When Ukraine was not at war, Montague Velkin lived in a small city in the Mykolaiv province. He took trips with his family, explored the birds species around him and enjoyed taking photographs of wildlife and nature, but when in February of 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine, everything changed.
Before the war, people went about their lives in Ukraine. They hugged their loved ones, went to work, and came home at the end of the day; and as the sun set, the promise of a tomorrow would peek up from behind the horizon. Now, Ukraine has a different story – one of war. The already year long conflict has affected thousands of people. Many of whom have had to leave everything behind; their homes, their livelihood, their families. Montague Velkin is one of the many who managed to leave the country. He, like many others, looks back on fond memories of his homeland, of a father that he lost and of the birds that kept him company.
“Originally, I’m from Kiyv in Ukraine, but we moved to the South of the country, to a small city next to a big river, Pivdenniy Buh in the Mykolaiv area. Our city is located in a Steppe habitat; a large grassland, which attracts a lot of birdlife!
“I have always been interested in birds, ever since I was very young. Some of my favourite places back home are areas I’ve done birdwatching in; the local lake, where I’ve seen Coots and Grebes, and my local parks to watch Woodpeckers and Jays. I was inspired by these birds and learnt about them from The Science Encyclopedia of Birds.
The old, the lost and the new...
“My Dad and I would often take trips to photograph nature together, but sadly he is no longer with us. I take his camera and binoculars with me on all of my bird walks now because it reminds me of him. One of our favourite spots was on the river, which is such a beautiful place. There is a huge colony of nesting bee-eaters on a large slope with clay walls.
“We have family holidays and traditions just like everyone else. Since 2017, we’d set up our tents in the same spot by the Black Sea. My whole family would join, we’d ride bikes, drive boats, fish in the sea and take photographs. We use this time to distract ourselves from all the problems we face as there’s something about being in nature which is really relaxing. I treasure those memories and the time we spent on holiday
“Because of the war in Ukraine, I moved and now I live in the UK. I brought my Dad’s camera and binoculars with me. Now, when I walk I go wherever my feet take me; usually ending up somewhere with birds.
“When I’m out birding, I turn away from people and my worries, to be alone with nature. I enjoy the solitude and solace as birdwatching is such a personal hobby and reminds me of my family and my country. I found Birda recently and the wonderful community of a huge group of people who I can talk with about my hobby.
“I can’t bring back the old days of my family’s tradition; riding bicycles or driving our inflatable boat, heading out with our cameras or fishing in the sea, but I’ll always be interested in birds, wherever the world takes me.”
Find more amazing pictures from Montague on his instagram here.