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Russell Neave

Apparently I started my interest in wildlife from my pram outside the back door watching the Swallows on the wires. I grew up on a fruit farm surrounded by arable and a local woods in Essex where I spent much of my time wandering about watching primarily birds but all forms of wildlife. With a likeminded school friend I began to venture further afield in East Anglia and occasionally beyond. We volunteered at an Essex coastal reserve a couple of weeks for two summers wardening a Little Tern colony where we were introduced to the world of moths and trapping by the then coastal Warden.

I spent a couple of years on a private reserve in Norfolk before following a different path for work but always with spare time spent out birding and wildlife watching. Foreign travel began and expanded my interest and knowledge further.

In 1996 a friend asked if I wanted to do a trip across the Bay of Biscay to look for seabirds and cetaceans. Living in Essex I skimmed past the cetacean section of my mammals id book, never thinking I’d ever get to see any of those fabulous looking animals. It was an horrendous winter sailing but I survived, just, and even managing to see my first common dolphins: I was hooked. I became a volunteer surveyor with the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme, which latterly became MARINElife. Over the next 14 years I completed over 50 crossings of the Bay of Biscay recording seabirds and cetaceans and gaining a wealth of experience. Holiday planning now included cetacean spotting potential on the agenda. This new branch of wildlife interest ultimately led to a change of career and saw me working offshore around the world for five years undertaking a variety of mitigation and survey work around cetaceans and seabirds for the oil, and gas and renewables industry.

After relocating to Orkney, I became more heavily involved in cetacean strandings work with British Divers Marine Life Rescue and then the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) where I am one of only five volunteers in the UK trained to completed advance sampling and dissection of cetaceans. In early 2021, I was part of the rescue team that completed the only successful killer whale rescue in the UK to date.

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