On Monday 16th I was returning from the dales of
Durham and called in for
the second time recently to a friends house; Stuart Ayre. I approached the gate
and noted it was open, the lock was not in place and I found this most odd. The
garden bird feeders had gone and the house was empty. I left a note to say ‘Foghorn
was here’, it was a small note asking how Stuart was getting on as he had
recently received an operation to remove pancreatic cancer. As I walked back
down the path and out of the gate I uttered the words that were going through
my mind; my suspicions were confirmed yesterday evening when my Mum received a phone
call from Stuarts fairly long time partner to inform me of the sad news that on
the morning of the 01 April Stuart died in his home. My Mum informed me of the
news and told me what Stuart’s partner had told her, she said she did not want
to speak to me in case I got upset about it. I am/was upset as Stuart was a
good friend to me the few years that I knew him.
I met Stuart on the 20th of May 2009, I remember the day as I was out on Waldridge Fell looking for Cuckoo. I met Stuart on the reserve and found he was also a member of the DBC (Durham Bird Club), the next day I went with Stuart up to Langdon Beck to see my first ever Black Grouse (that is how I remember the date). I shared many good times with Stuart, a memorable trip to
with Stuart, Andrew, and Derek C (The Finch) where I had numerous lifers and
enjoyed seeing the Trumpeter Finch
at Blakeney Point, male Red-backed
Shrike at Cley, and most of the breckland specialities. I enjoyed a superb
evening down on the North Tees Marshes with Stuart; adding Whiskered Tern and White-rumped
Sandpiper to my British List within 5 minutes of arrival. I enjoyed just
general days out birding with Stuart and assisted him with his BTO tetrad
squares. However perhaps the most memorable experience I shared with Stuart was
the Eastern Crowned Warbler at Trow
Quarry, without Stuart I would not have seen the bird. I could not drive at the
time and so I went with Stuart after college on that tense Friday afternoon and
enjoyed superb views of the bird in both the bins and scope. That was a great
day and I shared the experience with many birdwatchers, the rarity magnitude of
the species is what stood out for me.
Stuart was a true legend; he didn’t act his age, he always had time for me, he helped me grow in my passion for birding, and so much more. An all round great guy! I will really miss Stuart and knowing that I will never see him or bird with him again really does give me a lump in my throat, although we did not go out birding during 2011 we were still good friends and kept in touch.
Stuart certainly enjoyed life and lived it to the very full, so I will finish with some lyrics from one of my favourite old time classics, these particular lyrics fit in very well I feel:
Well it's all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it's all right, if you live the life you please
Well it's all right, doing the best you can
Well it's all right, as long as you lend a hand
Thanks for lending a hand in my birding so far Stuart. So this blog post is dedicated to you Stuart, many happy memories of birding time spent together will ALWAYS be remembered.
Me and Stuart
A one from the early days when I had my brace on. Taken at Cow Green Reservoir, Durham.