Martin started out as a birder in early childhood by explaining differences between grebes and ducks to his family members and by witnessing an impressive influx of Bohemian Waxwings into his native Switzerland in the mid-1960s. He was finally hooked to birding in the mid-1970s by observing a wonderfully singing male Common Redstart on the top of a spruce tree under a deep blue spring sky. Engagement in a local bird protection society opened his eyes for conservation issues. Long days in the field provided him already as a youngster with good knowledge about the birds of Switzerland – from its lowlands all the way up to the high alpine habitats. A first escape by bike towards the Mediterranean Sea at the age of 16 considerably widened the number of observed species. Soon he got infected by the travel virus and started exploring Europe – from Gibraltar to Istanbul and from Italy to Norway.
Guided by the interest in all forms of life, the decision to study biology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology was easy. After he got his masters degree in ecology, further studies of cellular biology followed and were concluded by a PhD thesis in virology, applying various techniques of microscopy. Moving on to Austin, Texas, for a postdoctoral fellowship, not only unleashed his cowboy soul and his love for loud Rock’n’roll and Texas music, but Martin also started to discover the fascinating birds of another continent. This nourished his wish to continue to explore the world of birds in other places.
Back home from Texas, Martin got the chance to start working at the Swiss Ornithological Institute, where he works to this day. There, Martin first participated in projects protecting farmland birds and studying red listed species. The work involving the capture of kestrels with bal-chatri traps provoked his nickname “Enzo Balchatri”. Nowadays he is involved with bird monitoring in Switzerland and he works together with his colleagues on the new Swiss Breeding Bird Atlas project.
The information of the great public about birds and nature protection takes a big part of Martin’s spare time, whereby he especially likes to open the eyes of youngsters to the beauty of nature. Continued travelling led him in the meantime to explore many more countries and their birds and thus his list of birded countries now stands at 57 on 5 continents and his life list has passed 3,000 species. As long as there are birds in all colours and shapes, wild places to explore, plenty of adventures to be had and nice new birding friends around, Martin is a happy birder. Bird racing involves all of this – and – when he can contribute to sponsoring bird protection by doing it – how lucky a Swiss Sempach Snowfinch is he!