About Fat Birder
R A Crombet-Beolens (b.1949) – known to all as Bo Beolens, the Fat Birder just about remembers post war rationing… so my loving for all things tasty probably stems from the shortages of Fifties Britain. That alone is not entirely responsible for my appropriate sobriquet. I am by misfortune disabled, (a form of arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis which has curved my spine, fused my joints and made walking painful and sometimes impossible). I am also, by disposition, indolent. The combination of these factors with my propensity to consume copious quantities of curry, cake and (since giving up smoking in 1998) xtra strong mints 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, where I was introduced to birding and the world of nature 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 (pun inevitable) by birding. The pursuit of sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll – well 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).
After graduating from Middlesex University, I lived and worked in Scotland, Lancashire, Buckinghamshire and London pursuing a career as the Director of various charities before moving back to the county of my youth (1995). I later (1999) moved to Margate – go any further southeast and you develop a French accent – and have been discovering the joys of working a small coastal patch since then.
I haven’t twitched for years and now limit overseas travel although still hope to do so every couple of years (it’s a real quandary whether to help the environment by not flying or by encouraging ‘green’ tourism). I have birded in the past (under my own direction and usually just with the company of my wife Maggie who loves birding in exotic places but has a morbid fear of spiders), but sometimes leading groups of disabled birders – in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Canada, USA (Florida and Texas), Sri Lanka, India, Gambia, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, 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 had 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls) in age order Matthew, Julia, Suki and Ashley, all grew 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 fatbirder. However, most of our grandchildren have not yet become birders. Only my namesake ‘Bo’ is, at fourteen years old, is pretty keen on birds but even more keen on bugs! I am working on Jade but, at 30, while fauna 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 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 it’s possible to recycle. She rests in a beautiful green cemetery that will one day be woodland. In her memory we set up the Suki Woodland Memorial Trust which created a miniature orchard in her old junior school.
Fatbirder website is my 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, Anytime Tours offers to put together overseas trips to couples and small groups. I also operate a site which ranks its member birding sites by the amount of traffic they get Birding Top 1000 that has over 1250 members. You can also read my past articles on another of my sites Grumpy Old Birder (if you didn’t get to read them in Birdwatching Magazine (UK).
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 ( 2015). My latest sole effort was 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. The Eponym Dictionary of Odonata (2018). My most recent mammoth project (c.700,000 words) is the (probably 2-volume) Eponym Dictionary of Fishes (2023). I am combining most of them into an Eponym Dictionary of Vertebrates (1.25 millions words!
Over the last few years I’ve found insects, wildflowers, fungi and all can be as challenging and fun as watching birds. But, it’s has always been the tranquillity of the wild world I’ve enjoyed over and above any particular aspect of nature.
On 1st June 2023 my World Life list stood at 2715, my UK list at a poor 377 and my County (Kent) list a pleasing 310.
These days I spend time as a charity trustee being treasurer of Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust