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Jim Wilson & Mark Carmody

Jim Wilson, writer, broadcaster, tour guide, and member of BirdWatch Ireland, co-wrote Ireland's Garden Birds (2008 & 2017) with Oran O'Sullivan, and co-wrote Shorebirds of Ireland (2009), Freshwater Birds of Ireland (2011) and The Birds of Ireland (2013) with Mark Carmody. He has been involved in every study of birds in Ireland for many years and has contributed to many major surveys and international projects. Visit his website at http://www.irishwildlife.net

Mark Carmody did postdoctoral research in genetics and has recently qualified as a Patent Attorney. Co-author of Shorebirds of Ireland, Freshwater Birds of Ireland and The Birds of Ireland, he has written for WINGS, had photographs published in the renowned Birding World, and is one of the editors of the Cork Bird Report. Visit his website at http://www.markcarmodyphotography.com

Snippets from an interview with Jim and Mark

Jim Wilson

Tell us about what made you want to become a writer?

It is hard to put my finger on it but I think the main thing was wanting to produce Irish books on Irish wildlife aimed at the many people I have met who have an interest in Irish wildlife but want to know a bit more.

What lengths did you have to go to, to write the book?

Many hours of research and of course drawing on 35 years or so of spending most of my spare time studying birds and other wildlife. I am very fortunate to be able to work with my nephew Mark Carmody who is a brilliant photographer and sings off the same crazy hymn sheet that I do. It must be in the blood! Mark had the very difficult task of going out in a weather and spending hundreds of hours getting the 1600 plus images we used in the guide. I had to sit at my pc and 'cut out' each of those 1600+ images. This was very time consuming but something I loved doing, I would get lost in the work and sometimes spending up to 10 hours at it in a day with few breaks. I was never happy until the cut out was spot on. Then I had to arrange them on the page so they looked as good as I could make them. I also wanted them to follow a layout I could repeat for other related species so they could be easily compared. As we were working to a tight deadline, I think I landed myself with repetitive stress syndrome on my right arm from long periods using the mouse without a break. I ended up using my left arm in the end. Thankfully I am nearly back to 'normal' now and judging by the way the guide has turned out it was worth it.

According to you, what is the most interesting type of bird?

Call it a cop out but I think all birds are interesting. That is what makes them so fascinating. From the blue tit that comes to a peanut feeder in a garden in suburban Dublin to 'celebrity' birds like the Golden Eagle in the hills of Donegal, they all have that wow factor and no matter how long you spend watching them they will always do something that you have never seenor heard before that makes you realise you actually know very little about them. I do have a special liking for seabirds and shorebirds. They live in some of the harshest environments in the world and survive.

What have you learned about birds that you didn't know when you began writing this book?

After spending so much time working on the images for the plates, I have learnt that Irish birds are even more beautiful than I thought. Tracing along the contours of the bird and seeing the fine detail of the plumage leaves me in awe of their design

Mark Carmody

How did you start off as a photographer?

When I was young, I used to take my Dad's old Brownie camera and an old small camera with a pull-out wind-on mechanism. I took photographs of a few trips abroad but then put the cameras away when I got into sport more as a young fella. All my free time was taken up with that. The life of a poor student prevented any more toe-dipping into the wonderful world of photography. When I moved abroad, I bought a DSLR to record my time there which then quickly moved into wildlife photography. My passion has always been birdwatching so I melded the two together to become fascinated and hooked on bird/wildlife photography. The birdwatching where I lived was incredible with so many beautiful birds which we don't see in Ireland. I would dearly love to get my hands on a rangefinder film camera and start into "street photography", which I did on a weekly basis living abroad with a DSLR.

What is your favourite bird and why?

It was a question I was asked recently and it is a very difficult question to answer! Growing up by the sea, gulls and shorebirds have always fascinated me and the sight of the first sandwich tern, swallow or wheatear is always a joy to see as it hearlds the end of winter and beginning of spring. However, it is a bird that many might find an odd choice but the Raven is my favourite bird. I just love watching family groups play in the air and the call the birds make is just such a wild sound which reminds me of the wild west cork headlands and the Irish coastline.

What lengths did you have to go to, to take photos for the book?

Some photographs for the book The Birds of Ireland were taken from my couch with a remote trigger! Others were taken from hides in all sorts of weather from searing sun, pouring rain and snow blizzards. I usually spend up to 8-12 hours in a hide to get some photographs, sometimes leaving the hide with not one photograph taken! It can be very frustrating. I drove through snow blizzards and icy road conditions to get to an isolated jetty on the Co. Louth coast to photograph Common Scoters - I stood on the jetty in the snow and cold easterly wind for 8 hours taking photographs. I was quite cold at the end of that day. I also went out on fishing boats to get some of the images of the seabirds off the Atlantic coast of Ireland. The biting flies in the woods of Wicklow were particularly horrendous when waiting for woodpeckers to show themselves on the tree trunks. The weather plays a role too because I work in my "real" job during the week and get out to take photographs predominantly at weekends. If I have a photograph in my head which I would like to get, I might have to do it during my holidays or get lucky with a weekend attempt.