Thursday, 26 June 2014

CK and P Dunkley

Mr and Mrs CK and P Dunkley most probably don't mean that much to you. You may have never heard of them. But if you were to pick up any Surrey Bird Report from the 1960s and 1970s you would find their initials written all over the systematic list. They were avid patch birders.

What I now have to tell you is a tale of my callow youth, in not knowing how things really were and in my having a misplaced sense of importance - for, in the mid 1970s, I came across the Dunkleys and dismissed them as irrelevant to my birding world. Let me explain…

As a teenage birder, with little money and no car, I travelled to the better birding destinations by way of begging lifts or going on organized trips. The latter option was, I'm ashamed to say, considered beneath me, as I had to sit on a coach with 'dude' birders, mostly old and mostly not 'proper' exponents of birding. You can now see what an arrogant little shit I was. The Surrey Bird Club ran such trips and these seemed to be largely organized and lead by Mr and Mrs Dunkley. They appeared to me to be ancient, certainly of retirement age. Mr Dunkley was balding, with a shock of white hair at the back of his head and, rather strikingly, he wore an eye patch. I'm sad to say that as for Mrs. Dunkley I cannot remember a single thing about her, other than she was 'old'.

I could not take these people seriously - after all, they weren't young go-getting birders, they most probably weren't terribly good in the field and they couldn't possibly compete with such young guns as myself.  Therefore I selfishly took for granted their organization of and leading of these trips, as well as looking upon these outings as something to endure to get to places such as Minsmere and Stodmarsh. I doubt if I even spoke to the couple.

Fast forward thirty years. By then I'd grown up (well, maybe a bit I like to think). If Mr and Mrs Dunkley were still alive then they were very old indeed. And I had come to revere these same people. Why? Well, in my 'second coming' of being a largely sedentary and local birder, I had spent quite a bit of time researching the local ornithological record, trawling through Surrey Bird Reports for data from northern Surrey, particularly Banstead, Epsom and Walton-on-the-Hill. And what I found was a wealth of information courtesy of - you've guessed it - CK and P Dunkley. Lots of population estimates, large flock counts, earliest and latest dates, scarce migrants - they were obviously out in the field an awful lot, doing good birding, adding useful data to the archives at the same time that I was scratching my backside trying to look cool and being 'Billy Big Ticks'.

So, rather belatedly, this is my public apology to dismissing Mr and Mrs Dunkley as lightweights, as being an irrelevance and of not being worth my while in getting to know. How wrong can you be?What a smug little tit was I? They are the type of birder that I now aspire to becoming.  I do wonder what became of them. If they are still alive then they must have each had a telegram from the Queen. But they are remembered by this fool of a birder for all of the right reasons, as being tireless field ornithologists, selfless organizers of trips and willing to accept that a spotty long-haired birder, who came along on some of their outings, but didn't have the courtesy to speak to them, just didn't know any better.

2 comments:

  1. Blimey, that sounds just like me when I was a shaggy haired oick back in the day cadging lifts with me oppo Mutley Clark on Watford RSPB coach trips to the coast and slagging the olds off for being `dudes` just because we`d hitched to Cley and crashed in the barn at the back of Walsey Hills, roughed it a bit and found a few rarities. What dickheads we must`ve been with our farting and carrying on. Its only later on in life when you start organising trips yourself that you realise what stalwarts those old folk were; and as you rightly state some of `em were damn good local patchers and all round naturalists. So don't beat yourself up Steve, as I know exactly where you`re coming from. The arrogance of youth a...

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    1. We were a right couple of herberts... just older versions now!

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