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As a child I used to spend much of my spare time looking for wildlife in ponds and streams, birdwatching, looking for birds' nests, observing and catching butterflies and caterpillars. I have a few tales from my childhood worthy of mention. My friend Richard and I were members of the RSPB's young ornithologists' club and one year Blue Peter was encouraging the general public to submit details of bird sightings throughout the British Isles. I phoned in to say I'd seen a garden warbler, Richard phoned to say he'd seen a bird of prey, I can't remember which species. One day I was sat in front of the television when a Blue Peter presenter said, "And Shaun Pryor from Burgess Hill has seen a garden warbler" and then proceeded to put a marker on a large map of the British Isles to denote this key sighting. However, my first official submission of a record was not all it seemed. I hadn't actually seen a garden warbler. I cannot recall what the motivation was for committing this heinous crime, perhaps it was the lure of a Blue Peter badge. I've had to live with the guilt all my life so now it's time to do it properly and give something back to biological recording (Richard lied too but he didn't get a mention on Blue Peter, he just got sent some magazines).
As a child I used to collect caterpillars and keep them in jars until they metamorphosed into butterflies. I also used to make caterpillar soup, which was basically mixing them with washing up liquid. This isn't sounding great is it? But I was very young and I was curious. Anyway, caterpillars had the last laugh. I remember finding a hairy caterpillar, on hawthorn I think, and during the process of collecting and storing the caterpillar, I rubbed my face. It was at this point I discovered I was allergic to the hairs as my lips and one of my eyes swelled to abnormal proportions. As a consequence, I was unable to attend the school trip to London Zoo the following day.
I've been working in financial services for 23 years. About 7 years ago I joined my then local conservation group, The Friends of the Burgess Hill Green Circle Network and shortly afterwards I decided to try and switch my career to ecology. In 2009 I started a BSc degree in Environmental Science with The Open University, which I completed in September 2015. During this time I didn't have much spare time for biological recording but in 2013 I did a 17-week internship as an assistant ecologist to Graeme Lyons at the Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT), which fired my enthusiasm for biological recording. Now I have completed my degree, it is only now that I have the time to devote to this exciting challenge.
So here's my plan. I'm going to start from zero species because, despite having seen hundreds of species whilst working for the SWT, some very rare, I believe I will acquire more knowledge about each species if I try to identify them myself before asking the experts for help and verification. So here we go, my next obsession, but please don't expect too many submissions for hairy caterpillars.
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