A tribute to Graham Rees

In 2005, Graham was presented with the Pembrokeshire Bird Group’s annual award for services to ornithology.

The late Stuart Devonald, fellow birdwatcher, school teacher, and occasional poet, wrote this tribute for the occasion.

The ‘ancient hostelry’ was the Hotel Mariners in Haverfordwest, where Graham and fellow birdwatchers spent many an evening discussing birds and other things, and where the Bird Group Annual Dinners were held.

There's a second World War shelter, in our County to the north 
There's the foaming white Atlantic against the cliffs below, 
In the Autumn you will find them there, keen birders is what I mean 
Crouched low over telescopes to see what can be seen. 

They sit there many hours and oft stare at empty seas 
They vary much in ages, and in birding expertise. 
They come from near, they come from far, of the action to get a piece 
And chief amongst these figures is one called Graham Rees. 

"Which one is he," awe-struck newcomers often ask, 
He's the bearded one with Leica and the largest coffee flask. 
Such is his dedication, that although he now may grumble 
He's put this headland on the map; the one that they call Strumble. 

And so it is in Autumn gales, 
It's the premier sea-watch point in Wales 
Some travel even through half the night 
To get there just before it's light. 

The tardy and the lie-abed, 
Get there when it's often said 
The best has gone. 
And oft so crowded is the shack, 
They are condemned to the very back. 

Passers-by come in and stare 
And wonder what they're doing there 
You can almost hear them think, Are they sane, 
To sit staring at the open main; 
They say they're birdwatching, but that can't be right 
There's not a single bird in sight. 

And when the talk is of Arctics, Bonxies and Poms with spoons 
They shy away from the set of loons. 
"l say," says one , "they must be barmy 
Perhaps it's some sort of secret Welsh army." 
"Don't be silly' , says another with sigh; 
Perhaps it's what they call an Eisteddfodau." 
With much muttering and shaking of heads 
They wend their way homewards and to their beds. 

Bonxie, twelve o'clock and not far out, 
From somewhere inside comes the shout 
This will cause the cynics to smile, 
Not far out, can mean many a mile 
And twelve o'clock as you will see, 
Can be from ten o'clock to half-past three. 

"There goes another Sooty', "Are you sure?" is the mumble, 
They turn as one and ask the man they all call Mr Strumble. 
"What was it Graham," comes the plea, 
"That's just flown low across the sea?" 

The lesser mortals sit and wait with bated breath, 
Is it to be confirmation or the chilling kiss of death. 
"Surely not another Sooty', comes the answer that they fear 
"Did you not see, it's a Balearic Shear." 
Graham has spoken and only the brave will contradict 
Note books are revised and most cross out what they've ticked. 

We are gathered here this evening in this ancient hostelry 
To acknowledge his achievements in Ornithology 
His contribution is enormous, in that there is no doubt 
But ask those who do not know him well and they will surely shout 
"Graham Rees?" You can hear their brain cells tumble 
"Isn't he the bearded one who oft resides at Strumble". 

But we who would claim to know him well 
Know that there is so much more to tell, 
When he's not sitting and staring at the ocean 
His is the driving force that has set in motion 
Tetrad surveys no less, so that it may come to pass 
In the fullness of time we have a new Atlas 
A new avifauna of our County, and of course 
It's bound to be a tour-de-force. 

As chief editor of the Bird Report 
He often can be heard to retort, 
"Information Technology, that doesn't make me tick 
What's wrong with scissors and my old Pritt Stick"; 
And we who spend hours cutting and pasting 
Wonder at the time we're wasting 
But he will insist that we must strive 
To produce hard copies for the archive. 

But it's that second World War shelter in our County to the north, 
Where I began this tale, and now must cease, 
It will forever be remembered 
As the haunt of Graham Rees.