Ian James Ferguson-Lees (1929–2017)

Published on 04 September 2017 in Obituaries

(This text complements the obituary of James Ferguson Lees published in British Birds in September 2017, Brit. Birds 110: 540–546).

Ian James Ferguson-Lees (IJF-L) was born on 8th January 1929 in San Remo, Italy – where his Scottish father, Dr James Ferguson Lees CBE, CM, MD, and English mother, Mrs Dorothy Ferguson Lees, were living at the time. After qualifying at Glasgow University, his father had begun his medical career as an army doctor during the Second Boer War 1899–1902, but in 1925, at the early age of 53, had been forced by ill health and heart problems to retire from the Egyptian Government Service, where he had reached the seniority of Director-General of Public Health and also acted periodically as Under-Secretary of State. Until then a confirmed bachelor, he had intended to spend his remaining days staying at Mediterranean hotels, but in the very next year, 1926, he met and married Dorothy Newton, who was on the Grand Tour of Italy with her parents from Burstow, Surrey. What follows is expanded from IJF-L’s entry in Who’s Who in Ornithology[18, also 22] and, among many other sources, includes data from his father’s entries in the relevant editions of Who’s Who and Who Was Who.

This narrative opening is followed in Sections A–F by summarised detail of positions held, international conferences co-organised, mainly foreign expeditions (with lists of colleagues), selected publications, awards, and general references. Superscript numbers are used as cross-refs: four digits show years of personal publications (chronologically in D) and one/two digits show other references (alphabetically in F).

The 1930s and 1940s

The family stayed for a further six months in northwest Italy before moving to southern France (Fréjus and, later, Saint-Jean-de-Luz), and then returned in 1934 to the UK, living at first in Bude, Cornwall, where father James died in January 1935, a fortnight short of his 63rd birthday. IJF-L, now six, went to prep schools in Weybridge and Stevenage when the aim was that he would eventually attend Winchester College as a boarder, but WW2 intervened and he opted to go instead to Bedford, where he entered the Upper School at 12 and the Sixth Forms at 14; by the time he was 16, thanks to a very understanding Head Master, Humphrey Grose-Hodge, he had permission to break almost every School rule if the study of birds was the reason. For example, on Sundays he would sometimes cycle to Ecton sewage-farm, Northamptonshire, or even camp there overnight: this now largely obsolete but extensive area of settling basins and drying ponds in series on each side of a wide central track was a renowned habitat for migrant waders and waterbirds. Other birdwatchers whom he not infrequently met there included BW (Bernard) Tucker, one of the editors of Witherby’s Handbook,[24] who used to come by train and bicycle from Oxford. As a result of these meetings, Tucker and his wife, Gladys, later invited IJF-L to accompany them for a week to Scotland’s Speyside, where, apart from many ‘new’ birds, he also met Desmond Nethersole-Thompson.

IJF-L left Bedford in spring 1946, and began teaching in autumn 1947 at the first of two prep schools, but, with the backing of Tucker and Dr David Lack, he was offered a place at Oxford University (through St Catherine’s College, then St Catherine’s Society) to read zoology – on condition that he first spent a year raising chemistry and physics to matriculation level. He began this task in Brighton, but in July 1947 married his first wife, Esmé Woodhouse, younger daughter of Lionel Woodhouse, author of The Butterfly Fauna of Ceylon[25] – a sumptuous publication ahead of its time – and, perforce, returned to teaching. That was not, however, destined to be his calling.

Bernard Tucker, who had edited British Birds (BB) since HF Witherby’s death in 1943, himself died of cancer in December 1949, before his 50th birthday. EM (Max) Nicholson was asked to take over as Senior Editor, while JD (Duncan) Wood, an assistant master at Leighton Park School, Reading, who had been appointed Assistant Editor by Tucker only in the year he died, continued in that position until the middle of 1952, when he left to take a post in Geneva, and IJF-L was invited to succeed him as Assistant Editor of BB.[1] For two years he combined this task with teaching, as had Duncan Wood, but the double burden proved too heavy and, after a minor breakdown, he gave up teaching and, with a small salary and part-time secretarial assistance, continued on BB, now as Executive Editor.

