In the early 1970’s Stephen undertook work on various conservation projects in East Lothian and in particular Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve and became one of the first Conservation Volunteers working with Archie Mathieson the then County Ranger. Stephen has lived, worked (and enjoyed birding) in the UK, Germany and France and now lives within the Las Breñas Natural Park near Barbate in Andalucia, Spain.
Life changes brought about various jobs in different European countries. Stephen's last job in Germany, was working as a data assistant to the DFS, German Air Traffic Control (Deutsche Flugsicherung), who control civil and military flights within upper air space in central Europe. Although quite secure in his last job in Germany, he found that continually working for large organisations in the UK and abroad had become less and less appealing and it was time to work on his own.
After many happy holidays over the years to Andalucia, Patty and Stephen decided to move to the sun and to take life a little slower, settling into house they bought close to the coast near Barbate and running Andalucian Guides. Stephen set up leading birding tours in 2001 and quickly established a name for himself as the birding guide on the Strait of Gibraltar. He also became involved with local wildlife and conservation groups and is a member of local and national birding and natural history societies and still takes part in various projects throughout the province.
Stephen's friendly, easy-going manner and his birding and wildlife skills steadily brought in work, leading tours to numerous Spanish birding areas.
Stephen also is a principal tour leader for Limosa Holidays and leads some tours for The Travelling Naturalist both companies are based in the UK, taking groups to various European destinations. Since 2003, Limosa have involved Stephen leading more tour destinations, asking him to prepare the logistics for and write holiday itineraries on new birding and nature tours to Turkey and the Bavarian Alps, both countries he travelled to many times. In 2012 Stephen carried out a recce to the Brandenburg are area of Eastern Germany and put together a new tour there for spring and autumn, looking at migrant geese, cranes and other wintering birds. In 2013 Stephen and friends plan another recce to Senegal in West Africa to investigate sites for birding tours in this rich area.
Stephen has lead tours to Turkey, Morocco, Romania, Austria, Holland, Germany, Hungary and Portugal as well as many different Spanish birding and wildlife locations including regular visits to Fuerteventura in the Canaries both with Andalucian Guides and Limosa Holidays. In 2009 Stephen was invited by the Saltmarsh Partnership to represent Limosa Holidays on a fact-finding tour to the Lesser Antilles island group in the Caribbean. Hopefully Limosa can run this as a birding and wildlife tour in the future. Of course the list of potential tours destinations has increased over the years and visits to Sri-Lanka, Gambia, Cuba and many other further afield countries will be offered to new clients and birding friends in due course!
Stephen speaks fluent French and German and good Spanish. Some of his friends and colleagues from "South of the Border" have often remarked that "His English is really quite good too!"
Andalucian Guides is run from Stephen and Patty’s family home in the countryside, between the port of Barbate and the hilltop town of Vejer de la Frontera, where they manage Hoopoe Cottage, their guest house in their garden.
Stephen's wife Patty, who comes from near Baden-Baden in Germany's Black Forest managed a large bookshop combined with a Travel Agency before leaving southern Germany for Spain. Patty leads day walking groups on un spoilt coastal stretches and along inland drovers roads in Cadiz province, during the cooler months of the year. Patty and Stephen have two girls, Lucia who was born in 2003 and Amelia in 2004.
Patty leads half-day walking tours in and around The Strait of Gibraltar that usually start around 0900hrs and end around 1330hrs. These local walks are all led by Patty at a gentle pace looking for birds, flowers, local plants and orchids and the routes include Barbate Marismas, Las Breñas Pine Forest and Barbate cliffs, The Route of the Bee-eaters and other areas of both historical, cultural and wildlife interest. All walks are suitable for children aged seven years onwards.
Honey Buzzard on migration on The Strait of Gibraltar. In fact, over our house!
Stephen has three other lovely children from a previous marriage and is extremely proud of them all. Hannah, Stephen and Euan visit Andalucia from time to time to visit their little sisters and ourselves and before anyone asks, No I'm not a grandad yet!
His hobbies are numerous and include walking, swimming, old motorcycles, painting, music, photography, reading and single malt whiskies!