Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Thanks for the memories Ray

I have just heard the sad news that Ray Turley, avid Dungeness birder, has died whilst on holiday in Goa. If you didn't know him you might well have seen him - flowing grey hair, scrubby beard, dressed in camouflage during the winter and baggy shorts when it was summer. He recently spent a lot of time on the RSPB reserve, helping out with the visitors, last summer to be found taking out hopeful punters to observe the breeding Purple Herons.

I first met Ray at Dungeness in 1976. I was on my first visit to the shingle and was sea-watching when an exotic looking man turned up on a motorbike. He lay out on the beach alongside and sea watched with a passion and dedication that was at that time unknown to me. Another thing that singled him out from the rest was that he spoke into a small tape recorder, to keep note of his observations (although I don't think that I ever saw him use one again). Here was a birder that I wanted to be like - a free spirit and not conforming to the stereotypical birdwatcher.

I got to know him (and his lovely wife Janet) very well over the next few years and stayed with them in their Greatstone bungalow on quite a few occasions. They moved down from London to their beloved part of Kent in the late 1980s where he developed his artistic skills to become a highly proficient sculptor.

But Ray's habitat was the open shingle. To me, he will always be striding away in the distance, scope and tripod dangling from a strap by his side, looking up into the sky and sniffing for birds. Thanks for the memories Ray - there are plenty of us that have them.

6 comments:

  1. an absolutely top bloke ...time for every one & a little quirky without being eccentric ..he'll be missed !

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  2. Ray certainly was a living legend, and alike you Steve I first met him yonks ago at Dunge helping with the net rounds, chuckling at seawatches or stomping across the Scillies. Alike Pete Grant he was very much a feature of Dunge and another sad loss from this ageing birding community.
    Kent has lost another great bloke indeed
    Barry

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  3. I had the pleasure of spending many a day birding with Ray when I worked at Dungeness Bird Observatory. I am so sad and shocked that Ray has left us, he was a friend, a mentor and a truly unique person, who always had the ability to make me laugh. Ray and his lovely wife Janet were so kind to me whilst I worked at the obs. This is a very sad day.

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  4. Geoff: you're spot on with your comment.

    Barry: It's a sad fact that as each generation starts to leave us it makes us realise what we have lost.

    Andy: DBO will have lost another piece of its history and character. Happy memories of happy days remain though.

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  5. Ray was simply a birding legend, you always hoped he was at the seawatching patch as you approached because even if the birds were slow you knew you were going to be entertained, it was a pleasure to be in his company. His spirit will always live on, on that bit of beach, for years to come when birders go there collective thoughts will be of Ray.

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  6. I'm shocked and saddened, it only seems like yesterday I attended Ray's 40th Birthday party [in 1989] the summer I worked for the RSPB at Dungeness. Ray was a great guy, top birder and fun to be with. He'll be missed.

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