After he had left school in the spring of 1946, IJF-L had lived for a while in Pease Pottage, Sussex, by the London–Brighton road, and then nearby at Handcross with his first wife. Apart from commuting to Brighton for the science courses, he learnt to control a vehicle on snow and ice by driving a baker’s delivery van on a very rural circuit through the Sussex countryside during the unusually prolonged hard winter of 1946/47. (This was a miserable period as not only were some WW2 rationings still in force, but now even bread had been added to the list.) Apart from accepting an invitation from James Fisher to join an Edinburgh University expedition to St Kilda in July 1948[1949] – his supposed excuse being to celebrate the birth of his first son two months earlier! – family duties and the Brighton commute left him little time to develop his interest in natural history, originally encouraged by his mother from the age of 8. That had crystallised, as it did for many boys in the 1930s and 1940s, into collecting one egg (usually no more) of each species – which was of course later forbidden by the Protection of Birds Act 1954, but a number of older keen ornithologists had similarly begun in this way before that.

When he first moved to Sussex, however, IJF-L had contacted John Walpole-Bond, author of the then standard work on the birds of that county,[23] and in the late 1940s and early 1950s spent many hours in the field with him, particularly searching for the nests of such scarcer species as Hobby Falco subbuteo, Peregrine F. peregrinus, Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio, Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia, Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris and Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus, some of which are no longer found there. By then over 70, Walpole-Bond was an expert nest-finder and a former collector, but it was accepted by him that no eggs must ever be taken from any nests which they found together, nor the localities divulged to others. (IJF-L learnt much about nest-finding in this period, which later led to his being invited by Dr Bruce Campbell to join in producing a nest guide,[1972] which was later completely revised, updated and far more fully illustrated, now in full colour, by IJF-L, Richard Castell and Dave Leech.[2011])

James Ferguson-Lees with a Lammergeier chick, at Cazorla, Spain, in 1959. James Ferguson-Lees family collection

The 1950s and 1960s

Meanwhile, it had become necessary to increase earnings and in 1949 IJF-L was also offered a part-time job at a small horticultural station in Tilgate Forest, Sussex, whose director, Frank M Wyatt, had personal interests in conifers and in growing exotic orchids. Conifers happened to be fruiting abundantly in 1950 and in that autumn Wyatt and IJF-L together climbed, with permission, to collect fruiting branches of a wide range of species and varieties on estates across southern Britain, the resulting large exhibit at the Royal Horticultural Society winning for them not only a gold medal, but also the Holford Medal for the year’s best amateur exhibit.[10] The RHS later replaced the latter with the Lawrence Medal for the best exhibit of 1951, including most categories of professional displays as well; this Lawrence Medal remained in IJF-L’s possession for the rest of his life.

After this beginning, the 1950s brought a series of life-changing opportunities. In 1951, with the Oxford University offer shelved, four generations of the family, now including two small children and IJF-L’s mother and grandmother, moved to Crowhurst, East Sussex, buying Fordlands, a sizeable house on the downs above Hastings (and destined to become in the following year the editorial address for BB). Significantly, it was set in 0.8 ha of well-tended garden comprising assorted lawns, hedges, shrubs and trees, as well as a large vegetable plot and a tennis court, all of which together proved to hold annually the nests of eight or nine ‘pairs’ of Dunnocks Prunella modularis. In such a manicured and discrete habitat, the nests were easy to find, and the adults equally easy to trap, colour-ring and watch; nestlings were also weighed daily (which, incidentally, inhibited the normal ‘explosion’ of the brood in the last 2–3 days before fledging). One alpha male ranged over the whole area and was seen to mate with several females; all the other, less aggressive, males were loosely tied to their own parts of the garden, though even then two swapped mates between first and second broods. These data and other observations were discussed at the time with Dr DW (David) Snow, and particularly Derek Goodwin when he came for a weekend, but their analysis was never completed, let alone published, and was later overtaken by much larger studies: for example, Davies (1992),[3] where many other references are listed.

The move to Crowhurst fired another, very different, investigation. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a coastal semi-circle of eastern Sussex, with a radius of 32 km centred on Hastings and extending into westernmost Kent, had produced supposed records of well over 500 vagrant birds, mostly claimed as ‘shot’ or ‘obtained’ locally. Doubts had for long been rumoured about the provenance of many of these, and IJF-L had inherited old BB files of relevant correspondence from Witherby, Tucker and others. This historical fraud was to become known as the Hastings Rarities affair. Crowhurst was among some 16 hinterland villages to which more than 70 of these rarities had been attributed; in its case a Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius and, far more unlikely, a pair of American Belted Kingfishers Ceryle alcyon were among later ‘records’ from 1916 onwards which had not been accepted by Witherby once correspondence between him and the local taxidermist involved, George Bristow, proved unsatisfactory. A full investigation by Nicholson and IJF-L,[1962] listing all the then known ‘records’, and an independent statistical analysis by Professor JA (John) Nelder FRS[15] were published in BB. These led, in that August (in what is often known in journalism as the ‘Silly Season’!), to dramatic press headlines which, for some time afterwards, gave the subject a spurious (inter)national importance. That was perpetuated by an ill-argued counterblast from Dr James M Harrison,[7] who had known Bristow and some of the others involved at the time, but his main points were not difficult to dismiss, and various subsequent contributions and reassessments, most recently by Professor JJD (Jeremy) Greenwood,[5] have largely supported the original hypotheses and analyses. (See also [11])

The year 1955 was of particular interest also for two exceptional nesting events in East Sussex, in both of which IJF-L was closely involved: one was what seems still to have been the last recorded British nest of Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus, found with three eggs at Rye Harbour; and the other was the first record of successful breeding of Bee-eaters Merops apiaster in Britain and Ireland. Two of three pairs of Bee-eaters reared a total of seven young at a working sandpit near Street, where the third nest had unfortunately been cut into before the little colony was found.[1956] This was one of the earliest exercises by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in handling large numbers of the public who were keen to see these rare birds: a total of more than a thousand people was successfully marshalled through without interrupting the feeding adults.

But by 1955, with two of now three children at primary-school age, the problem of their education raised its head. After much discussion, it was decided to sell Fordlands and return to Bedford so that all the children could go to the Harpur Trust schools there (as had both parents). A house large enough for the four generations was found with the help of the family’s former GP, Dr George Metcalfe, himself a birdwatcher. At that time Bedford was not in any way a centre of British ornithology or conservation; what was then known as the Beds & Hunts Naturalists’ Trust (BHNT) was being formed, and IJF-L joined the planning committee for that, as well as the local natural-history society. Significantly, he also represented BHNT as Chairman of a working group to discuss with other interested parties the possibilities of coexistence of various interests at the newly developed Grafham Water (Section A, below).

The 1960s, however, brought national changes when, in 1961, the headquarters of the RSPB moved from London to Sandy, only 14 km east of Bedford, followed at the end of 1962 by the decision of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to combine its London and Oxford offices in Tring, Hertfordshire, only 56 km SSW. Both organisations were far smaller then and, with the BB office now at the right-angled corner of a triangle involving these other two centres, it was perhaps inevitable that IJF-L – who had joined both societies in the mid-1940s – would gradually become more and more involved with each. He was being regularly consulted on particular matters, was then invited to join the Councils of both bodies, and eventually rose to be elected President and Chairman of the BTO and, at different times, Chairman of the Conservation and Education Committees of the RSPB, the staff of which he later joined for two years as what, under Peter Conder, was at the time titled its Deputy Director (Conservation) and is now upgraded to Conservation Director (again, see Section A below).

This biographical outline has so far concentrated mainly on early history, the influences of mentors and other friends, and opportunities grasped or missed, and a selection of IJF-L’s publications has been left to the summary in Section D. The 1950s and 1960s were, however, also a great time for exploratory travel to ornithologically little-known regions when they were still unspoilt. As a result of a BTO weekend in the Netherlands in 1954 [where IJF-L travelled with George Shannon] and two autumn visits to Fair Isle in 1954 [with Guy Mountfort and Ian Wallace among others, all of whom arrived in time to help confirm the UK’s first Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola] and 1955 [taking Bert Axell up from Dungeness to give him the experience of another bird observatory, where he and IJF-L together found the first British Thick-billed Warbler Iduna (Phragmaticola) aedon], Mountfort then invited IJF-L and Shannon to join his now famous expeditions to the Coto Doñana in 1956 and 1957,[12] as well as to Bulgaria in 1960[13] and, with the addition of Wallace, to Jordan in 1963 and 1965;[14] see also Eric Hosking’s autobiography[9] for these and other joint explorations. The expeditions to Azraq, Jordan, led to further fieldwork on desert and marshland bird distribution and the ringing of migrants[1966] and several major publications by others on national park possibilities.[2][8][16]

In the 1950s and 1960s, too, IJF-L was a regular radio broadcaster – particularly on Eric Simms’s ‘Countryside’ programme, where he gave monthly summaries of bird news. These included overviews of arrivals of summer visitors in spring and of winter visitors in autumn, as well as of migration patterns in general and mention of interesting rare vagrants, while at the same time discussing such unusual phenomena as the failures of many Common Buzzards Buteo buteo to breed successfully in 1954–55 after the crash in rabbit populations from myxomatosis, which began in 1953. From these monthly summaries, and the increase in incoming data which they generated, he developed the idea of ‘Recent reports’ as a feature in BB, a feature that was expanded when Kenneth Williamson joined him as co-compiler – but the printed word is now replaced by much faster means of disseminating news.

