A life-long dedication to marine birds

Andy Paterson on a recent birding expedition.
Andy Paterson on a recent birding expedition. / SUR
  • Andy Paterson, a 74 year-old expat who has lived in Torremolinos for 37 years, is a respected ornithologist

Mother Nature is full of mysterious beauty for those who care to look for it, and sometimes a chance encounter that lasts just a few minutes can justify months or even years of steadfast dedication.

Andy Paterson, a 74 year-old expat who has lived in Torremolinos for 37 years, is one person who has had such encounters.

A Yorkshireman with an energetic sense of humour, Andy is a respected ornithologist who has spent more than 65 years studying marine birds.

He is the founding member of the British Seabird Group, which was the first group of its kind in the UK, and he is also a member of SOE (Spanish society of ornithology).

The results of his investigations concerning sea birds in the bay of Malaga have been published in several specialist magazines.

Andy's love of ornithology is almost genetic, for he was born into a family whose lives revolved around wildlife.

His grandfather was a gamekeeper on the private estate of the Duke of Norfolk, and his father spent his early years engulfed in the natural wonders of western Scotland.

Both had good knowledge of the countryside and the wildlife within it, and so it was inevitable that Andy would develop an interest at a very early age.

Andy never had conventional pets as a child; instead he had newts and sticklebacks, a badger, and an owl that slept on top of his wardrobe.

Today, the modest marine bird expert has several books under his belt and he is considered a leading figure among the bird watching sector in Spain.

After dedicating practically his entire life to studying and recording rare marine birds at various locations around the world, the Yorkshire man has recently published his memoirs.

Andy's latest book, Guiri Pajarero Suelto, (foreign birder on the loose), has moved away from the reference shelf.

The book narrates his life from the perspective of a young ornithologist who embarks on a career that would take him to some of the most beautiful places in the world.

A former teacher at an outpost school in the Bahamas, Andy has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, the Atlantic islands, Australia and New Zealand in pursuit of his passion.

However, the writing of the book proved to be difficult, because at the time, his wife, who he met in Mallorca in 1977, was terminally ill.

Andy's wife died after an extremely long battle with cancer, and so finding the time, or the enthusiasm, to work on the book was not easy.

"It was difficult to get over the death of my wife, even though she had been ill for many years, but the writing did help divert my attention away from the grief a little I suppose," Andy says with a touch of melancholy.

As well as his amusing tales and anecdotes, Andy, a competent artist, has also illustrated the book with detailed drawings of wild birds and animals.

His home is decorated with photographs - for he is a keen photographer as well - and drawings of the ornithological world.

One of his prized pictures was taken by a colleague and shows Andy feeding an albatross, which Andy describes as "one of the experiences of my career".

Andy has decided that 'Guiri Pajarero Suelto' will be the last book that he will write. He now wants to spend more time enjoying his passion - watching rare birds and enjoying the wildlife around him.

Whether this will be possible remains to be seen, because Andy is considered an expert in his field, although he doesn't see it that way.

"I want to be ordinary Andy, a Yorkshire man who transferred to Spain, a bird watcher with a bit of experience who is willing to help others," he says.

He is currently planning a bird watching trip to Iceland and another to the Pyrenees later in the year.

"I've got to the stage in my life when people seem to be dropping off the planet, so I've decided to enjoy life while I still can," Andy says with a roar of laughter.