Martin Hodgson

MAY 2024

Martin is the membership secretary of our local  'Sheffield Bird Study Group'.

He has just published a book (which can be purchased from our shop for £10) 'The Incompleat Birder'.


Martin, what were your childhood influences regarding bird watching and nature in general?

"My birth certificate says I’m an octogenarian, but I regard myself as a 30-year old trapped in an old body." (Jen "LOL")


"Born in Bradford to a war widow, my first experiences of birds were in our small garden.  In my book I write: “Despite the unpromising appearance of our garden, it was visited constantly by birds.  My mum knew her basic garden birds and taught me from an early age to distinguish a male from a female Blackbird, a Song Thrush from a Mistle Thrush, a male from a female House Sparrow, a Jackdaw from a Crow.  I’m not sure she could have managed a Crow and a Rook, but it was enough to alert me to the fact that there was a whole lot of knowledge to be had around a subject which we didn’t even touch on at school.”


(Marsh tit)

"Sadly my knowledge grew at a very slow pace mainly, as I see now, because I lacked that wonder ingredient in my life of a birding mentor.  No-one I knew as a boy was interested in birds and no-one therefore encouraged me and taught me.  For decades my birding was done almost exclusive on family holidays and the very occasional special outing."

So Martin, when did the interest realy take-off?

"Remarkably, it wasn’t until I was in my 60s and joined the Sheffield Bird Study Group (SBSG) that I got beyond a superficial knowledge of birds.  I could do all the brightly coloured birds, who can’t, but little brown jobs, gulls and small warblers were largely beyond me."



"When you start that late to take the business seriously there are a few drawbacks.  My hearing and eyesight have both gone part-time, and muscles won’t propel me fast enough when that rarity might just fly off before I get to the viewpoint."


(African Fish Eagle)

"But if all that sounds negative, the payback for my late enthusiasm is that the range of birds that I can ID by sight or sound has increased beyond my wildest dreams.  I now have two fellow birders who I go out with regularly and we increase our knowledge together."



"My UK list stands at 300, modest by many birders’ standards, but it has increased by 20% in the past four years as a result of my new commitment."


(Kruper's Nuthatch)

"I’m also a late-start bird photographer.  I mainly photograph birds to assure myself that, with my dodgy eyesight, it really was the rarity I thought it was.  As to the quality, I have a saying: “The excitement of uploading the photos!  The disappointment of actually looking at them!”


"Sheffield itself isn’t the greatest place for birding but it has easy access to nearby hotspots – the Peak District for instance for iconic birds such as Ring Ouzel and Whinchat.  Its biggest lack is extensive wetlands, but those can be accessed in reasonably close parts of Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire."


(Blue-winged Leafbird)

"Do I have favourite birds?  Of course!  Too many to list.  But Starlings always amuse me and lift my spirits.  I have great affection for Spotted Flycatcher, as being the first LBJ that I successfully ID-ed in my teens, and I grieve over their present-day scarcity.  More exotically, Woodchat Shrike is a bird I’ll travel to see and I’d love to add it to my UK list"


( Black-crested Bulbul)

"Having inexplicably bought a pair of Zeiss Jenoptem binoculars in my 30s, at a time when I wasn’t a serious birder, it wasn’t until I joined SBSG (Sheffield Bird Study Group), that I consigned them to the boot of the car for emergencies and bought my first pair of modern ones from Sheffield Photographic Centre."


( Eastern Spinebill)

"Subsequent purchases have been from John and Jen at 'Sheff Photo Centre', and my current pair are Opticron 10 x 42 (BGA WP).  Around the same time as that first binocular purchase I also bought a telescope.  At first I found setting it up to view about as complicated as building an IKEA flat pack, but of course increased practice helps.  My current scope, also bought from SPC, is an Opticron MM4."



There are no products in this section