Saturday, 16 September 2017

Obituary - Richard Hunt

It is with a great deal of sadness that we report the death of Richard Hunt. Richard was known to very many of us and even if you didn’t know him, you probably went to see a bird he had found.

Richard Hunt sat in an abandoned chair enjoying a Great Grey Owl
deep in the forest in Finland, 2014
He had a stroke over twenty five years ago leaving him partially paralysed and after that, he walked with difficulty and only with the aid of a stick. He did not let this stop him. He would still get there – just at a slower pace.

He was a dedicated patchworker with a local patch list in excess of 200 for the strip of coast nearest Kingston Seymour and the seawatching point of Ladye Bay, Clevedon. His patch finds included two firsts for the county – Desert Wheatear and Upland Sandpiper – as well as Bee-eater and many others. That Upland Sandpiper was certainly the most twitched away from the Scillies. He liaised with the local landowners for parking arrangements and put up signs in the lanes to manage the twitch. He cared about other people.

Upland Sandpiper, found by Richard in 2005
on his local patch. The first in the UK
He added 150 species to his British List after his stroke and this was a massive testament to his dedication and determination. A major landmark for him was the first of those 150 – the Sora on the Scillies in October 1991. He had travelled to the Scillies with his trike. The trike, with an adaptation for his scope, allowed him to bird his patch around the lanes and seawall of Kingston Seymour and to get around St Mary’s. He was a very familiar sight in both locations.

Two years after his return to the Scillies, he first tackled the inter-island boats again travelling to Tresco for Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Hermit Thrush in 1993. At this stage, more generally, he was twitching by public transport with for instance the Pine Bunting at Dagenham Chase being tackled by coach, tube and bus and also when twitching by car, he often travelled in the company of Richard Mielcarek.

With many other Clevedon and Somerset birders, I was lucky to have seen a number of his finds and to have had the pleasure of his company over countless hours and a fair few twitches. The last twitch that we shared was for the Siberian Accentor at Easington last autumn and by then, his BOU British List was well into the 490’s. Many others will vouch for his excellent company, his astonishingly positive outlook and his tremendous cheerfulness.

He suffered many additional health challenges in the last twenty five years but constantly bounced back until this last time, His first twitch only a few weeks after one of a number of major heart operations was the Trumpeter Finch at Landguard in 2005. He was a keen footballer in his younger years and a Liverpool supporter. As we pulled off the motorway into Clevedon on our return, I think that he was as happy as I was as Patrick Vieira slotted home for a Man Utd loss in the FA Cup Final.

With many of the Clevedon and other local birders, I was also lucky enough to have travelled abroad with him on many occasions and tallying those up now – Ireland, Latvia, Mainland Spain, Canaries, Italy, France, Finland (twice), Norway, Bulgaria, Morocco (twice), Israel and Turkey – as well as his additional trips on Plymouth Santander ferries and to Latvia and Israel with others that I missed, it is no surprise that his Western Palearctic list was over 650.

Occasionally in life, you meet people who you know have more determination and drive than you and who are quite simply better people. Richard was one of those and he will be sadly missed by his children – Vicki and Steve – and quite simply everyone who had the pleasure to have met him – particularly his usual cafĂ© group of Howard, Bob, Jason & Jim.

All the very best mate from all of us

Paul Chapman