Interview with Steve Waite

For those who don’t know, Steve is well-known locally and a bit of an expert on birding. He is also the Devon Bird Recorder, so remember to get in touch with him ( if you see any birds of note!

What’s a typical day for you? How much time do you spend a week birding?

During spring and autumn and with good weather conditions for birding – as much as I can! Maybe two or three hours a week day, and a couple of hours during the weekend. Sometimes spend a full day birding too.

What is it about birding? Why do it?

I’m very much into finding my own rarities – and I have to say it is an addiction! Finding a very rare bird makes all the hours of seeing nothing worth while. The best thing is you never ever know when it is going to happen – could be any time of day, any time of the year, any where!

How did you get into it?

My Dad, he used to take me out birding every weekend when I was younger.

Is it just British birds or do all birds count?

Compared with many other countries, this country is actually pretty poor for birding – with for example Spain having a far greater array of bird species (and much more colourful!). I have only been birding abroad once, and I really enjoyed it (two weeks in Morocco)… my reason for doing this is different than most though; Birds that may be common in some places abroad, could be one of the rares I hope to find here. So If I get experience of how they look in the field, and how they sound, I have much more change of recognising one if I was to find one in the UK.

Do you maintain all the yearly/lifetime lists? Digitised or on good old paper?

Actually I don’t, I could tot it up if I wanted too – but I just enjoy being out there looking!

What is the minimum equipment needed to get started birding?

A pair of binoculars and a decent bird book! The internet is getting better and better now, with free photos, videos and sound clips avaliable.

You take some pretty good photos. Is this something everyone learns as they do more birding?

No, each to their own. I just enjoy snapping what I see – it is almost like another totally seperate hobby.

How far would you go to see a rarity?

I am not really fussed about going to see rares birds, unless it ws something I really wanted to see. I’d much rather go out around my local patch and look for my own rarity

What’s the difference between a twitcher and a birder?

Twitchers are list obsessive – and will travel any distance to see a rare bird (even if it is small boring and brown) at the drop of a hat. Birders go out, birding to find a rare bird. Yes birders do ‘twitch’ birds now and then – but are a lot more relaxed about it.

Could you say which species you are most interested in? Why?

I don’t really have a favourite to be honest with you! All are interesting.

What’s the most common bird you have never seen?

Hmmmm… Good question. I’ve seen all species that breed in the UK annually, so the commonest scarce bird I’ve never seen in the UK is probably Bluethroat (a two second flight view one of wasn’t enough for me!)

Are there full-time jobs in birding? Would you ever consider one?

There are full time jobs in working for conservation for birds, and yes I would!

Do other countries do the same amount of birding as us?


Is Britain a good destination for foreign birders?

Yes, the UK is one of the best places in Europe to see vagrant birds. Because of our position on the globe, we get American birds in westerly winds, and rarities from the far east during easterlies. For day to day birding, although you do get many more species abroad, there is always plenty to see. Winter sees impressive flocks of waders, ducks and geese in the UK.

Is there anywhere else in the world that appeals as a birding destination?

Around the Med, also Israel is a very good country for migrants and birding.

What’s your ambition in birding?

I don’t really have one – to find a Slender-billed Gull on the Axe is one I suppose!

What’s your proudest achievement in birding to date?

Finding Audouin’s Gull on the Axe, the UK’s fourth record and Devons first.

Are you working on any secret projects at the moment?

No, none secret anyway!

What are the top 3 websites aspiring birders should bookmark?, whatever your county birding website is…and mine of course:

Are there any other hobbies we should know about?

I’m big into moths, butterflies and dragonflies too! Also I have just sent away for my permit to catch and ring birds alone. Birds are caught, ringed, measured, weighed, then released in the hope someone else will catch them somewhere else. 

Any wise words or other thoughts you want to add, on or off topic?

Yeah – don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!


Thanks to Steve for taking the time to answer our questions! He posts regularly at his blog where you can keep up with all his exploits.