West Coast Birdwatching is run by Dave Astins, who first visited Pembrokeshire in the early 1980s with his family and settled here for good in 1988.
“An early interest in birds”
My interest in birds began at an early age, and my first real birdwatching memory is a Brambling visiting our Sussex garden in the mid-1980s, although photos exist of me with a pair of binoculars at the tender age of four, over 10 years prior to that.
When I started studying for my A Levels in 1985 I discovered that one of my friends and classmates, Mashuq Ahmad, was also into birds, that was it – birding became my main hobby.
“Student days and a move to Wales”
1988 was the year things cranked up a notch: my family moved to Pembrokeshire in the summer, and in September I started my degree in Plymouth. No coincidence that Plymouth was a great place for a fledgling birder, and Pembrokeshire proved to be so too. After my degree I settled in Pembrokeshire and have been birding here ever since. Fair to say I have got to know it pretty well.
“An eye for a rarity”
A constant through all these years has been a love for the unusual, and after a few years chasing rare birds I focussed more and more on finding my own. Over 30 years later and my ‘self-found’ list for Pembrokeshire has some really unusual birds on it, including Black Scoter, Black Duck, Isabelline Wheatear, Greenish Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit, Caspian Tern, Laughing Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, American Golden Plover, Short-toed Lark and Icterine Warbler.
“The birth of West Coast Birdwatching”
Over all this time I got to know Pembrokeshire and where to find birds really well. I contributed to Birding in Pembrokeshire written by my good friends Jon Green and Owen Roberts. In 2014, I decided to allocate some of my spare time to guided trips, and in 2018 turned West Coast Birdwatching into a business after making the brave decision to leave Local Government. Things have evolved naturally, and I have taken on some survey work (with my partner Lisa) and also some consultancy linked to bird identification.
Although most of my guiding and birding is in Pembrokeshire, usually within walking distance of my home, I have travelled looking for birds to destinations including Morocco, Turkey, Cape Verde Islands, and North America.
Two locations have particularly impressed me: the Canary Islands and Oman, both of which I lead trips too in the winter months.