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Thursday, 7 March 2013

LESTER MULFORD meets the end of the line

When I first got into twitching in the early 1970's, one of the first 'teams' that John White and I first came across was that lead by Tony Smith. There were about eight members of this 'band' around this time and LESTER MULFORD was an integral part of it. The team 'operated' out of West London, Tony with his Ealing connections and Lester his Feltham. Other members included Pete Smith, Ralph Hobbs, John East,  John Williamson, 'Surf City', 'Collocks' and Wayne Borras, and amongst their remit was to visit every pub in the land featuring a bird name in its title. Both Tony and Lester instilled their interests from their early LNHS days in the 1960's, quickly relocating from Dungeness to Portland Bill as there favoured weekend haunt. Lester quickly fell in love with Portland Bill and for 30 years or more, the entire batallion would be partially resident in the Observatory (particularly during the Mike Rogers period). Lester also held Staines Reservoirs as his 'local patch' and it would be both of these localities that I would see him on often a weekly basis. Workwise he spent years at British Airways, where his priveleged travel passes would frequently take him on global birding trips, Kenya and its Guinness Breweries being a particular favourite. Latterly, Thailand took his favour - and he married there - and spawned at least one toddler.

Lester loved birding - he lived and breathed it - and even after a serious motorbike accident in the 1980's was up-and-running after a short time and bagging Wheatears and other spring migrants. Like me, he loved Scilly - and never missed a year between 1966 and 2002. Tregarthen's then became his local and on many an occasion, I would be running through the arches on the Garrison on route for a rare to be faced with Lester and a Guinness in his hand asking me what had just turned up. Like many of his ilk, he was a true British birding character, the likes of which will never be replaced. Although he never joined the twitching jetset, prepared to 'cheque book' birds at any cost, he did finally achieve his goal, scoring his 500th UK-only species in 2009 (Ireland was never in his remit). He was a lovely man, very compassionate, caring, trusting and kind - and doting to the end to his mum, whom sadly died at the age of 102 in 2009. After that, Lester moved to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire to be closer to Tony and Liz in Holt. I very rarely saw him after that. Another huge loss and a gaping hole in my history. Goodbye Lester.