An emotional surprise

I’m not sure I can recall the exact year but somewhere around 1977/78 my Dad got me the most sought after and the only available bird identification book in Hungarian language, A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe (in Hungarian, Európa Madarai) by Peterson, Mountfort and Hollom. It’s still a mystery for me how he managed to get a copy for me, but surely his birdwatcher colleague’s must had helped him. That book played a fundamental role in the development of being a decent(?) birdwatcher. I never forget those times when I endlessly browsed the book and dreamt of seeing an Eurasian Oystercatcher live one day. That page with the oystercatcher caught my eye and that was the date when I fell in love with shorebirds for life.

This inarguably was one of the decisive bird books of my life. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Unfortunately, most of the books of my childhood, including this important one, was lost or damaged during my multiple moves of my life. To make this story short, a few weeks ago I got a parcel from my amazing Hungarian business partner, living in England. Prior to the arrival of this parcel he texted me that it would require some explanation. When I opened the parcel in the taxi, I was left speechless. He sent me a copy of the very same edition of the book, that determined my early years of birding, without knowing I had lost it many years ago. After the death of his enthusiastic bird lover grandfather, he saved this book for me. Such a lovely gesture. I’ll be always grateful for it.

This page from the book made me fall in love with shorebirds for life. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Needless to say, by browsing this book again 40 years later, wonderful birding memories emerged, and it made me remember the way I learned identifying birds on my own.

Thank you my friend.


Into crowd sourcing

Having no computer in the last 9 months made my life full of hassle. Being restricted to a smart phone made progress of everything a bit slow. Now this old buddy is fixed, probably for the last time, and I jumped into multiple tasks to be able to catch up. Surprisingly, I made nice progress with the species accounts of the shorebird handbook and could manage to do some birding on the Global Big Day on 9 May.

For me, the most important ‘event’ of the past few weeks was the release of a crowd funding campaign for the handbook. As funds are limited and not available for many things, including participating shorebird conferences, I asked my friends and social media community for donating the project. I’m normally sceptic about the positive outcome of such donation campaigns, but since I’m quite frequently donating, I thought I could also be successful. The campaign proved to be a good idea and as of today I’ve got £475. I’m not only happy by the amount donated, but the feeling others think this project worth to ‘invest’ in. With this help I probably can attend an important conference to be held in Virginia in September. I still have some time to get the desired £2,000 for this travel. Here is my GoFundMe campaign for further details.


The next couple of weeks will be spent working harder to be able to travel in September and also will be sitting in front of my laptop and finishing the oystercatcher accounts.

If you feel this publishing project is worth to support, please donate even with a small amount.

Self assessment crisis

I have not been living peaceful times in the last few years. Besides family issues, I cannot get rid of the frustration I’ve been feeling by one the distant happenings. This is the lack of graduation, which forced me to work in areas I didn’t want, and in most of the cases, I didn’t like. Life wasn’t simple in the communism era and, at least for our family, sending me to the university was not possible. Without blaming anything or anyone, it certainly affected my entire life.

Getting closer to 50, I know how many wonderful things I could have done for birds by simply being graduated. That document can open lots of doors as easily as the lack of it keeps doors closed. I just recently faced a not so pleasant reaction on the lack of graduation, when I prepared my first shorebird migration research project. I honestly told one of the biologists, who studied Little Ringed Plover, that I wasn’t a scientist. He immediately stopped communicating me, despite he was quite enthusiastic about my plans.

I know, and many would agree, that one doesn’t have to be graduated to be good in an area. I have been trying to work accordingly, and trying to educate myself, but it still makes unhappiness. I’ve been dreaming about working in an organisation for shorebirds for ages. For the reasons described above, it doesn’t seem to be realistic or at least not easy. I saw so many ‘officers’ working for bird conservation without having any related background or even the slightest interest in birds. They simply had a kind of degree, and this makes me even more frustrated. They are career builders and can’t wait for 5:30PM to come every day. Saving birds without feeling passionate about them is like having sex without love. I might be too passionate about birds, I don’t know.

Sometimes I feel, that the only way to work more seriously for shorebirds is to establish an own organisation. Luckily there are successes, what keeps me going on. The World Shorebirds Day is definitely one of these success stories I have to be proud of. Nobody asked me about my graduation and yet it worked wonderfully. I might need professional advice or feedback from my community to step over this self-assessment crisis. It certainly affects my future productivity.

I feel some relief since my son’s been a university student and working hard for his degree.


