Birda Stories

The Bright Side

Warrington, UK

Clare Inkster

Amid her demanding role as a Consultant Ophthalmologist, Clare copes with undiagnosed ADHD, Sjogren’s syndrome, family duties, and the loss of her mother. Birdwatching becomes her solace, offering a focus for her unique thinking. Inspired by the optimism of her mother’s mantra, amid birds, Clare searches for a path to balance…

Words by: Clare Inkster

Soaring and calling above the hospital, a Swift interrupts Clare’s busy day. Her mind still buzzing from her last few surgeries and paperwork, she smiles. Her thoughts seem to evaporate as the bird glides overhead.

Being a leading Ophthalmologists with a variety of regional and national responsibilities comes with its difficulties; between the challenges of ADHD, the pain and fatigue of physical illness, raising her family and grieving the loss of her mother, Clare’s path has had obstacles. When she does get moments of respite, she takes a deep breath, grabs her binoculars and walks to her local nature reserve.

...the patient is often awake during these long operations so we usually chat. Birding has definitely come up in conversation with patients!

“I was bored easily at school. I’d hide in cupboards for entire lessons and I wouldn’t do my homework. Once, I even sat on a friend’s shoulders dressed in a huge trench coat and then fell over the teacher’s desk! We got told off that day… I managed to do really well in exams because I could memorise, but it all makes sense now I’ve got my ADHD diagnosis.

“As an adult, ADHD has been a blessing and a curse. My mind definitely works differently from other people’s. I have had to learn how to harness it and deliver my ideas – because delivery is not my natural happy place. I realised that if I didn’t start making an effort to complete and finish the projects I’d started, then there would be no point in having all these grand ideas.

Clare and a fellow doctor in Uganda

“Work is one of my greatest achievements. I wasn’t focused enough on any one specific thing when I was a kid. I was very distractible, but when I’m at work, I go into hyper-focus and I lose track of time. I think 5 minutes have passed when it’s actually been an hour! Operating on eyelids and the lacrimal system is tricky, but the patient is often awake during these long operations so we usually chat. Birding has definitely come up in conversation with patients! I even received a lovely birding book once as a thank you gift which had been authored by the patient.

“One thing I’m not good at is sticking to a hobby. I fixate on something then move onto the next project. Birdwatching is the one hobby I’ve stuck with, but then again, I’ve always been fascinated by birds. As a child, my dad took me to lots of nature reserves and I’ve had amazing experiences in bird-hides chatting to incredible people. Birds have meant so much to me and my family, especially my mum and dad.

Clare and her father at Fowlshore Moss Nature Reserve

Keeping her memory alive...

“There’s a tiny hide across the valley from where my father lives. It’s called Park End Moss. We sat down there a few weeks ago. We must have spent an hour there and didn’t see much, but then suddenly, I saw this little thing scurry in front of the hide. I’d been hoping for weeks that I’d see this bird and there it was, a Water Rail! It was great to get my first picture!

Asked about her mum, Clare’s voice breaks and she pauses for a moment. After shifting in her chair, she continues.

Clare's mother and father

“Always look on the bright side,” that’s what my mother always said. Even though she was ill, she used to tell us that a lot. She was a very optimistic person, but when she died in 2016, it rocked my family, especially my dad. The Cumbrian Wildilfe Trust helped us keep mum close; you can get these plaques in the shape of a leaf as a little dedication. We chose to put it in the Osprey hide at Foulshaw Moss, so whenever we visit, my mum is there.

“Always look on the bright side,” Clare says – a smile on her face.

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