A good friend of mine, David Withrington, has just had a book published. I went with him, several years ago, on one of his adventures to Slovenia and had a hugely enjoyable and knowledge expanding time.
Wildlife Adventures in Eastern Europe 2012-15: Estonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia, Hungary and Slovakia – an illustrated account of summer visits by a group of naturalists from England. David Withrington and Paul Raven, 2017. 104 pages with 360 colour photographs. Available here from Natural History Book Service £12.50
What do staff of the statutory nature conservation agencies do when they retire? Go on holiday of course!
In June 2012, David Withrington, Paul Raven, Neil Hailey, Peter Marren and Steve Berry – all former staff of English Nature and its predecessor body – decided to visit Estonia, a country to which none of them had been before. The objective was to discover the country’s wildlife, especially the birds, butterflies and flowering plants. The accommodation and itinerary were arranged after online research by David.
The main features of Estonia are – its Baltic coastline, large areas of peat bog and Lake Peipsi, which sits on the border with Russia – though this did not seem to deter the birds. It was not just the amazing variety of wildlife and habits which made the holiday, but encounters with people, cultures and nightlife. All these are chronicled and illustrated in the book. The reader lives the journey with our intrepid adventurers.
After success of this trip, the group decided to go further east in 2013, with a trip to Bulgaria. In 2014 and 2015 the group was augmented by Bernard Booth, ex-land agent for English Nature, and Richard Price – a former schoolmate of David’s and an accomplished bird photographer. That year they visited Greece and Macedonia, previously unaware of the tensions between these bordering states. And in 2015 they visited northern Hungary, including the famous Hortobagy wetlands, and the neighbouring area of south-east Slovakia.
The group concluded that – with its superb habitats for wildlife and friendly people – Macedonia came out tops of the countries visited, although Hungary was not far behind. Each chapter concludes with impressions of the country – its people, culture and landscapes. At the end of the book are checklists of bird (238) and butterfly (127) species seen.