MARTIN GARNER

Neil Glenn fondly re­mem­bers one of the great bird­ing minds, and en­thu­si­asts, of our time ARTIN GARNER’S

Bird Watching (UK) - - News Wire - COM­PILED BY: KIRK PAR­SONS

Mdeath in Jan­uary sent shock waves through the global bird­watch­ing fam­ily. He had been bat­tling can­cer for two years, and had very pub­licly shared his last months via heart-break­ing ( but up­lift­ing) video blogs. The news of his death aged 52, on 29th Jan­uary still shocked bird­ers all over the world. I had the priv­i­lege to spend time in the field with this unique bird­ing tal­ent, and I will at­tempt to paint a pic­ture of this ex­tra­or­di­nary man. I first clapped eyes on Martin Garner in March 2011. He was stand­ing in an un­re­mark­able Le­ices­ter­shire car park on a very cold morn­ing sur­rounded by an en­thralled crowd of bird­watch­ers, pick­ing over the wing of a large gull. Wow, I thought, here’s a man who can even make gulls seem in­ter­est­ing! The event was the start of Gull Mas­ter­class at Al­bert Vil­lage, Le­ics, or­gan­ised by LROS. I knew of Martin Garner, of course – he of Fron­tiers in Bird­ing, the ground-break­ing book en­cour­ag­ing, nay chal­leng­ing, read­ers to get out in the field around Bri­tain and find so-called im­pos­si­ble birds such as Com­mon Gallinule, Yelk­ouan Shear­wa­ter and fe­male Green-winged Teal – but meet­ing him in the flesh was not as I had ex­pected. He was the com­plete op­po­site of the dour, geeky, stand- off­ish sort so of­ten en­coun­tered when meet­ing an ex­pert-in-his-field face to face. Martin put ev­ery­one in­stantly at ease – whether they were begin­ner, im­prover or spe­cial­ist. Fast for­ward a few years and I am wait­ing at the gate to board a plane to Is­rael for the spring bird fes­ti­val in Ei­lat. Martin and I had been in­vited on a press trip to wit­ness mi­gra­tion at one of the world’s fly­ways hotspots. Sud­denly, there’s a smil­ing face next to me: “You must be Neil. We’re go­ing on an ad­ven­ture to­gether; glad to have you along!” The en­su­ing week was a crazy, bird-filled, sleep- de­prived, laugh­ter-drenched, ed­u­ca­tional haze of un­fa­mil­iar feath­ers and new friends. Mem­o­ries of the trip are many, but it was my trips with Martin that par­tic­u­larly stand out. The ‘Garn­er­meis­ter’ and I were stay­ing in a ho­tel a few hun­dred yards from the main fes­ti­val base. I re­mem­ber as if it were this morn­ing, step­ping out into the unin­spir­ing­ly­man­i­cured ho­tel gar­den. Martin im­me­di­ately spot­ted a Ficedula Fly­catcher, which turned out to be my first lifer of the trip: Semi-col­lared. BOOM! It took us nearly 90 min­utes to walk the 500 yards to the fes­ti­val! Quails were run­ning along the ac­cess road and perch­ing on walls in full view; we tracked, but failed to nail down, a pos­si­ble east­ern River War­bler in the flower bed; Martin pa­tiently ex­plained how the fe­male Sub­alpine War­bler I pointed out to him was ac­tu­ally an ‘East­ern’ Whitethroat and why it should be split. He said that magic

Martin put ev­ery­one in­stantly at ease – whether they were begin­ner, im­prover or spe­cial­ist

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