Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tasmanian Birding Stalwart Dies

On Thursday 28th July, following a protracted illness, Dr. W.(Bill) C. Wakefield died. Many people in the northern suburbs of Hobart will remember him as their local GP, but probably didn't know of his passionate interest in birds. In recent years, Mainland birders would have met him on one of the many seabird trips that he organised or participated in, out of Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula.

Although our paths rarely crossed in recent years, for over 40 years I've always considered Bill a close friend. I and my family still have fond memories of our holidays at Coles Bay that we shared with both his and Mike Newman's family. Of Bill, Mike and myself pushing his "tinnie" across Moulting Lagoon on an extremely hot day, probably wondering why we were doing it, only to find a small flock of waders that included both a Little and Long-toed Stint, both first records for the state! Of the wee drop (or two) of Glenfiddich that he produced to round off the day.

I first met Bill at Bird Observer's meetings (forerunner to Birds Tasmania), but got to know him better during the heady days of the Tasmanian Shorebirds Study Group in the 70s, when the group started cannon netting gulls and waders. Our enthusiasm sometimes got the better of us as I recall the pair of us using a small cannon net on Lauderdale Beach to catch and band Silver Gulls. I assumed he had the necessary "authority" by way of permits, and he assumed I had--suffice to say that neither of us had! I also recall that he insisted on continuing long after dark, and we could only read the band numbers by the light cast from a neighbouring petrol station.

I have many other memories of course, and they all illustrate Bill's great enthusiasm and care about Tasmania's birds. I, and I'm sure many others, will miss him. My condolences go to his wife, Els, and his three sons, Gavin, Andrew and David.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Alan, certainly a sad day, not only for Bill's family, but also for the whole Tasmanian birding community. Bill was well known and well loved. My experience with Bill was through Birds Tas, he took me banding with him on one of the Islands off Bruny, I have never forgotten the mass of Kelp gull chicks every step you took and the noise they made, I could not handle it but Bill took it in his stride. Another fond memory was a trip we took to Legana and Bill came across a Tiger Snake, Bill went straight down onto his stomach, not a metre away from this 5ft angry looking snake to take video of it.Everyone else was running away but not Bill. He will be sadly missed.