Andy Bunting – Lancashire
Andy’s interest in birds started in the 70s with early memories of Waxwings and Bramblings in the garden and Short eared Owls at Lynn point.
Originating from King’s Lynn, Norfolk, Andy found himself in the north after completing a degree at the University of Manchester, although regular “migration” back to Norfolk also found him working brief spells as an assistant warden at NWT Holme national nature reserve.
Andy has travelled widely in Europe as well as to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East, North America and India. He has also worked as a tour leader in the States and Europe. His most recent excursions involve trips to Borneo, Papua New Guinea and New Britain, Peru and Bhutan.
His top birding moments change all the time depending on what he’s just been up to but unless you’ve got plenty of time on your hands don’t ask him about displaying Satyr Tragopan, Bornean Ground Cuckoo, King of Saxony BOP or St Agnes 1999 – ‘the best 3 day’s in British birding’!
Although he claims to have given up twitching in order to ‘save for birding abroad’ he was spotted at the Long-billed Murrelet and Pacific Diver.
Andy’s work for In Focus started with him running the Northern Events Programme and he is now manager of the shop in Lancashire.
Apart from birding trips he’s far more likely to spend money on buying music so it was surprising that he changed his aged Swarovski 8×30 for the new Zeiss FL 7×42 (although he still uses a Kowa TS 613).
When it comes to binoculars and telescopes he is most likely to be heard saying ‘testing is the key’.
Dave Gibson – Denby Dale
Dave was born and brought up in the little village of Aberford near Leeds and his birdwatching started at a very early age while living on the edges of Parlington woods, gaining a vast knowledge in natural history.
An apprenticeship in engineering in 1969 followed. Then in the late seventies Dave became involved in the Leeds RSPB group and also become a YOC leader and a regular birder at Fairburn Ings and Spurn Point.
Dave has worked in engineering mostly in the motor industry, moving into the quality and customer liaison areas of that industry for some 15 years.
Now married, Dave lives in Tingley near Wakefield and Ardsley reservoir has become his local patch. He is a New Swillington Ings bird group member spending most of his free time at this site or local sites such as Blacktoft Sands, Old Moor and Pugneys Country Park, not forgetting going back to his roots every Sunday to his beloved Parlington Park.
Almost every year since the late 1970s he has holidayed in Northern Scotland, West Cornwall and the Scillies, as well as trips abroad to Majorca and Cyprus.
He became a member of the In Focus team in January 2009 taking over the Denby Dale shop upon John McLoughlin’s move to become a full time ornithologist. His other interests are motoring and optics.
He has a bit of a soft spot for the Zeiss Dialyt Classic range. Scopes used are Nikon ED 60 A III and what he says is the best scope he has ever seen – the Kowa 883 (at least for the time being!).
Keith Mortimer – Somerset
Keith Mortimer describes himself as a failed fisherman at the age of eight and so his rod, reel and hooks were traded in for a Russian pair of binoculars and a copy of the Eye Spy Book of British Birds. He used this as his launch pad for a life long interest in birds and once the turquoise flash along the river bank was firmly identified he was ready to broaden his horizons.
One of the major influences was a move to Lundy Island where he took over the running of the island Tavern and acted as a voluntary bird warden. During his four years on the island most of his spare time was spent bird watching and with migrant highlights such as Black eared Wheatear and American Robin it was anything but routine. His move there was both pivotal in his understanding of birds and at the same time provided him with a taste for travel and more adventures.
On leaving Lundy he visited Europe and the near East. Keith then worked for In Focus as manager of the Slimbridge shop for some ten years, in addition to visiting the USA, Vietnam, the Himalaya and the Sahara. However the pull of his favourite destination, India, was too much and he left In Focus for a prolonged trip round that enchanting continent.
Keith has returned to In Focus and runs the outside events programme in the south as well as working a few days in the Slimbridge shop.
Bernie Starkie – Lancashire
Bernie has been a birder for longer than he can remember, though he does recall at the age of eleven making thirty five-mile cycle trips to Martin Mere. By the age of fifteen he was spending his school holidays on birding trips throughout the UK.
An eight-year spell living (and birding) in North Norfolk followed. He then started working for In Focus which coincidentally returned him to Martin Mere!
More recently Bernie has developed a passion for birding abroad and he is now a tour leader to several European destinations in addition to solo trips to destinations as far apart as America and South East Asia.
Over the past couple of years Bernie has spent an increasing amount of his time recording and photographing moths and says “at last something to fill in the hours of darkness”. Of late he can often be seen lugging a Nikon telephoto lens around the reserve as his budding interest in bird photography develops.
