Brian Field 1962 – 2018
Brian’s serious birding in Cornwall started in 1980 when he left Northants to study at Plymouth Polytechnic. He soon developed a love for the county and its’ birds, and his friendly, generous and positive character quickly won him many friends in the West Country.
Together with a handful of other dedicated birders (who old timers called us the “Poly lads”), he was always out and about birding in the Plymouth area, often on the Cornish side of the border. Here, via the Cremyl ferry, he became a regular visitor to Millbrook, Rame and the estuaries around Torpoint and St John’s.
With the birding fraternity in the city expanding, Brian’s generosity towards younger newcomers – offering lifts, passing on news and information, helping with identification problems and organising things – earned him the nickname of “The Leader”.
It quickly became clear that just local birding wasn’t going to satisfy Brian’s wander-lust and very soon he was off on trips further afield. Scilly in particular, became a regular haunt, but the whole of Britain & Ireland was within limits for some crazy twitches! Somehow however, the pull of Cornwall was always there and trips to the legendary sites of the far South West – Porthgwarra, Hayle and St Just’s valleys always brought him back. Seawatching at Pendeen and St Ives also featured heavily on the agenda.
It was during one of his Scillies trips that Brian decided it would be possible to feed an exceptionally tame Upland Sandpiper. Armed with a tasty-looking worm, he advanced. The assembled group of birders watched with baited breath to see whether the bird would actually take it from him. Imagine their surprise when the approaching bird was offered the worm, not from his hand, but from his mouth, and plucked it clean from between his lips!
Brian was very well-connected across the country. Long before the days of web-based news services and mobile phones, he was at the centre of the “grapevine”. He’d always know someone to ring and get information on the latest rarity or directions for top sites on the next birding trip.
Cornwall provided some early memorable rarities – Britain’s first Varied Thrush & Chimney Swifts to name but two, and Land’s End airfield was the launch pad for a rickety charter flight to successfully twitch the Magnolia Warbler on Scilly.
Brian’s reputation for finding rare birds in Cornwall was growing too e.g. Wilson’s Petrel at St Ives in 1983 when it was still an extreme rarity and Blackpoll Warbler at Porthgwarra in 1988. He never lost his touch and in recent years added Red-eyed Vireo at Porthgwarra, plus Purple Heron and Hoopoe in his garden – the latter from the window while he was in the shower!
Brian’s foreign birding trips were many & varied. He visited all the continents of the world, Antarctica being his favourite, and saw over 6,800 species (around 65% of the world’s birds).
It was on his travels, that Brian met Petroushka who became his beloved wife. Married near their home in Plymouth, no-one was surprised when they moved west to Brian’s favourite county of Cornwall. Here they settled quickly, first in an old farm house near Drift Reservoir and later close to Truro in a property with grounds that they were managing as a mini nature reserve. Brian soon became a popular and respected figure in the county’s birding scene.
He was employed to undertake an RSPB survey of the breeding birds on Bodmin Moor. This enhanced our understanding of the most important area for breeding waders and upland birds in Cornwall and helped focus associated conservation work. As generous as ever, he was also a major contributor to the Cornwall Birdwatching & Preservation Society’s hide at Chapel Amble and regularly contributed records and recent sightings to the Society’s reports and website.
Brian’s love of photography never waned and he developed an envious reputation for taking great wildlife shots. His many superb images, also submitted to the Society’s, and other websites, remain testimony to this.
There was much more to Brian than birds – a successful business-man, a fluent Spanish speaker, an enthusiast for fast cars and a dedicated husband and step father. But it is for his passion for birding and his love of Cornwall that he’ll be best remembered by many.
Brian died suddenly following a heart attack at Porthgwarra where he was seawatching – pursuing his big passion, birding in his beloved Cornwall. There is no doubt that the county’s birding scene will be the poorer for his passing and he will be badly missed.
Pete Aley, November 2018