In September 1965, the four generations split into two smaller houses: Esmé and IJF-L moved their now four children, and the BB editorial address, to Merton Road, Bedford. Their marriage was, however, becoming fragile in the 1960s, the situation aggravated by stress when the youngest of the four children was knocked down by a car and severely injured while staying with his maternal grandmother in Sussex, and they eventually agreed to divorce almost immediately after their Silver Anniversary, in 1972.

James Ferguson-Lees, in London in 1977. James Ferguson-Lees family collection

The 1970s to 1990s

In April 1974, following the decree absolute, IJF-L married Karen Rayner (now KF-L), who had been his secretary at BB in the early 1970s, but who had moved from Bedford to Somerset with her parents when her father retired in 1972. They remained happily married for more than 40 years, until IJF-L’s death. By the mid-1970s much else had changed. IJF-L had turned freelance to concentrate on writing and fieldwork. In 1978 he and KF-L moved to northeast Somerset, where he also began local conservation projects, such as a contracted survey of the habitats, farming practices and bird populations on the 3,600-ha Longleat estate on the Wiltshire/Somerset border from 1984 onwards. The techniques used for that were also adapted to an Argentine estancia of comparable size 600 km south of Buenos Aires during ten visits there in 1982–95. Those visits to Argentina, on eight of which he was accompanied by KF-L, were fully supported by the generosity of the then main owner, Professor John M Houlder, who also flew IJF-L to Shetland for some 25–30 long weekends during 1972–95. During the visits to Argentina, John Houlder and his wife had taken IJF-L and KF-L through many parts of that long country north to the tropics – including the impressively magnificent Iguazu Falls on the Argentine/Brazilian border and, in the far northwest, Laguna de los Pozuelos and other lakes at 3,800–4,800 m on the high Andean altiplano (three flamingo species, including Andean Phoenicoparrus andinus and James’s P. jamesi) – as well as south to walk on the sub-Antarctic Perito Moreno glacier, also crossing the Andes from Chile in the west, and exploring Península Valdés in the east. A highlight of a later visit to southern Chile was the sight of 74 Andean Condors Vultur gryphus at a cliff roost.

Fieldwork nearer home during 1995–2000 included much surveying of tetrads (2 km × 2 km squares of the National Grid) in south Wiltshire, leading to the eventual publication of the 848-page Birds of Wiltshire[2007] – when its 200+ contributors received recognition by its being nominated by BB and the BTO as the runner-up in the ‘Best bird book’ selection for that year.

James and Karen Ferguson-Lees, in 1999. James Ferguson-Lees family collection

The 21st century

After a relatively mild stroke in January 2001, IJF-L made a fair recovery, but a Christmas trip to Madeira at the end of that year illustrated difficulties with handling baggage and flying, while walking increasingly involved the use of a stick and frequent rests. KF-L proposed that they try a voyage with one of the small cruise ships, which mostly spend a day or two in each port visited, thus allowing private transport or organised coach trips to interesting areas. The resulting exploration of western Indian Ocean islands took them from Seychelles and Mauritius to Réunion, northernmost Madagascar, the Comoros and Zanzibar, with only just over a hundred fellow-passengers, and was such a success that over the next five years IJF-L and KF-L continued on different (but still smallish) ships: first, across the southern Pacific from Tahiti to Fiji and around New Zealand; then, northward in the eastern Indian Ocean from Sri Lanka to India’s Gujarat before crossing to Oman and around Arabia, and up the Red Sea to Egypt and Jordan; next, more ambitious and most fascinating of all, came a complete 9½-week circumnavigation of South America from Barbados to Barbados via the Falklands, with many stops, and, in the following year and hardly less fascinating, from Cuba and Jamaica 1,400 km up the Amazon to Manaus – for two nights 100 km into the rainforest with Andy Whittaker and also one dawn-to-dusk river exploration – before turning back through many more of the Caribbean islands and returning to the UK across the Atlantic via the Azores; finally, their last voyage of exploration was up the Norwegian coast via the Lofoten Islands and North Cape to Russia’s Murmansk.