A bitter taste conclusion

I don’t consider myself a big ‘give-uper’, but sometimes I just can’t figure out what step would be necessary to move forward. Today I made a decision to stop working on the WorldWaders News Blog. I don’t feel good at all as it was my child and my passion at the same time. A bit more than 4 years ago I set up this WordPress site driven by an idea to collect news about shorebirds from around the world and publish them in a single website. I thought it was a good idea to offer a more comfortable way to learn more about shorebirds (or waders if you like).

Despite it didn’t get much attention by wader scientist and larger conservation bodies, I carried on and kept asking permissions re-posting news. I failed to find co-authors who could help making this news platform more diverse and colourful. Finally the numbers, the cruel numbers made my decision.

The blog was born in May 2010. During the 51 months I posted 254 news, what is 4.9 news per month. It is definitely not enough for keeping the audience awake, although I didn’t really run the blog in 2014. In 51 months the blog got only 70 followers. A part of the followers have nothing to do with shorebird conservation or research and not even the birds in general. Since the site moved to WordPress from Posterous it got 30,855 clicks. There were about an additional 70,000 clicks when the site was running under Posterous, which was later stopped offering blogging service. So, the blog altogether got about 100,000 clicks, which means 65 clicks a day. One of the clicks always made by my dear Son. Haha… The best ever day in its history was earlier this year, when a Slender-billed Curlew was supposedly seen in Serbia. On the day we released the news, it got 6,419 views. The total views on this single news exceeded an unbelievable 10,000 views. If I deduct it from the 100,000 total views, the number of daily visits is just 58.

These are the numbers. Let’s say, it had a quite modest publicity despite my best efforts, social media sharing with a potential reach of about 5,000 friends/followers (90% of them are connected to birds). I must have done something wrong or the failure might be related to my personality, I don’t know. It definitely pulls me back from shorebird conservation in general, but the devotion of loving shorebirds will never be taken away. However, I’m still hoping that the World Shorebirds’ Day can make a difference and it can be a success. I enjoy organizing it, and at least I’ve got some encouraging feedback. Despite I’ve got some quite frustrating feedback from leaders of some national bird conservation societies, I keep working on this event. I know, it never will be a boom event until a big organization is offering an ‘umbrella’ (not financially), but I keep working on it.

I’m very sad about the WorldWaders News Blog. I keep the blog open for anyone who wants to read old news, but I stop posting items.

I don’t blame anyone, not even myself…

This image is about patience and faith, what I seem to have lost somewhere. © Andrea Szimuly

This image is about patience and faith, what I seem to have lost somewhere. © Andrea Szimuly

Kea and her bird-of-paradise

Last summer, probably exactly at the same time I bought a book for my best friends’ birthday. It was the National Geographic Birds-of-Paradise. As usual, I had to browse it with Kea as she loves birds. She only focused on the birds and turned ‘boring’ pages (means containing no bird) quickly. She was amazed by the transformation of males when displaying. Then I took the book for the birthday party and she never seen it since.

A few weeks earlier I came home from work and I was greeted by Kea with a drawing in her hand. I was shocked to see a Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise showing its basic characteristics. She painted this by hard without using any photos or references. I was speechless and just tried to understand this. It is so heartwarming to witness her development and the tiny achievements she is capable to reach day by day. She is just 5!


The ‘Like’ collectors who never like

It would have been better to attach one of my favourite bird photographer's image, but I wasn't sure if he/she would loved to see his/her image in this post. © Gyorgy Szimuly

It would have been better to attach one of my favourite bird photographer’s image, but I wasn’t sure if he/she would loved to see his/her image in this post. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Despite knowing that my post was provocative and only a part of my social connections will appreciate it, I wanted to hear others opinion about the above described ‘issue’. I joined Facebook a couple of years ago and apart of being addicted to it, I have been using it as it should be used. I am social… in two ways. I share, I chat and I like and I like being liked. I’ve followed many friends, cyber-friends, renowned bird and nature photographers showing my admiration for their work. I probably call myself a bird photographer as well so I started to share my images just like many other colleagues. Surprisingly, my shared images were liked by many, and I felt it a privilege being liked. Suddenly I was known by more and more people and they started to admire (I was told… haha) my work. I am still grateful for this as that is a real inspiration!

Big players in bird photography behave a bit differently. Apparently they spend time with social media as for most of them these sites are a free advertising platform to promote their workshops, websites, etc. They even share images what are fantastic. Without names I have to say, they are unique and eye-catching. We all love and like them. However, those photographers never take time to look their admirer’s shared photos and very rarely one can see a like of them. Not because the admirer’s photos are rubbish, but simply because they don’t care about others (if they are not their customers). They are so called celebrities (I hate this category) and to be honest, some of them are rather selfish. It is a personal experience, not a fiction. I know only one photographer (EJP) who I believe is different and I like it a lot. He is communicating and see his likes regularly.

