"It's never easy knowing what to get your 67 year old brother for his birthday as you've probably exhausted the CDs, books and DVDs that he could ever want. However, both of us are very interested in birds so when I found details on the internet of a day's birdwatching with The Cotswold Birdwatching Company, it seemed like a result and so it proved to be.
We had a brilliant day with Nick on the Somerset Levels, spending the morning on the Shapwick Heath reserve and the afternoon at the Ham Hall reserve. My brother and I prefer different things: he likes the bigger stuff, the birds of prey, whereas I tend to go for the smaller ones that lurk in the foliage and flit between the trees. Neither of us are big fans of wildfowl.
The day we had was spectacular and allowed each of us to indulge our favourites (marsh harriers, buzzards, bitterns, bearded tits, blackcaps, cetti's warblers and kingfishers among many) as well as finally arriving at a more than grudging respect for the water birds (egrets, green sandpipers, ruffs, black tailed godwits, water rails and many others too numerous to mention). The weather was great and the chat even better; Nick was both incredibly knowledgeable and even more patient.
So, many thanks to the team at The Cotswold Birdwatching Company for a wonderful day. Now, what the heck am I going to do for his 68th birthday? "
"I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed my day with Nick earlier this month. He is an excellent and sympathetic guide to a birding plodder like me! "
"We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Cotswolds Water Park and a lot of that enjoyment was down to Nick. You are gifted in the way you manage your clients. I am sure that you are just the same with clients of all ages and levels of interest. You really do deserve to do well in your business. We both thoroughly enjoyed your company and the way you shared your incredible knowledge’’. with our very best wishes and thanks "
Jennie & Dan
"We had a super time on 14th Feb with Darren at the RSPB Ham Wall Nature Reserve on the Somerset Levels. The day was jam-packed with birds from the bullfinches by the car park when we arrived to the Marsh Harriers, Bittern, Kingfisher and even a Great White Egret, not to mention many species of wildfowl and two roe deer that scampered past.
Darren was a pleasant chap to be with and so knowledgeable and fortunately very tolerant of my constant phone checking due to the imminent arrival of our first grandson! I am now looking out for the dark tips to the wings so I can identify common gulls in flight and listening out for the exclamation of the cetti’s warbler! At dusk folks started to gather on the reserve in anticipation of a spectacular murmuration of starlings but although thousands of birds gathered from all directions they decided to have a one flurry in the distance…still, wildlife never does things quite to order and it didn’t spoil what had been a thoroughly interesting day. Thank you. "
Sally & Tim
"Just a quick note to say thankyou for a really good day. It was a pleasure to spend time in the company of such a knowledgeable and pleasant chap. We were also very lucky in the variety of birds we saw. It was all good fun which is what life should be all about."
Stuart and Linda
"A little belated, but if you'd like another testimonial for your books, then please feel free to add this in.
Ally & Jo, London
"Finally found time to write to you to thank you for a really great day out last week. As we told you it was down to our adventurous sons who treated us to a day's birdwatching that we met you and had our great day out.
We found the experience of having all our questions answered and learning to identify bird calls enlightening! From a Kingfisher to a Cetti's warbler we are now the new experts! When we recalled the day we were able to list out the birds we saw and heard and we found to our amazement that there were at least 40 different birds, including the Glossy Ibis, the Bittern and the Kingfisher, the highlights of the day.
From the outset we found your knowledge and your calm quiet manner instantly gave us confidence.
Darren, many thanks for a great day out."
Olenka and John
"We wanted to write to tell you how very much we enjoyed our Birdwatching day last Saturday. Although I was so frozen there were times I wanted to give up, it was well worth the effort.
We met Darren just before 08.30 am at the visitor centre and we were straight off in his car to visit other parts of the water park. We trudged pleasantly through mountains of mud and were rewarded with recording sightings of 48 birds (we reached 50 on the way back in Darren’s car!).
We are very loosely bird watchers ourselves, and could have probably recognised almost all of the birds we saw given time and effort, but Darren is so fast in identifying them and can distinguish them by their call, which is a feat we have yet to master. For me, the best bird I saw was a raven, which I would have overlooked as a crow had we been on our own. For Ian, it was the pair of goldcrest displaying to one another.
Added to all of this is the fact that Darren is so easy to talk to and feel comfortable with. He was not only determined to make sure we enjoyed it but was more determined than we were that we saw 50 birds! A really great day and we will be back for more!"
Nicola and Ian
"We wanted to thank you for an enjoyable and rewarding time at the Cotswold Water Park. In case you can use this letter we thought, we would outline how we came to be standing listening to Nightingales early in the morning.
Our daughter and son bought time from The Cotswold Birdwatching Company as a birthday present way back in March. We were advised to confirm the booking and times a few days before the nominated date of June 1st. Anticipating an early start of about 08.30am, we opted not to camp locally but to drive up from Surrey as we thought we could do it just as quickly, as we would not have to pack up.
It was a shock to learn that we would need to be on the Water Park by 04.00am if we wanted a chance to hear the nightingales at this time of year. Wow! But it was worth it. We left our car at the Gateway Centre arriving bang on time having got up at 02.00am. We went in your car to three sites finishing at about 11.00am. We could not believe we had been out a full 7 hours, and without a loo stop too!
We wanted to thank you too for your kind attitude to our ignorance on so many levels and we certainly learned a lot. I have been listening to Goldfinches and the Blackcap this week, reinforcing the sounds. It was great to hear so many Cuckoos, both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Linnets, Whitethroats, Sedge and Reed Warblers. I’ve got the three notes of the Reed Bunting in my mind and the cascading laughter of the Willow Warbler and the ‘explosive’ song burst of the Cetti’s Warbler.
The highlight of course was the chance to listen to (and fleetingly see) a Nightingale with its varied calls, cries, whoops and whistles, making it more like two birds singing a duet at times. This was a surprise to us to learn that this bird does not just warble or trill like the Robin.
We enjoyed a nice late breakfast back at the Gateway Centre and the only negative note I could sound was the awful feeling of tiredness we had on the journey back home. Cilla went to sleep and I had to fight to keep my eyelids open. But that was cured by a quick afternoon nap. Our children thought it was hilarious that we had such an early start."
Mike and Cilla
"My nerves about being on my own for a half day bird watching with a man I'd never met soon disappeared as soon as I met Darren. He made me feel comfortable in his company from the start. His bird knowledge is astounding and from start to finish we were busy spotting birds that I had just seen in books and television. The bird tour was given to me as a gift from my Children as I have loved watching and been interested in birds since I was a little girl and I can honestly say it was an amazing gift and I intend to keep my bird spotting up with my new found knowledge, you will not be disappointed if you book a tour with Darren."
"Thank you for the list. I had not appreciated how very many birds we had seen. Thank you also for a very interesting and informative day. You could not have worked harder to ensure that we had the best possible sightings."
"A belated thank you for the bird watching tour which I enjoyed. The legacy is that I am much more aware of bird song and calls than I was before. Even though I can’t identify most of them at least I am learning some of their unique features so, in time, I will be able to put a name to a song."
"Thank you for the wonderful Dawn Chorus Walk. We were very fortunate to have a lovely clear, if chilly April morning. The birds were singing on cue! At The first place that we stopped we heard several different birds including nightingales, a blackcap and a cuckoo. You had obviously researched the areas well as at the next location we heard a variety of warblers and the elusive cuckoo, which performed beautifully but kept out of sight. Your accurate descriptions of bird song helped us pick out particular birds amongst the cacophony of sound. As we left that location you spotted long tailed tits and the nest that they were building, which was fantastic to see. At the next stop we heard more birds including blackbirds and song thrushes. We had a wonderful morning which was both enjoyable and informative and inspired us to take a further walk around the area to continue to listen to and watch birds. We would thoroughly recommend the Cotswold Birdwatching Company"
Frankie and Celia
"Darren's encyclopaedic knowledge of birds, combined with his evident passion for the subject ensured that we had a fantastic day at the Cotswold Water Park. With 54 birds seen and several others identified by their song, we had a very full and interesting 9 hours. Above all we were impressed by Darren's ability to spot and identify every species and then to give us superb close up views through the telescope. It made us realise just how much we don't notice in the countryside and has already made our walks more interesting. This is a great day out for anyone with an interest in the subject who feels that they could benefit from some time spent with a genuine expert "
André and Cindy
"Thank you for a fantastic day of bird watching in the Cotswold Water Park! Being new to bird watching we didn't know what to expect (we appreciated borrowing your binoculars and telescope!). your fantastic knowledge of birds and expertise of the lakes made it a brilliant introduction. You have inspired us to continue bird watching back home, thank you for showing us your passion and sharing your knowledge"
Holly & James, London
John and Linda Willson, Bedford, MA USA
"Thank you for a wonderful day at the Cotswold Water Park. I had no idea of the size of the park and I am sure we must have only covered a small section of it and to have identified 58 species was very satisfying.
The best sighting of the day was the Peregrine Falcon flying high in the sky and then suddenly carrying out its dramatic dive (up to 200 mph ) to catch its prey. – a rare sight indeed !!!!!!!
Also the Hobby’s appearing suddenly as the sun came out to seize the Dragon Flies in their talons and then transfer them into their mouths. “ You could say MOUTHWATERING “
I had a wonderful time and would like to thank you for your enthusiasm and knowledge of the birding community. My best wishes for the future"
Ron Spencer, Blackmans Bay, Tasmania
"On behalf of my wife and myself I would like to thank you for an excellent day of escorted bird watching on the Somerset levels. As you know, I am not such a keen bird watcher as my wife, but I found the whole day fascinating.
It is a tremendous help to be with someone who can identify a bird by its song or flight pattern. Such knowledge changes bird watching from being confusing to understandable and enjoyable.
The final icing on the cake was that you gave us a close encounter with a Bittern, a bird that I have always wanted to see. We shall be back in April to hear their "boom".
Thank you so much"
Chris & Jan Harrison
"I wanted to thank you again for a fabulous day at the Cotswolds Water Park. You have a wealth of knowledge about British birds and about the Water Park. I would heartily recommend you to anyone interested in birdwatching in the Cotswolds. Your tours are a tremendous value. I'll keep my fond memories."
Jon Britell USA
"Thank you for a wonderful dawn chorus walk. We were amazed at the wealth of birds that we heard and saw in just a few wonderful hours. Thank you from all the members. "
Patrick, Patrick Ward Whitefries Sailing Club
"Many thanks again for a great day’s birding around Pagham Harbour. It was remarkable that we saw 83 different species in one day with the highlight being a marvellous Short Eared Owl at close range."
Keith & Sandra