former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer
Daryll Hannah, film star
Her Imperial Highness, Princess Takamado of Japan
Her Royal Highness, Queen Noor of Jordan
Bill Oddie, UK comedian, writer and composer
Kenneth Clarke, British MP and former Chancellor of the Exchequer
Van Morrison, Irish rock star and songwriter
Jim Crace, novelist and Whitbread Book Prize winner
Viscount Alanbrooke, UK Fieldmarshal (deceased)
General Dwight Eisenhower, former US President (deceased)
Theodore Roosevelt, former President of the USA (deceased)
Antonio Carlos Jobin, Brazilian composer (deceased)
Harold Wilson, former British Prime Minister (deceased)
Ian Fleming, UK writer of the Jame Bond books (deceased)
Eric Morecombe, British comedian (deceased)
Spike Milligan, comedian and actor (deceased)


To be a birder you have to be…. — 13 Comments

  1. You’ve met the lovely Queen Noor? Lucky you.

    Of all the famous people on your list, Harold Wilson was the one I was most surprised to see. Though now I think back about it, some vague memory stirs…

  2. Queen Noor was indeed lovely. Very easy to chat with, intelligent and committed – and gorgeous to look at. She was trailed everywhere by a bodyguard carryng her handbag…now I could do with a fellow like that.

  3. And of course you can be a birder. I shall do my best to convert you next time you come to Malaysia. Not of course that you are a nobody; you are a famous writer from Jersey.

  4. Yep, I’d agree with you Russell. I’ve almost died out there a number of times, everything from being hit by falling trees to being attacked by a giant skua with a wingspan the size of a small plane and the beak of a geologists hammer.

    Almost as dangerous as being a writer. there’s an awful lot of dead writers out there too.

  5. Are there? Why did no one tell me this? I’ll give it up immediately. (My fan will be disappointed.)

    Or maybe you meant ‘a lot of dead awful writers.’ No, that doesn’t make me feel any better.

  6. Hi Glenda

    I have just spent 2 and a half hours sitting at the Condor Cross in the Colca Canyon Peru to see a conder.

    When one flew overhead we were all very excited. Its fabulous to see birds in their natural habbitats.

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