I know that I am not alone with this opinion. In the long term this kind of attitude doesn’t pay off. Here is some of the many opinions from my thread.

– Facebook is most enjoyable and rewarding when there is a give and take with mutual likes, comments and respect. That is the way to develop an online community. I have recently started going through my “friends” “likes” and “follows” and am removing many of those who do not reciprocate, whether they are excellent photographers or not.

– I think it is an issue that resonates with many of us on Facebook. Some of the top photographers DO manage to be good Facebook friends, so where do some get off thinking that they never need to reciprocate? We all have the power to unfriend, unfollow or otherwise ignore anything or anyone we choose. It actually means quite a bit to me when a really excellent photographer that I admire likes or comments on my posts.

– I usually unfriend at some point…

– It is ignorance and high self esteem taken to extremes with many of these photographers… sad people really if you think about it.

– Good piont Gyorgy Szimuly, I thought the same about some photographer’s think I might just go and kick some off my friends list!!

– Take a look through various groups, the same photographers post consistently without bothering to ‘like’ other’s postings. Same with blog postings. I have already kicked a few off of my friend’s list. I think the point about liking others photos, blogs or posts is just an acknowledgement you appreciate and encourage their efforts…

– Great point Gyorgy. I know a few of those people. They suck. Fun for me is seeing everyone’s passion for birds and birds we don’t have in FL. Those people must think they are above the rest of us. I remove them from friends list.

I am sure if I would post this comment to other groups, the result would be quite the same. I would like to believe that this blog post reaches some of the famous bird photographers to give them a chance to react. In-blog comments are much appreciated. It is probably a topic they will hate me for, but I know many of them will understand what is behind of this frustration. Definitely not jealousy!

My Tiny Year and Future Plans

Wintering geese over the Old Lake of my hometown, Tata in Hungary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Wintering geese over the Old Lake of my hometown, Tata in Hungary. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Moving to another country always brings some excitements and as at least for a while it is like being a tourist. Moving to another country also means we have to sacrifice something what we leave behind. There is about 1,700 km between my homeland in Hungary and the place I have been living in the United Kingdom. Birding wise these two countries are not the same. Not totally different, but still not the same.

Since I have started birding I listened the beautiful song of Common Nightingales every spring but where I have been living now it is very scarce and not even breeding. The song of a nightingale and the Hungarian spring are inseparable to me. The list of the species I have been missing contains quite a few species (e.g. European Honey Buzzard, White-tailed Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, European Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Spotted Flycatcher, Tawny Pipit, etc.). All right I have moved to a new country where new things are waiting to be explored. I have no complaint. It is just an emotional thing to miss the resident birds of my homeland where my birding activity started. At least I have another reason to visit my home country every spring to feel the same spring atmosphere as many many years before.

Birding wasn’t a dominant activity for me in England in 2013. While large number of birdwatchers enjoyed completing their ‘Big Year’, I am to complete my ‘Tiny Year’. I could do some general birding in the spring, mainly in Buckinghamshire, but literally nothing happened in the second half of the year. I don’t blame anyone. I probably worked too much and no energy left for morning birding nor twitching. Luckily that is the past and it is time for a change. 2014 must be way different.

What are the plans then? First of all I’d like to buy my optics for a more pleasant birding.

As we unlikely move to a more exciting birding area in England, birding will be restricted to my WeBS areas. However, on the rarity front, there is a great potential for me in the UK. I am living a bit far from everything but on the other hand living in the middle of England has some advantages. I hope I find some time to go twitching.

I also try to increase the coverage of European birds and get some awesome views on those birds I have never seen. On the top of this list there is the Ural Owl, my nemesis bird, which is actually the last breeding species in Hungary I have never seen. Yes, it is shameful, but I can’t change it. I plan a visit in April to northeast Hungary where it is a regular breeder.

Untitled by Boris Belchev on

Ural Owl by Boris Belchev

Another plan is to make a late spring visit to Spain where some potential lifers are waiting to be seen. The Iberian Peninsula is the last region in Europe I have never visited so its time to explore its specialities, like the magnificent Azure-winged Magpie and possibly to meet some of my close Facebook friends like Peter Jones, Stephen Daly or David Smiff just to mention a few of them.

Azure-winged Magpie by Yuji Nishimura on

Azure-winged Magpie by Yuji Nishimura

There is a foggy plan to go to The Gambia in the Summer as there are some extremely cheap packages available here. I have already bought the field guide… just in case…

I would like to spend long hours at my desk and working seriously on my bird related projects. It would be nice to reach being independent by the end of the year and working fully for birds.

