Friday, 3 July 2009

Barry James RIP

Barry James in typical 'thumbs-up' pose shortly after seeing a Thrush Nightingale in the hand at Spurn, 29th May 2008.
Photo: Jeff Howarth.

Barry James, an incredibly popular birder on the East Lancashire birding scene finally succumbed to cancer after a brave fight, mid-afternoon of 29th June 2009.

Today was Barry's funeral, held at the Carleton Crematorium, Skipton.

It was an exceptionally well attended and moving celebration of his life. Testimony to the popularity of Barry was the fact that 50% of those attending had to stand outside the Chapel, including a good number of east lancs birders.

I remember very well the first time I had the pleasure of meeting Barry. It was at Fishmoor Reservoir on 31st October 1995 and the American Golden Plover twitch. From the moment we got talking, Barry instantly came across as a most genuine, likeable chap with a great sense of humour and it was the start of a birding friendship that was to last almost fourteen years.

Indeed, my one regret is not having the pleasure of knowing Barry much, much longer.

Birders who knew him, myself included, always used to gravitate towards Barry when he appeared at a twitch, such was his popularity on the birding scene. Future twitches will be all the poorer without his presence both locally and nationally.

For me one of the most 'feared' sights in twitching upon arriving at the site of a rare bird was that of a triumphant Barry James coming the other way, already with the tick in the bag, a huge grin on his face, giving the big thumbs-up. This meant the pressure was on to see the bird, or risk being 'gripped-off' forever by Barry!!

I fondly remember one of Barry's favourite excuses for having to leave a twitch was for him to say to me "i'll have to go, i've got a pie in th'oven". From this a bit of banter emerged between him and me in which I used to text him that i'd left his favourite pie atop the Pendle trig point, in a bid to entice him to go up looking for Dotterel in spring! - It didn't wash with him, but Barry needed no enticing to ascend Pendle in his annual pursuit of an east lancashire Dotterel.

One of my favourite birding memories with Barry was when He and I were wildlife watching in general at Cross of Greet in Bowland. Parked at the bottom car parking area, we were just about to leave in separate cars when we spotted a large raptor flying directly away at the top of the valley. We both looked at each other and shouted "Osprey!" in each others faces. What followed was an almost suicidal drive in convoy up the winding road of White Greet and over the top to Whitray Fell where we intercepted the Osprey as it did a close flypast. A magic birding moment shared with Barry which i will never forget.

God bless you Barry. It was a true pleasure to have known you and I know that I speak on behalf of every birder on the east lancashire birding scene.

Above: Barry watching a Red-necked Phalarope at Loch Mor, Benbecular, 19th May 2008. Photo: Gareth Morgan.

Below: Barry, Outer Hebrides, May 2008. Photo: John Metcalfe.

A link to a tribute thread for Barry on the ELOC forum can be viewed via this link: