I've been interested in nature and conservation for as long as I can
remember (so, since I was about 5 years old). Between the ages of 6 and 9 I
pretty much refused to read fiction, I'd only read "fact books" about nature
and animals and science.)
I always had a passing interest in birds, like I did in animal, I knew what
a magpie and a magpie lark were, I knew the Singing, Brown and New Holland
honeyeaters and the differences between a Pacific Black Duck and a Wood
Duck, but it didn't extend hugely beyond that.
In late '03 I moved into a place right near Lake Monger and Herdsman in
Perth and started to pay a bit more attention to the birds on those lakes, I
figured birdwatching was the most worthwhile pastime because they were
easier to see than mammals (I was also under the mistaken impression that it
would be a cheap hobby!) I used BirdsofPerth.com to ID them and started
learning my basic waterfowl. Dad gave me an old pair of his Pentax
binoculars and I bought a Simpson & Day and I was off. Early '04 I started
attending BAWA walks and learned a heap more and became a lister, ticker and
a twitcher within my means (when I heard Freckled Duck had appeared on
Herdsman Lake I went straight down there and saw them, but even now I can't
afford to fly across the country on a whim).
I also gained a degree in Conservation Biology and now work for the
Department of Environment and Conservation. So for me, being one of the
younger set (I was 24 when I started seriously birding and am 27 now), it
started with conservation and moved onto birds being a specific interest.
With the older birdos it seems to work the other way around - which is
understandable, when you "oldies" were young environmental issues weren't
really at the forefront. You're lucky however that you've been in jobs that
actually pay well and can now sit back and enjoy the birding, unlike those
of us trying to make a living out of conservation work, which isn't the best
paying industry in the world.
As Kurtis mentioned, I'm ALWAYS birding as well. Every day I write a list
of everything I saw that day and often go out of my way to find a bird that
I should have seen that day but haven't yet. It makes every minute in the
great outdoors interesting.
I was also never a sporting type, but had the luck of going on a family
holiday (by car) at least once a year so I got to see most of the state,
which only bolstered my love of nature and desire to conserve it. School
and my peers had absolutely nothing to do with that for me, but I was one of
the weird ones with few friends. I was more content doing my own thing.