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Ornithologists’ Club and really thrived on it, meeting others interested in birds and nature. I realised I was quite good at identifying birds, probably through my artwork as I have to study a lot of detail.” While on placement from university with the RSPB


Mike ditched his graphic design degree to work for the charity full-time. He was with the RSPB for nine years – in publications then as an activities coordinator, organising birding holidays, training days, and road shows to develop Young Ornithologists’ Clubs. “In the late 1980’s I helped set up 25 Young


Ornithologists’ Clubs around the country. Sadly, many of those groups have now disappeared. Youngsters are still interested in the environment and nature, and there’s lots of TV programmes on wildlife, but they don’t seem as clued up as we were all those years ago, out in the field studying nature ourselves or with leaders. “You’ve got to be pretty


dedicated to birdwatch. Nature doesn’t jump out at you. You’ve got to take time and wait for it. Sometimes a very long time. I’m not sure children today have so much patience.” Mike’s lifelong love of birds and


wildlife has taken him around the world. In the mid 1980’s he was approached by Birdlife International to illustrate a schoolbook on birds in Yemen. He smiled: “For three weeks


I watched and sketched birds with a government official whose qualifying ornithological experience was running a chicken farm! He was a lovely bloke and organised everything brilliantly, carefully guiding us through warlord-led territories.” Mike also helped illustrate a field guide to birds in the Middle East and then opted to strike out as a freelance illustrator. With his wife, who works as a nurse, and young family, they returned to Torbay. Mike has since travelled extensively to study birds. He said: “I’d always wanted to see an albatross so went to New Zealand on my fiftieth birthday. It was fabulous - on a boat trip we got so close we could almost pat them on the head. “Africa was always on my list too. I loved World of


Wildlife magazine when I was a kid. The first editions were on Africa, so I’d always wanted to go there. They’re not so interested in birds at game lodges so, when we returned to Kruger National Park, we hired a car to drive ourselves around. We saw loads of birds, including 12 species of eagle and the amazing


secretary bird stamping on a snake.” Mike said there’s still some British birds he’d like to


see. When I met him he’d just returned from Exmouth after sketching a rare northern mockingbird. He explained: “It turned up in Exmouth and spent most of lockdown in someone’s holly bush. The resident knew something was different about the bird and posted a photo on social media. Someone recognised the rooftops in the background, and he was inundated with people trying to see it!” One of Mike’s favourite local haunts is Berry Head,


where he also organises bird walks. He said: “I’m a keen sea watcher, especially at Berry


Head. If I’m lucky I might see shearwaters, petrels, and skuas – pirate birds who chase others to get them to regurgitate their last meal. You need a lot of time to see such things. We call it sea watching as a lot of the time you are just watching the sea! “The herring and black- headed gulls will be back soon after breeding. The herring gulls breed inland now, on rooftops more than clifftops, because of lack of food at sea. They’ve adapted really well to human behaviour - lots of birds can’t adapt and die off - but herring gulls are now considered a nuisance by many people.” Mike’s birding and wildlife


Secretary Bird


trips around Berry Head and cruises on the River Dart have been boosted by lockdowns. Naturetrek commissioned walks for their clients last


summer, when many such trips abroad were cancelled. Trips are bookable through his website. From what


I learned at Noss Marina I thoroughly recommend walking with Mike. mikelangman.co.uk


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