Well done Owen with your 'first' report. It is well written and interesting to read.
Your photos are fabulous, and the thing is you will never get the same birds on the same day no matter where you go. You will learn the species with lots of practice, and outings to areas that specfic birds are.
Like you, I have worked all of my life in an engineering job, and like you enjoy birding as a hobby in my spare time. There is no comparison at all. Working hard means to me you play hard too!
I have to say that birding is a type of hobby anyone of any age can enjoy. Love to see a Bluetail and a Cardinal from your neck of the woods anytime.