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Origins of this site

The uk.rec.birdwatching newsgroup was created in the autumn of 1995, mainly as a reaction to the dominance of rec.birds by American birders.

I started following uk.r.b early in 1997. I followed the equivalent Dutch group, nl.vogels.vogelaar, as well (by then I had already lived in the Netherlands for several years), but it was soon clear that the UK group had much more to offer both in terms of information and entertainment.

It became noticeable that certain questions cropped up quite regularly and it was suggested more than once that we needed a FAQ. At one point someone, who shall remain nameless (mainly because I can't actually remember his name), even offered to produce one. He did indicate that he would like assistance from the group, and I started collecting material that might be of some use. However, said person then vanished without trace.

Early in 1999, following our umpteenth discussion of field guides, I again suggested that we needed a FAQ. James Cracknell (then one of the uk.r.b stalwarts and also editor of the UK Birdnet FAQ) commented to me that I ought to be the one to write it. I responded that it would be pretty strange for a birder based in the Netherlands to produce a FAQ for uk.r.b. However I started looking at what I'd already got, dug a few things out of Deja-news (as it then was – now the Google Usenet archive) and added some bits of my own. I offered it to the group to see if people thought it worth having, and the response was so enthusiastic – there must have been more than a dozen people who offered encouragement and suggestions – that there was no backing out.

At first I just posted the FAQ to the group every couple of weeks, updating it every month or so. However I then started getting frequent enquiries if it was also available on the Web. I spent some time rather fruitlessly looking for tools to help me maintain a Usenet version and a Web version from the same master file. Eventually, during a miserably wet weekend when I had intended to be out birding, I bit the bullet and produced a Web version using nothing more sophisticated than Notepad. (I now usually use NoteTab by the way.)

The Web version went live in July 2000. As I suspected, maintaining both Usenet and Web versions became rather a chore, so I stopped the Usenet posts in November 2000, to concentrate on the Web site.

So that's how the uk.rec.birdwatching FAQ came to be written by someone who lives in the Netherlands.

Since then the site has gradually grown, with articles both by myself and contributed by others. Indeed it has now reached over 40 pages - where on earth did they all come from? ;-) The number of visitors has also grown, from around 100 a month in the beginning, to over 25000 a month now (for the whole site, not just the uk.r.b pages).

In the course of putting together this site I gradually realised that an awful lot of web authors were in need of assistance when it came to producing properly structured web pages. I started a “Web Matters” subsite covering some topics in this area. Several of them have in fact since overtaken the uk.r.b pages in popularity. The whole site is now well over 150 pages.

The most visited uk.r.b pages (excluding index pages) are:

  1. Scientific bird names explained
  2. The main FAQ
  3. How long do birds live?