CHRIS HAILS

I was born and brought up in the north of England, always with an interest in nature but with no real outlet in an industrial setting. I left there in the late '60s to go to the University of Stirling in Scotland where I studied biology and later a PhD in avian ecology. Under the supervision of David Bryant I cut my teeth in ornithology, and it was my friend and fellow doctorate student David Waugh who first opened my ears to bird sounds - as a non-birdwatching student of birds I was simply amazed at what he could tell me just from what he heard, until then it had all just been "noise" to me !

My first real job was as a lecturer in ecology and zoology at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur where for my research work I had to learn about tropical birds - a whole new kettle of fish for me ! I was very fortunate to have in the form of David Wells a great friend and colleague, he was already established as an eminent ornithologist in SE Asia and he patiently took my hand and led me through the basic moves for the humid tropics. But when he provided me with my first exposure to tropical rainforest it was daunting - plenty of bird sounds but all I could see were trees - learning those sounds would be important. David Wells introduced me to Ken Scriven who was then CEO of WWF Malaysia. Ken was a keen birder and nature recordist and it was really he who taught me my early recording and showed me the ropes in places like Ampang Reservoir and Pasoh Forest Reserve. This sparked a passion (infection ?) that was to persist with me until today. I left Kuala Lumpur in the early '80s to move to Singapore where I worked for the Ministry of National Development on a series of conservation projects, the sounds I had learned in Malaysia served me well when I had to do a series of bird surveys in different habitat types to underpin my work.

I stayed in Asia until the late '80s when I was offered a job in Switzerland with WWF International where I still work today, having been variously responsible for oversight of the Asia Pacific Region, later global Programme Director and now as part of the Senior Management Team. Moving from the tropics to Europe with a young family, and starting a new career that did not involve field-based research, made birds slip well down the agenda in my life. I packed away my old Sony recorders, parabola and cassette tapes, and for many years I took only a casual interest in birds, and certainly did no recording at all.

Then, in about 2006, my youngest son Ewan was a first year university student in sound technology, and he opened my eyes to the digital world and what it could mean for me and my late pastime and this gave me a nudge to move again. His elder brother Duncan made a birthday gift of my first mini-disc recorder and I never looked back. Suddenly I could edit my own sounds, filtering out the rubbish, and even make sonograms on my laptop - an activity unheard of in my Malaysian days. My old passion was rekindled, in Ewan I had (and still have) a technical support advisor and could play with it all during weekends and holidays when WWF work allowed.

I may not have started building this site if I had realised what I was getting into by doing it all by myself. Another patient mentor has been Ste Drayton, who absorbed the most idiotic questions from me as I started to try and learn what it meant to contribute things to the web as opposed to simply reading it. I was later given encouragement by people like Martyn Stewart, Klas Strandberg, Geoff Sample and Bernie Krause whom I met "virtually" through the on-line Yahoo nature recordists group.

Nature has been kind to me over the years, it has given me both an interesting life and career, and some of my most moving moments. This website gives me the opportunity to share some of that, and to say thanks to those mentioned above who have helped me on my journey. I'll be happy if there are some that gain pleasure from it.

CJH

Arzier, Switzerland, May 2010

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