Book review: A Quest for Waders by Rick Simpson

MUCH of Britain's coastline accommodates plenty of shorebird species - especially at migration time and in winter - but they should never be taken for granted.

That is the message of the charity, Wader Quest, which campaigns vigorously to highlight the threats posed by most, if not all, of these endearing species from habitat loss, climate change, predation and much else.

At the organisation's helm is Rick Simpson whose varied working life in the past has included spells as a firefighter, a gardener, a security guard, an estate agent, an articulated lorry driver and a birding tours guide in Brazil.

Now based near Milton Keynes in the UK with his Brazilian wife, Elis, also a keen birder, his love of waders was initially sparked by his childhood encounter with a picture of a lapwing that so fascinated him that he decided it was a bird he had to see.

Much later, the focus of his fascination fell on what is perhaps an even more iconic species - the spoon-billed sandpiper of which the global population may now be fewer than 100 pairs.

Back in 2012, this was the top target species when Rick and decided to sell up and travel the world, seeking both to see as many shorebirds species as possible and to fund-raise for conservation of this varied and delightful group of birds.

That experience-packed trip is now the subject of an absorbing book, A Quest for Waders, which recounts the highs and lows of their travels.

Briskly written and bursting with amusing anecdotes and fascinating wader information, plus scores of superb illustrations, it makes for a compelling read.

Indeed, it as much a page-turner as any detective thriller.

Rick’s passion for his mission radiates from every page, no more so than when he and Elis share their thrilling first encounter with spoonies in Thailand.

But evidently the couple were almost equally thrilled with their first meetings with many more species including, in California, a motionless mountain plover which Rick (who has a suspicious mind) at first thought was a scam - a stuffed rarity nailed to the ground.

Taking up the story, he writes: "Fortunately for us, the bird both breathed and moved - indeed, it turned out there were several of them scattered liberally around the area.

"Hardly able to believe our luck, we watched gleefully as these busy birds tripped back and forth across the ground in short bursts."

A Quest for Waders is on sale, price £15 plus p&p, via the Wader Quest website,, with every penny of proceeds going to support wader conservation initiatives all over the world.