It is with great sadness to learn that Graham Rees or "Mr Strumble" has passed away. This article is a celebration of his life and commitment to ornithology in Wales. Today, we hear tribute from Cliff Benson and the Pembrokeshire Bird Group committee.
Oh yes, he was Mr Strumble, but he was so much more…
In the several thousands of hours I spent at his side at the lookout I learned something of his past. I think the family moved to Southampton during the war his father working in the Naval Shipyards. As a boy he learned his birding trade cycling around the New Forest, in those days a birders paradise where birds like Red Backed Shrike and Wryneck were then common.
National Service sent him to Catterick where he was soon out and about getting acquainted with the birds of north Yorkshire and then North Africa with the Army, which he seemed to consider to be something of an inconvenience taking him away from the New Forest.
He and other like-minded birders gelled together into what was known as the Portsmouth Group in the 1950’s, true innovators bonded with the desire to thoroughly explore their area and to properly record what they found. And as well as recording the commoner species, they had some great finds.
So many, too many to name all, such a tribute to the influence of one man and his ability to pull people together in a common goal. We shared some amazing times, I would pop round and see him at home, getting kippered by both his and his wife Linda’s smoke! He never gave up the ciggies, “Too late now” he would croak. We would talk of Strumble highlights. The birds, the friends and company, listening to test match special on calm unproductive days… frustration and elation.
So Graham made 84 at close of play, not quite a century but what an amazing innings! He was my Guru and my inspiration.
-- Cliff Benson
It is with considerable sadness that the Pembrokeshire Bird Group learned that Graham Rees “Mr Strumble” had passed away.
Graham’s name will always be synonymous with “Strumble Head” having spent many years, days and hours patiently observing and recording the remarkable avian passage that occurs there. His observations of common scoter passing Strumble, for example, provided useful pointers to the timing and numbers of these birds likely to be present in Carmarthen Bay. In a separate account, Cliff Benson of Sea Trust Wales, and for many years a close friend of Graham’s, has paid his own personal tribute. Many other Strumblers have also made their own tributes.
Graham was, among many things, a founder member of the Welsh Ornithological Society (WOS), the Welsh Rarities Advisory Group and a past Chairman of WOS. He was a recipient of a WOS Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to ornithology in Wales.
Amongst Graham’s important achievements was the establishment, in 1993, of the Pembrokeshire Bird Group (a section of the Wildlife Trust) and the organisation of two county-wide breeding bird surveys. The first (1984-88) was published in Birds of Pembrokeshire (1994) for which Graham was joint author with Jack Donovan. The second atlas, about 20 years later (2003-07), was published by the Pembrokeshire Bird Group in 2009.
He was incredibly supportive in the production of an on-line “Pembrokeshire Avifauna” and made major contributions to it - delving into his notebooks and diaries etc to update accounts about species migration patterns and so on. These included analyses of seabird passage records for a number of species observed from his beloved “Strumble”.
He also wrote an excellent article about the Strumble story, based on a presentation that he gave at the 2005 Pembrokeshire Bird Conference.
Graham’s legacy – a lifetime of diligently recording and translating what he saw - will hopefully enthuse and inspire others to do the same.
-- Bob Haycock
Chairman, Pembrokeshire Bird Group committee