John initially trained as a teacher (1965–68) and later obtained a BSc(Hons) from the University of York (1976–79) followed by an MSc from University College London (1979–80).
After six years teaching in Africa (in Lusaka, Zambia) and then university John worked in nature conservation for three decades. For most of that time he was Conservation Officer for Shropshire Wildlife Trust (1983–2003) followed by five years as wildlife sites officer for the Blue Remembered Hills Project (2003–2007) based in Craven Arms in the Shropshire Hills AONB where he now lives. He now has time to follow his specialism. No twitcher, he is more interested in common species and the way in which their numbers change through time.
Ecological change has been John’s abiding interest and concern. It began in his early teens, in Portsmouth, in the reference library looking into the birds of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight with such works as Kelsall and Munn (1905) The Birds of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. At university he worked on tree aging and woodland succession, with a diversion into geomorphology in a joint paper on the change of shape of the tip of Blakeney Point in 1980, during the MSc course. John undertook a variety systematic bird surveys under contract – see Past Contracts for some of the work undertaken for a range of agencies. Since the 1980s John has had a seat on the Shropshire Ornithological Society’s conservation committee which guides and coordinates the Society’s bird recording and enquiries in the county.
John is a volunteer with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) of which he has been a member continuously for over half a century, contributing to BTO population monitoring surveys, county and national survey projects. John’s research in 2020 will include organising the completion of the 2019/20 county-wide Shropshire Rookeries Resurvey (a repeat of similar work in 2008) and repeating his 2015 survey of the breeding Hirundines and Swifts of his native parish of Hopesay in south Shropshire.
John was awarded the SOS President’s Award for services to Shropshire’s ornithology in 2018. John and Peter were jointly nominated for the BTO’s Marsh Award for Local Ornithology for their contribution to Shropshire’s Ornithology, notably the ‘Histo’ website and also a range of studies which involve SOS members.