Born in Brighton, UK, in 1949, Richard Crombet-Beolens - known to all as Bo Beolens, the Fat Birder just about remembers post war rationing… I used to toddle off to the corner shop with my coupons to buy sweeties. This penchant for all things tasty probably stems from the shortages of the Fifties. That alone is not entirely responsible for my undoubted corpulence. I am by misfortune disabled, (a form of arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis which makes walking painful and sometimes impossible) and by disposition indolent. The combination of these two factors with my propensity to consume copious quantities of curry, Belgian Buns and (since giving up smoking in 1998) boiled sweets, (that's a sort of Hard Candy for US readers) has conspired to add more poundage. The curvature of my back is an accident of fate, the curvature of my front a self inflicted injury.
I grew up in rural Kent, South East England, and was introduced to birding by my father.
An accident-prone boy I dislocated my left hip at the age of nine and then the right hip falling out of my wheelchair in hospital. Needing a passive outdoor pursuit my father took me fishing and, when a kingfisher used my fishing rod as a perch, I was completely hooked (sorry) by birding. The pursuit of girls, and career, and the delights of British beer enticed me away for a while but I returned to the pastime just too late for the famous Tesco warbler [an American golden-winged warbler that was found in a supermarket carpark in my home county].
I have lived in Scotland, Lancashire, Buckinghamshire and London pursuing a career as the director of various charities before moving back to the county of my youth in 1995. In August 1999 I moved to Margate [try to go any further south east and you develop a French accent] and have been discovering the joys of working a small coastal patch since then.
I rarely twitch now but still love to travel the world whenever finance allows… I have birded (under my own direction and usually just with the company of my wife Maggie who loves birding in exotic places but hates all creepy-crawlies, but sometimes leading groups of disabled birders) - in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaya, Thailand, Hong Kong, Canada, USA (Florida and Texas), Sri Lanka, India, Gambia, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, Kenya, Cyprus, France, Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, etc. I regret that I also visited several other countries when young and foolish without my binoculars! This way I missed lots of birding in places like Tunisia, Morocco, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, Russia, and Ukraine etc. Although I did once take a trip on a tour bus in Tunisia and remember the guide pointing out a huge flock of, as he put it, Pink Floyds in a saltpan.
Between us Maggie and I have 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls) in age order they are Matthew, Julia, Suki and Ashley, all grown and married. My son (Ash) is the only birder and was a keen twitcher who overtook me with his UK life list. He posts his increasingly good photographs of birds on a number of websites including this one but most often on his www.fatphotographer.net website. However, most of our grandchildren hare not yet hard core birders. Owen & Toby have birding on the back burner but my beautiful namesake, baby 'Bo' is, at three years old, pretty keen on birds but even more keen on bugs! I am working on Jade but, at 20, while she is avifauna sensitive - seems to have become much more interested in other things! Matthew has no interest in birds but does try his luck in the Reality Birding League thus proving luck is as important as knowledge, his daughter Eve - 11, is able to recognise a robin when she sees one.
My late daughter Suki was not a birder despite my best efforts, but fed birds in the garden and would ring me for ID advice. She was very keen on saving the world from the ravages of man and into everything green from installing solar panels on her roof to recycling everything its possible to recycle. She rests in a beautiful green cemetery that will one day be woodland. In her memory we have set up the Suki Woodland Memorial Trust in the hope of creating her own woodland for all to enjoy. We need donations - even $1 would help - see: www.sukiwoodlandtrust.org
Fatbirder website is an attempt to put as many birders in touch with each other throughout the world as possible to encourage friendship and conservation. I also own and operate a number of other websites - the Fatbirder Family of Websites. I set up the disabled birders association in 2000, which changed name to Birding for All - www.birdingforall.com Anytime Tours offers to put together overseas trips to couples and small groups see www.anytimetours.co.uk I also operate a site which ranks its member birding sites by the amount of traffic they get see: www.birdingtop1000.com that has over 1250 members. You can also read past articles on another of my sites www.grumpyoldbirder.com The latest member of the Fatbirder family is FatFisherman www.fatfisherman.com that is a resource for Anglers just as Fatbirder is a resource to birders.
Writing seems to take up more and more of my time. Since Whose Bird (2003) was published I and co-writers have worked on similar books: The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals (2009), The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles (2011) and The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians (2013). The Eponym Dictionary of Sharks & Rays and The Eponym Dictionary of Birds will hopefully be in the bookshops shortly (Due August 2014). My latest sole effort is a book of anecdotes from my birding travel called: The A-Z of Birds – 26 vignettes, which are written from life but angled to amuse and illustrated with terrific cartoons by Des Campbell.
On 1st June 2014 my World Life list stood at 2678, my UK list at 374 and County (Kent) list a pleasing 300.