british-birds,-march-2022

A cracking issue of British Birds this month (as almost every month) with an attractive Common Scoter on the cover alerting the reader to a fascinating paper (Metcalf, Bradnum, Dunning and Lees) inside describing overland nocturnal migration of this duck across Britain revealed partly by the new nocmig technology. Aren’t birds brilliant? It’s almost time to stand outside in the dark hoping you will hear the beating of wings and the sound of calling scoters – or maybe set up a microphone and watch the TV instead, and check your recording in the morning.

But a part of my enthusiasm for birding comes from the friends and colleagues I have met through it, or with whom I have shared those special moments in the field. This issue features two obituaries of people I knew quite well, written by two people I know quite well. Duncan McNiven writes of our colleague Mike Everett (1941-2021), a long-term, very long-term, RSPB member of staff whose career spanned the early days from the 1960s right through to the much larger corporate entity of recent years. Cricketer, communicator, raconteur and birder, Mike was a source of sensible information and great anecdotes. He turned his capable hands to many roles in the RSPB but in this tender obituary I learned for the first time that he had once been described by a famous actress as ‘the most devastatingly handsome man I have ever set eyes upon’.

Euan Dunn writes of Mike Wilson (1941-2022) who was a linguist and birder with great experience of and knowledge of birds in the former Soviet Union. If you have ever read any of the Birds of the Western Palearctic‘s last seven massive volumes then you have almost certainly read the fruits of Mike’s scholarship and ability to condense information clearly and accurately. He wrote hundreds of species accounts for BWP mostly on behaviour, voice and movements. I remember Mike occupying one end of a table in the Alexander Library in the Zoology Department in Oxford, with papers spread around him. He always had a word for a younger ornithologist and they would always be words of wisdom and help. All will echo Euan’s memory of Mike as a ‘modest, kind, caring and diligent man of great integrity’.

This issue also sees the last News and Comment to be written by Adrian Pitches, the part of BB to which I always turn very early after its arrival. News and Comment is a window onto birding and ornithological news, and Adrian has been a totally reliable chronicler of events in that period with a great eye for what is both interesting and important and a great skill for putting the right words on the page. Having written 245 of these features, monthly since late 2001, he has done a shift and will be very difficult to replace, but if you’d like to step up then BB is looking. Thank you Adrian for such a huge contribution to documenting the changing face of ornithology and birding for over two decades – top job!

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