Considered by many to be the face of birding and avian conservation, Bill Oddie first appeared in the public eye as a member of comedy trio The Goodies. For the past 30 years, however, Oddie has dedicated his celebrity to educating people about wildlife.
Hosting television specials and documentaries while also writing several books on his experiences, Oddie’s latest book, Unplucked: Columns, Blogs and Musings (Bloomsbury, $35), encapsulates many of his shorter-form writings in a book that contains as much comedy as it does concern.
Now that the book has officially launched, Oddie found time to talk with Wild about his career and passion for the outdoors.
Bill, you’ve had a long career in the public eye. Which part of it have you enjoyed most?
Probably presenting the live series for the BBC like ‘Bird in the Nest’, ‘Springwatch’ and ‘Autumnwatch’. I like it live.
What first drew you to working with birds and birders and when did this passion first develop?
When I was very young (less than ten) I used to collect birds’ eggs. Most kids did back then. There is a venerable generation – including me – that will tell you that egg collecting got them into birds and taught them a lot about identification and patience. However it wasn’t really until my teen years that I got together with other birdwatchers.
What kept you in this field of expertise in the long run? Has your initial enthusiasm been sustained the whole time or has it evolved with the years?
The interest has been there all my life, but the emphasis changed. There was a time when my local patch list was most important. Then I ventured further afield in Britain, visiting various hotspots. Having a car helped!
Next were the travelling years to various parts of the world, such as India, Nepal, Thailand and so on. I have never been a twitcher in the British sense (lister in America) and I have become less and less desperate to see rarities. Moreover doing years and years of TV series has meant less travel, unless we were filming there.
What’s one of your favourite experiences while researching, writing or filming?
Watching and filming a massive flock of starlings going to roost and capturing the whole experience perfectly, also thanks to superb editing.
Have you spent much time in Australia? What would you highlight about our bird life or environment that strikes you as unique?
I have been to Australia five or six times and visited several regions. You have some famously invisible birds, like the noisy scrubbird (which I have seen) and the night parrot (which I haven’t).
Are there any particular trends or issues relating to the outdoors/wildlife that you feel deserves more attention?
Frankly everything, but I am particularly outraged by the massacre of migrant birds in the Mediterranean region.
Where next for you? Any big plans or projects on the horizon?
Where next? Nothing specific, but I take every opportunity I can to support conservation and animal – and bird – welfare. Right now I am off into my garden to say hello to the robins and the parakeets (they’re almost as common here as in Australia now).