The Bodrum Birdman, Brian Stoneman dies in England
The Bodrum Birdman, Brian Stoneman dies in England
Friends, acquaintances and birdwatchers in Bodrum and around Turkey, were deeply saddened to learn that former Güvercinlik/Bodrum resident Brian Stoneman died in Romford, England on Friday 16 January.
His wife Allyson told close friends that he died peacefully at home after battling lung cancer and emphysema. One of his last messages was ‘Let people in Bodrum know’, not forgetting his friends who, though separated by distance, had been following his battle in the hope that they would see him again on a visit to Bodrum and to his beloved Tuzla wetlands.
Brian was one of the ‘unsung heroes’, as Birdlife International called the world network of volunteers, on its website in December 2008. He was one of the dedicated volunteer birdwatchers who compile their observations and birdcounts over the years; ‘Rigorous data that is absolutely crucial to the international organisations’ monitoring status of species, and the threats to their habitats, populations and sites.’
The burly, jovial Brian was a regular sight around Tuzla wetlands and its hinterland as he drove his landrover around on his mission - to count the many birds and identify their species in a comprehensive years long survey. He was not limited to Tuzla though, but ranged around the Bodrum Peninsula, particularly at Dereköy valley when the villagers asked for help in documenting the natural biological wealth there in their fight against the planned construction of a solid waste plant. He went on regular observation trips to Bafa Lake, the Menderes Delta, Cennet and Karagöl lakes, and even up to Dilek National Park from where he came once with a funny but hair-raising tale of soaking wet illegal refugees popping up out of the bushes.
He kept his birdcount spreadsheets meticulously with the weather and other observations, and in the last few years e-mailed them out to his ever expanding group of volunteers and friends who were invited, wheedled and cajoled into going out for the early morning starts for birdcounting. He took many interested visitors out too, tourists who were refered to him or had heard about him, or like-minded birdwatchers while in the area. He was also competitive enough to be intensely proud of turning in some of the highest number of observations to the Kuşbank bird observations databank (Doğa Derneği Kuş Bankası)
He also did his best (sometimes with other conservationists but often alone) to stem the tide of habitat destruction particularly around Tuzla. The long battle against the golf courses started over ten years ago. He could not understand how development could be allowed in a protected area and sometimes got frustrated, angry and disillusioned. But he rejoiced when his work helped raise the official status of Tuzla and neighbouring areas to IBA (Important Bird Area).
Keith Ward said “Some people have asked who will take over counting the birds and I reply that since he left last spring no-one has. I am not sure that anyone else can, because I think he was unique. He had the 4 wheel drive vehicle to get to the most remarkable places; good telescope; good reference books; time and patience, but above all great observation skills, memory and enthusiasm. I never ceased to be amazed at Brian’s combination of skills and enthusiasm that would find him standing out in the pouring rain and/or freezing cold wind seeing, identifying and counting birds, then shouting the type and number to us (usually in the warm and dry in the van) to write down. He needed to use his inhaler more and more and it was obvious that his lungs were giving him greater problems but still he carried on.”
Terry Glaysher of Yalıkavak said ‘As Brian discovered when he asked me to join him for a day when they were doing the Europewide count last year, I can barely tell a flamingo from a wren, but it would be good to come together (for a memorial birdwatch) with Brian’s many friends at a place and for a purpose that was so special to Brian. Besides I might even be able to bring along my virgin copy of Collin’s Bird Guide, a late Christmas present to myself, which arrived only last week from Amazon, and which is aimed at making me slightly less of an embarassment to my dear friend Brian.
I must admit I am finding it hard to take in the fact that Brian has gone. I can’t quite grasp that I am not going to answer the phone to hear his unmistakable “ello Tel!”, knowing that I am about to hear of the latest triumph in his current cause, or as often as not, chatted into lending a hand with something.
There was never a need for him to say who was calling but that was so special about him - everyone seemed to know him. They may not have been lucky enough to have met him but all it took was a mention of “Birdman Brian” and everyone knew who you were talking about.’
“’Ere - I need some counters” he would say as he dropped into the Bodrum Observer office for his copy of the latest issue of the local English language newspaper. We were never a good source of volunteers ourselves, but usually suggested others for the honour. It was always cheering to have him and/or Allyson in there with the latest news from the bird world, tales of their latest bird rescue or his requests to translate something for his educational notices for the kids, or a letter to officials. Feryal Ceviköz who helped Brian with the translations and phonecalls said ‘ Brian was one of the nicest people I have ever met. I count myself fortunate to have known him”.
He figured in the newspaper often. He was the subject of the front page photograph and source for the article in the paper’s second issue when the full disaster of Bird Flu was hitting Turkey in late January 2006. Brian was very alarmed by the misinformation and hysteria in the Turkish press at the time, that was leading to some calling for measures as extreme as a complete cull of all wild birds near domestic birds. The fate of Tuzla’s remarkable population of overwintering migratory waterbirds seemed to hang in the balance. With the Bodrum Observer team, he organised members of the the local Turkish press and national agencies to visit Tuzla with information and photos to counter the hysteria, giving the fledgling paper a valuable voice in the confusion. We were deeply grateful to him for sharing his passion.
Terry wrote, ‘ No-one could fail to be impressed by Brian’s extraordinary knowledge of local bird life and by his boundless enthusiasm for his subject. Brian wore his expertise lightly and modestly but he had this great gift of sweeping you along with his energy and committment. It did not matter whether he was talking to “officialdom” about problems of conservation at Tuzla, working with the Jandarma to prevent illegal hunting, taking out groups of young school children to see the beauty of local birdlife for themselves, or talking to people like me who suffer from a sort of dyslexia when it comes to identifying birds, people warmed to Brian instantly and were drawn into his enthusiasm because he was so passionate about wildlife and the environment in general, and of course birds in particular.
He worked with the national Doğa Derneği to get authorities to start a restoration project of the old saltworks building in Tuzla lake, converting it into a permanent bird observation and education centre. Unfortunately the work has been suspended.
He and Alyson also had a steady stream of birds that were injured or ill sent to their home, where they patiently fed them and took them to Ahmet Kurt, one of Bodrum’s sympathetic vets for their treatment.
Vera Parker, a Bodrum resident, said “Brian was one HUGE man with a heart to match. I will miss him so much. He was one of the first English people I met when I first came out here. He arrived here only a few weeks before me. We became instant friends and remained so for the rest of his life.”
Brian has a family in UK; a son, daughter and grandchildren. He went to the UK alone 2 years ago and on his return told Vera how he had spent a day in the park with his grandchildren. “I believe it would have been a day that would remain in his heart for ever.” She said.
Terry: “Those who were lucky enough to count Brian as a friend have lost someone very special in our lives; but we share our loss with the local birdlife and wildlife of Bodrum peninsula for who Brian was a tireless and irreplaceable champion.”
Compiled with contributions from Terry Glaysher, Yuksel and Keith Ward, Angela Andersen, Vera Parker, and Chris Drum Berkaya.
“What are those little brown bobbing ones, Brian?” “ Chiffchaff, (patiently)..count them all”.
Posted on 29 Jan 2009 by chris