David Fisher was born in Cardiff in 1954. Casually interested in birds from an early age, he started birding on October 11, 1969, when he accidentally flushed a Kingfisher from under a bridge near his home. Joining the local bird club, he made friends with various slightly older birders who had cars, and by December 1970 David was already “twitching” around Britain, seeing the UK’s first Desert Warbler at Portland that month. Most of his bird activities remained local, however, primarily in his home county of Glamorgan; within a few years, he became a member of the Glamorgan Records Committee. The following two years’ school holidays were spent at bird observatories at Portland and Fair Isle, and starting in October 1971, David made annual pilgrimages to the Isles of Scilly, where he quickly made friends with many of Britain’s more active birders.
From 1973 to 1976, David attended Weymouth College of Education, where he earned a Certificate of Education. Rumors that David chose Weymouth because of its proximity to the bird reserves at Radipole and Lodmoor (and only a bus ride from Portland Bill) may have more than a grain of truth to them. While at college, he met other birders who wanted to travel in search of birds, and so in 1974 he set off with four other students in a transit van overland to Turkey, where they spent three months birding from dawn to dusk. This culminated in a three-week sojourn atop the Camilça Hills in Istanbul, studying raptor migration. David used the data compiled to write the report that supported his teaching qualification in Weymouth college.
In the summer of 1976, David spent ten weeks in Trinidad and Tobago, acquiring a firm grounding in the Neotropical birds that he loves so much. While there, he found the first two Black-headed Gulls for South America. Returning to the UK, David was employed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds as a contract warden, first at Radipole Lake in Weymouth and then as a species protection warden in North Wales, where he watched over nesting Peregrines. In September 1977, he became a member of the RSPB’s full-time staff as Activities Organiser for the Young Ornithologists’ Club. Based at the RSPB’s headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire, David now had easy access to Norfolk, and quickly adopted the habit of spending most weekends at Cley-next-the-sea on the north Norfolk coast, one of Britain’s top birding locations.
In 1978 he was invited to join the council of the newly formed Ornithological Society of the Middle East, remaining a council member for 11 years and editing the society’s newsletter for the latter half of that period. While working for the RSPB, David spent his annual holidays overseas, mainly in pursuit of Western Palearctic birds, and his destinations included Mallorca, Spain, Morocco, the Canary Islands, and Israel; he also moved farther afield, visiting California and Arizona in 1980—a trip sadly inspired by the imminent demise of the California Condor. In 1979, David’s friend Mark Beaman helped a London travel company set up a new bird tour company called Sunbird, and Mark invited him to lead a tour to Greece in the spring of 1980. The tour went very well, and David was offered Sunbird’s first full-time staff leader post in March 1981. Tours to Morocco, Israel, Siberia and Mongolia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Kenya quickly followed, and by 1982 David was seldom at home. In the middle of that year, Sunbird was sold to WINGS, and David was appointed Sunbird’s Managing Director.
The following 30 years flashed by in a never-ending round of tours interspersed by office work. To date, David has led more than 180 tours to 35 countries on six continents, including 31 tours to Kenya, 27 to Australia, 18 to Venezuela, 12 to Argentina, and seven to Brazil. He has spent a total of more than three years birding South America and two years each in Africa and Australia. Besides his tour leading duties, David has also traveled widely privately, visiting 102 countries in search of birds; he has now enjoyed experiences with more than 8,600 species. David regards South America as the top bird continent, and he is currently chairman of the Neotropical Bird Club. However, he regards Kenya as the top single country for birds, and has been a member of the East African Rarities Committee since its inception in 1984; he now serves as that committee’s Chairman. David is also Chairman of the Seychelles Bird Records Committee and a past vice-Chairman of the British Ornithologists’ Club.
David retired as Sunbird’s Managing Director in 2001, but continues to serve as a director of the company and as a senior leader. He is now spending increasing amounts of time as a paying participant on Sunbird and WINGS tours, which he regards as just about the best way to travel the world in search of birds!
- Angola (August 2021)
Updated: April 2017