James Champion 1963

I was born in 1963, and from a very young age became interested in wildlife – perhaps I was indoctrinated by my father, but if so, it certainly worked.  Unlike most toddlers, one of the first words I could say was Metamandana dido, a tropical butterfly whose picture I had seen, hotly followed by Hutnatch, my private version of Nuthatch!

JWSC at an early age!

Much of this early fascination came from collecting Brooke-Bond tea cards, one of which came in each packet of tea, and our family consumption must have been significantly boosted by my desire to complete such series as British Butterflies, Tropical Butterflies, Wildlife in Danger, African Wildlife and Asian Wildlife.  There were 50 cards in each series, and these were then stuck into beautifully produced and highly educational albums.  I still have my entire collection!

Brooke Bond tea card albums

The card showing Metamandana dido

But it was not just the cards that inspired me – coming from a long line of naturalist Champions, the desire to observe and learn more about many different aspects of wildlife was doubtless in the genes.  I grew up surrounded by the amazing portraits of Indian animals taken by my pioneering wildlife photographer grandfather F W Champion.  Shortly after his death in 1970, I inherited his extensive collection of Indian butterflies, and I have been working on these and other old collections I have been bequeathed since then, setting, identifying and cataloguing these beautiful insects, most of which look as fresh and bright as if they had been caught yesterday.  Collecting butterflies is of course not to be recommended today, but it must be remembered that these specimens are already long dead, and it would be a pity if they had died in vain!

Family bird- and butterfly-watching holidays, first in the Algarve in 1972, followed by Corfu in 1973, Slovenia in 1974, Andalucia in 1975 and many more finally sealed my passion, and ever since then I have been travelling the World in search of unusual creatures.  A one-year spell in Ecuador, three years in Japan, six months in Australia and New Zealand, six months in Costa Rica and many other shorter periods elsewhere have given me the opportunity to observe wildlife in five continents, and to familiarise myself with many different species and habitats around the World.

I am currently resident in the Netherlands, where I lecture in English for Radboud in’to Languages, the language training arm of the Radboud University Nijmegen, as well as for Wageningen University.  In my spare time I am usually to be found searching the natural areas of the Netherlands, Belgium, Northern France and Germany for birds, butterflies, and more recently dragonflies, my new passion.  I started dragonfly-watching and photographing in 2009, and have up till now managed to locate 48 of the approximately 70 species of dragonfly and damselfly in the Netherlands.

A Golden-ringed Dragonfly on my father's finger

Coming from a family with a long and remarkable history in the study of nature and wildlife, and growing up surrounded by the diaries, specimens and photographs collected over the years by my great grandfather, my grandfather, my father and many other family members, I am very conscious of their legacy, and in 2006 I began my quest to follow in the footsteps of my naturalist forebears, with an amazing journey to the haunts of my grandfather, F W Champion, in the areas of Northern India he and my grandmother loved so much, visiting and where possible photographing the very same scenes as he had captured 70 years or more before (please see the F W Champion page).

As a sequel to this, I am planning to follow in the footsteps of my great-grandfather, George Charles Champion, in Central America, later in 2011 (please see the G C Champion page).

JWSC with sister Julia and mother behind, c1967