Mike Willis – Rutland
Mike was born in Hertfordshire where from an early age he showed great interest in pastoral matters. Art college led to an apprenticeship in a leading commercial photographic business and via photographic retailing to a career in the optical trade culminating in 10 years with Carl Zeiss.
Mike joined In Focus over 20 ears ago and helped establish several of their shops. Now at Rutland he has become involved with the Rutland Osprey Project. He has accumulated an extensive knowledge of binocular and telescope design and development; ideally placed therefore to advise on their selection.
Bruce Hanson – Willows Farm
Bruce has been with in focus for over 35 years, after working with Carl Zeiss Jena, E.Hill & Co. as well as Ross London, he was also a co-founder of Birdfair along with Martin Davies and Tim Appleton.
Vernon Eve – Titchwell
Vernon was born in Surrey and moved to Norfolk in 1975, having been keen on birdwatching and, following family holidays birding, the decision was made to move to the country with the birding hotspot of Norfolk the obvious place.
From this time onwards birdwatching took priority at home and abroad. When not at school, the weekends were spent at Holme bird observatory studying identification, migration and ringing. Having left school he then took up full time employment there studying birds, performing reserve work and dealing with the general public, informing them of all things birds.
After leaving Holme he then took a job with English Nature at Holkham NNR and remained there for nine years. This job mainly involved species protection and an extensive wetland bird survey over the 10,000 acres of wet grass meadow and reedbeds. This work was covered annually and became the largest wetland bird survey of its type undertaken in the UK and still remains the bench mark work for studies on such habitats.
Having done some work with In Focus over many years on an informal basis, he was offered a job at the Titchwell shop in 1997 and accepted. He remains shop manager there to this day.
During this whole period Vernon has travelled extensively to many countries around the world. Visiting the Indian sub-continent 5 times, south east Asia and Indonesia 3 times, Africa on six occasions, South America including the Galapagos Islands twice and Central America and the Caribbean 4 times.There have also been many visits throughout Europe, many in the company of his partner Samantha and their son Jack. Amongst the numerous highlights are birds such as Sunbittern, Great Indian Bustard, Inca Tern and Pied Harrier just to mention a few. Vernon is also joint founder of the Norfolk bird club so can usually pass on information concerning the local bird situation in North Norfolk.
Nigel Warren – Somerset (retired)
As a youngster Nigel always had a keen interest in birds but it wasn’t until he moved to Edinburgh in the early seventies that he could persuade his parents to sit for hours in the car to allow him to go birdwatching at Aberlady Bay and Musselburgh lagoons on the Firth of Forth. He also spent many happy hours sitting in the “forward hide” as a volunteer on the RSPB Operation Osprey project.
After moving back to Bristol he found his circle of birding friends increased and this progressed from the South West to many trips abroad. He started mainly in Europe and then Gambia, North Africa and the Middle East. America and South East Asia were soon to follow.
In the mid 90s Nigel was taken on as a tour guide by Birdfinders. Time constraints now restrict Nigel to just one tour leading trip a year and his traditional week in the autumn to where he describes “my favourite plot of land anywhere in the world” – St Agnes, Isles of Scilly.
His local patch is now Slimbridge WWT and more particularly that patch of wetland in front of the In Focus shop window where he tries to pip the wardens to the post by finding “something good” before they do. He’s still looking.
Derek Evans – London Wetlands Centre (closed from April 2020)
A late starter to birdwatching by comparison to most of my In Focus colleagues; an enthusiastic amateur rather than a very experienced professional. Things really started when I took an overseas assignment with my employer and spent 6 years living and working in Mombasa, Kenya during the 1980’s. I just had to know more about the incredible birds that were around me and in my garden! I became very active and, with others, started a small birdwatching group within the ‘Friends of Fort Jesus’ Museum Society, an interest group based in Mombasa.
Early memories which led to my continuing interest were: a Southern Banded Snake Eagle in my garden, a flock of Carmine Bee-eaters during one of our regular “around Mombasa” walks, a Narina’s Trogon from my office window and of course the bird that started it all, the Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu in my garden.
After early retirement in 2000, I started working with WWT at the London Wetland Centre as a volunteer doing tour guiding and aviculture work with the captive collection of threatened species and often handled captive wildfowl species well before ever seeing them in the wild. I joined In Focus in June 2001.
Most of my birding has been done in the UK, USA, Australasia, Caribbean and Africa. Top bird ever seen was a Black Stilt in the wild near Twizel in New Zealand.
Derek gave the many thousands of customers of the In Focus shop at the London Wetlands Centre decades of service backed up by many more decades of experience and knowledge. We thank him for all his hard work and enthusiasm over those years.