Waggonwaybreen, Spitsbergen

Tour Leader Spotlight: Richard Bashford

Andy Tucker
By Andy Tucker
General Manager
9th December 2020
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Richard has been leading Naturetrek tours for over 20 years! He has a relaxed style of leadership, always keen to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves as much as possible, while working hard behind the scenes to keep the tour running smoothly. His involvement with the RSPB’s high-profile campaigns such as Big Garden Birdwatch regularly leads to appearances on TV and radio, in which he promotes wildlife-watching and discusses conservation issues. I have good memories of leading our Coto Doñana and Extremadura tour with Richard back in April 2000, and it was good to catch up with him here:

When and how did your interest in wildlife begin?

Like most children, growing up in the 1970s, the outdoors was the place to play, catching sticklebacks and frogs in the stream at the back of my house. But I think it was probably the Spotted Flycatchers in my garden when I was about 10 which first hooked me. What was this bird perching on the fence, flying up to catch an insect and returning to the same perch?  I eventually worked out what it was and then realised Spotted Flycatchers were breeding in the wisteria on the house. A real treat to watch throughout the summer.


Richard in Spitsbergen

When and where was your first tour leading assignment for Naturetrek?

Jordan in 1997. I’d been lucky enough to take part in an ornithological expedition in 1994, which coincided with the visit of Jordan expert, Ian Andrews, who was adding the finishing touches to his book. We had visited many of the key sites in this incredible country. Ian had put together a couple of tours for Naturetrek but could only do one of them himself. He suggested I contact David Mills to offer my services. It was an amazing trip – found a first for the Western Palearctic too – Pygmy Cotton Goose!


Spotted Flycatcher


Wadi Rum, Jordan


Cotton Pygmy Goose

What is, or was, your ‘day job’?

My day job is at RSPB HQ. I’ve only ever worked here and the BTO – so a bird/conservation focus to my career. I’ve done a range of things but in recent years I’ve been working on activities raising awareness about wildlife and the need to conserve it. I really love working with the public and sharing my enthusiasm for nature – probably why tour leading appeals to me.

What other interests do you have outside of wildlife?

I’m a big music fan. I have very broad tastes but one of the best things right now is seeing live music with my teenage daughter who loves the same music as me! It might not last forever, but right now, it’s brilliant. I try and keep fit by cycling – something I can combine with natural history. The reality for my wife Katie and me is that we’re parents to two teenagers, so that also keeps us busy!

What current conservation projects or issues most interest or concern you?

I’m excited by projects which put something back, recreating lost habitat – the RSPB has had considerable success in this area – Lakenheath Fen and Wallasea Island. I hope we see more of this in years to come. It’s only possible through the fantastic support RSPB and other organisations get from supporters.

Do you have a favourite bird, mammal or plant?

Hard questions – I like wheatears, shrikes and woodpeckers. I’ve enjoyed a few trips to Central America recently, and some of the woodpeckers are amazing. But if push came to shove, best bird in the world – Hawfinch. I thought I’d missed the chance to see one in my home county of Bedfordshire but thanks to the influx in 2005/6, and a visit to a traditional site where they used to breed, I managed to find a small flock – perhaps the single most rewarding bird sighting for me. So good to see. I also love whales (who doesn’t?) and having just been to the amazing Spitsbergen, seeing Polar Bear and Walrus up close and personal, I did miss Beluga. I think I should ask to do that trip again…?




Polar Bear



What is your most memorable wildlife encounter to date?

Seeing a Great White Shark in South Africa with my son last year was pretty memorable. We were under the water, in a cage and it swam straight towards us, mouth open! It was almost too much to take in at the time. It took a few seconds to sink in and then we surfaced and “whooped” for joy!

What do you enjoy most about leading wildlife tours?

I get excited about seeing amazing wildlife – obviously! But I think it is the joy I hope my clients get when we see something by surprise or something we’ve been looking for. This makes me try really hard, getting my ‘scope on whatever it is and ushering the group to look through it! It’s brilliant seeing the joy. I think if you don’t enjoy that, you probably shouldn’t be a tour leader!

What new destination would you most like to travel to next?

Working for Naturetrek has provided me with so many opportunities and I have several places planned in the next couple of years. In terms of unplanned most wanted destinations – I think Alaska and the islands. Seeing all those amazing seabirds and sea mammals would be amazing. I’ve also got my eye on a few South American countries having only dipped my toes in the southern neotropics.

What are you reading at the moment?

I love a few authors a lot – Iain Banks, Ian McEwan, Robert Harris – I think I’ve read nearly everything they’ve published. But I can go for weeks without reading a book. I nearly always take a book on tour with me, although I’m not sure I ever get to read much, except on the plane!

Which three people would you invite to dinner?

This is a hard one! Alan Bennett, Robin Williams and Kate Bush. I think the conversation would flow pretty well…

Upcoming tours with Richard Bashford...

  • 16 Apr - 30 Apr 2020
    Availability Only 2 left


  • 28 Oct - 10 Nov 2020
    Availability Yes


  • 04 Dec - 11 Dec 2020
    Availability Yes