Starting with BB. For me the most important influence on my life. Classic Poacher turned Gamekeeper, he like Peter Scott and others realised the world was fast changing, and conservation was the future. He did great work on the Purple Emperor butterfly, although these days his methods would be condemned. But in his time, a great conservationist.
I was a member of the Mammal Society in the 1980's and bought many a learned pamphlet. Mustelids (Otters, Badgers and so on) are my real interest, particularly Otters as for a few years I surveyed, trained up volunteers and just generally became obsessed, during the dark days when an Otter sighting became national news. Wonderfully today they're back with a vengeance.
To really understand Wildlife, one needs to understand fully, the history of land use, especially in a country like the UK, where every piece of countryside is man made and managed, underlying geology, and therefore soils, hydro-graphic principles, aspect, and so on. The list is endless. But those books above have provided me with so quality reading. Oliver Rackams History of the Countryside is a must, as is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, which while this didn't kick off the conservation movement per se, brought the mess of the post war years and poisoning of the land, to the public attention.
And these are just great reads, though I must admit, looking at my Otter books, I have too many really, I must have bought everything that came out. Mind you these Helm guides (on the right), although dated are still valuable tools.
Which brings me to my final story. I made a complete prat of myself years ago. I was at a Mammal Society Conference in Leeds, and was honoured to be having lunch with Ernest Neal, the undisputed Badger Man. Being a spotty overly enthusiastic 20 year old, I blurted out to a companion as a way of introduction, "this is the great Ernest Neal, you know the badger man, writes books and everything, he's great [sic]". To his credit, a reserved and true gentleman, he never batted an eyelid, but I could tell what he thought about me. But the lunch went off splendidly, and despite my gaff, I am truly grateful that for that short time at least, I was in the company of a great man.
Maybe one day I'll tell you about my first meeting with Sir David Attenborough, and how I nearly knocked him down the stairs.... but that's for another day.