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BTO Announce the Loss of a Friend of all Birders?

Chris Mead 1940-2003

It is with great sadness that we must announce the sudden death of Chris Mead, who died quietly in his sleep last night (15/16 January 2003). For many people, the name of Chris Mead has been synonymous with the British Trust for Ornithology and he was still providing help and advice up until yesterday evening. His services to the Trust and his knowledge of migration in particular will be sorely missed. An appreciation of his contribution to the world of ornithology will appear in the January/February issue of BTO News and on their web site.The UKBN mailing group carried many messages of shock and sympathy today as Chris was a regular contributor and birders across the world will miss his input. The meat of his postings were as informative as his keyboard skills were abysmal! One UKBN poster mailed to the group: Chris Mead was a birding legend who will never be forgotten. I remember sending an off-beat message to the group about a bearded tit, and Chris replied I often get called that. That was typical of his humour and modesty, which we shall all remember along with his unrivalled knowledge. Another posted that he never had the pleasure of meeting him but corresponded with him and will always regard that as a privilege.Chris Mead was a professional ornithologist for almost 35 years, devoting much of this time to bird ringing (banding) with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in Britain and had been head of the UK`s National Ringing Scheme and, for ten years, Secretary General of the European umbrella organisation, EURING. In the late 1960`s he helped devise the first computerised system for ringing information. In 1996 was awarded the Union Medal by the British Ornithologists Union. His particular interests were migration and the understanding of bird populations, and his personal ringing work,involving many studies, included fieldwork on Sand Martins, Pied Flycatchers and common UK garden birds. He caught and ringed some 250,000 birds in 20 countries including Belize, much of Europe, Malaysia, Senegal, the USA and Zimbabwe.It will not just be British birders who will mourn his untimely demise? Next year`s British Bird Fair will be the poorer for not having him bustling around ever in demand. What a knowledgeable man, what a nice chap.Although retired Chris was such a brilliant populariser that he was often called upon by the media to make statements about birding issues of the day and he was just as quick to respond to more humble enquirers. Ordinary birders were given the information they needed with the same breadth of scope and gentle touch as were luminaries from the BBC and beyond.
He firmly believed that scientific work on birds should be conveyed not just to keen birdwatchers and academic ornithologists but also to those with just a passing interest in birds. To this end, he was Press Officer for the BTO and contributed regularly to many publications including Bird Watching, BBC Wildlife, and British Wildlife. He wrote or contributed to various books including Bird Ringing, Bird Migration, Robins, Owls and, most recently, The Atlas of Bird Migration. Fortunately Chris lived to see the completion of the Migration Atlas in it`s full glory, a milestone in ornithology owing a great deal to Chris. Chris Mead`s last book was The State of the Nations` Birds and there can be no greater monument to him than this legacy - he brought home the conservation needs of his beloved birds to millions of ordinary people.Those who met Chris, or just admired his writings and good humour are asked not to send flowers but contribute to a fund now being set up in his memory - contact the BTO for details.

4th July 2014