On the competition side I want to be the number one eBirder in the UK so I will submit as many complete checklists as possible. At the moment I am ranked 21 on the Top 100 eBirders in United Kingdom with 54 complete checklists submitted in 2013. Hopefully I can pledge new eBirders from Hungary where it is greatly unknown. My son has already started using the BirdLog app.

All in all 2014 must be way different from the very depressing 2013 and it should bring some lifers as well as more awesome views and not only ‘armchair’ ticks.

Happy Birding Everyone!

My son has joined blogging

The next generation birder is here and starts blogging with me. What a heartwarming feeling it is to see my son, Daniel enjoying the passion I have been addicted for more than 30 years. Dani is a young birder, just passed 18. He’s been watching birds irrespectively of me of those birding sites where I had been birding for decades. I am happy to support him on his way to be a keen birdwatcher. I am sure he finds it an interesting and exciting activity and we already have made several plans of joint birding abroad.

Good luck Dani. Time to hit my life list record…

Dani (right) with his best friend, Máté (left) at the mist net with Bearded Reedlings at the Ferencmajor fishponds. © Daniel Szimuly

Dani (right) with his best friend, Máté (left) at the mist net with trapped Bearded Reedlings at the Ferencmajor fishponds. © Daniel Szimuly


Dani is at the Old Lake of Tata. © Máté Szabó

I’m still a dreamer…

In the large majority of my life I spent and wasted an awful lot of time for listening others what they are saying or thinking about me. I didn’t like to hear behind my back that I was a dreamer. I didn’t like to hear the cynical comments about my ambitious publishing project of shorebirds of the world. As I became wiser (I hope, I did), I learned that those energies, what I used to meet others expectations, should rather be used for more important activities and self-education. I no longer listen to the cynical words, in fact those make me much stronger than ever.

A couple of years ago I had a dream, a big one. The dream was to make a beautiful handbook of all the shorebirds of the world. I thought I had every skill and knowledge to turn it into reality. And I still believe in it! However, in those early days I wasn’t really ready of facing the financial challenges of such a massive project. The financial crash of a promising investor at the explosion of the global money balloon made my dream rather distant and foggy. I didn’t give it up though. In the background I still have been working hard on the project to make it happen. No matter what the timeframe is and no matter who will or will not help, but that book will be published. But I still hear “He is a dreamer”.

Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Rakuten Inc., is wonderfully arguing with those who say that “dreaming is the privilege of the young”. He writes in his note, The Profitability of Dreams, recently posted on LinkedIn :

I would argue, by contrast, the dreams are a key factor in business success.

Have dreams – and then reshape them into well-defined goals. Think about what to do to achieve those goals, and then based on what you come up with, achieve each one little by little. And you must put your all into this – all of your abilities, your strength, your endurance – you must be fully dedicated to achieving your goals.

Regardless of how long it takes, if you approach your dreams this way, there is nothing you cannot achieve. And in this process, I believe you will discover the true meaning of having dreams.

Do not be dissuaded by the cynics who say that dreams and reality are different. This is nothing more than a bitter excuse made by those lacking the drive needed to transform their dreams into reality. Dreams and reality are different. It is a dream than can take you out of an ordinary trajectory, and into something extraordinary in nature.

Mikitani’s words could not have been more perfectly timed. I can’t wait to relaunch the project with a strong financial background and more carefully set of goals and start working on it according the business plan. I think I have never been as close to it as before. Either with the help of crowd financing or private investors, the project will be funded. The enormous support of my real friends and close family as well as the self education made me a more focused and hopefully a successful individual who is addicted to the future of shorebirds.

And yes, I’m still a dreamer and will always be…

WoodSandpiper plate

Theoretical birding

It’s been a while I have posted anything in my personal birding blog. The reason is simple. I didn’t go out birding at all. My work load has been extremely high in the past few months which allowed me nothing else but some sleep after finishing work.

My rhythm is getting back to normal but birding is still missing. I am weeks away to get my new binoculars which will encourage me to go out again on a regular basis. In the meantime my son jumped into birding more intensively and had some awesome birding experiences in Hungary. From now on we will be running the blog together. Dani will also post related news from the sites I had been birded before we moved to the UK.

While birding is a very incidental activity at the moment, I am working hard at my desk to bring something exciting into reality. The long desired Shorebird eMagazine project has started a couple of weeks ago. It is going to be a great fun and finally I can test my skills in publishing and design.