By 2011, IJF-L had watched birds – and studied a few species more closely – in some 90 countries [see also Section C below and its end-note], but walking had become very difficult and by the end of that year impossible, which of course meant his being confined to wheelchairs. The cause was spinal stenosis, in which two lumbar vertebrae had narrowed and partly split to restrict and ultimately damage both spinal cord and nerve roots. Ironically, early evidence of narrowing had first been identified by an MRI scan in the mid-1990s, but he had refused an operation at the time because its success seemed far from guaranteed and he and his long-time friend and colleague, David A Christie, were under great pressure from the publishers to complete Raptors of the World.[2001] In 2011 it was too late, as the condition was by then regarded as inoperable and very unsafe.

For three decades from the late 1940s, IJF-L backed fieldwork by aiming to read all new Palaearctic literature, at least in summary, until its mass made this impossible; for the next three he concentrated on raptors, tetrads, distribution, identification and travel. From 2011 onwards, by which time his physical disabilities had made fieldwork impossible, he confessed that 21st-century research methods and equipment made him feel a bit of a dinosaur. But his use of a tripod-mounted telescope from 1972 may have made him the first in the UK to carry the now ubiquitous full-sized tripod just for observation. (Short-draw Nickel telescopes had been tried earlier on monopods.)

Having suffered the loss of the elder of his two sons through a massive heart attack in 2009, he was dealt a further terrible blow with the death of the elder of his two daughters from cancer a few years thereafter, in 2016. IJF-L was also finding his severe physical disabilities more difficult to cope with and, at this stage, was almost completely dependent on KF-L and the help of outside carers. At the very beginning of 2017, confined to a wheelchair and suffering increasingly from respiratory problems, he was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. He died on 11th January 2017, three days after his 88th birthday.

David A. Christie


Section A. Ornithological and conservation positions held by IJF-L

  • Monthly journal British Birds (BB): subscriber from 1943, contributor from 1944;[1944-45] Assistant Editor, 1952–54; Executive Editor, 1954–73; and remaining on Editorial Board to 1979; co-founder with PAD (Phil) Hollom of BB Rarities Committee in 1958, staying a member until 1963.
  • West Palearctic Birds Ltd: Board of Directors with Max Nicholson, Stanley Cramp and Phil Hollom, 1970–75; also co-editor/author volume I.[1977] (See rbbp.org.uk)
  • British Trust for Ornithology (BTO): member from November 1946; President & Chairman, 1969–73; previously two 4-year terms on Council and one as Vice-President; member at various times of all BTO national committees, including Scientific Advisory, Populations & Surveys, and Ringing & Migration, 1950s–80s; registered ringer 1945–73; after 70 years, Honorary Life Member from 2015.
  • British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU): proposed and seconded for membership (as was then a requirement) by Bernard Tucker and James Fisher, 1948; member of BOU Records Committee, 1960–86 (before rotation introduced), and its Chairman, 1970–86; member of Council, 1973–77; after 50 unbroken years, Honorary Life Member from 1998.
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB): member (apart from two breaks) from late 1940s; voluntary warden for newly colonised Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta breeding on Havergate Island, Suffolk, 1951; member of Council, 1963–72, during which time variously also Chairman of Conservation and Education Committees; joined staff as Deputy Director (Conservation) [now ‘Conservation Director’], 1973–75.
  • Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP): preceded by RSPB subcommittee of same name set up in 1968 with just five members (AW Colling, Peter Conder, IJF-L, David Lea and Dr JTR Sharrock); after discussion in 1972, David Lea (who was retiring to Orkney) and IJF-L proposed that it become a fully autonomous panel, which it was agreed should be financed by BB, BTO and RSPB, with representatives from each of these and the Nature Conservancy; new Panel continued with same five members, except that Roy Dennis replaced David Lea, and published the first of many annual reports, covering 1973, in January 1975 (BB 68: 5–23); IJF-L remained member until 1979. Panel now larger (rbbp.org.uk).
  • Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG): member of main committee at RSPB, 1973–75; at other times in attendance at local groups.
  • Bedfordshire & Huntingdonshire Naturalists’ Trust Ltd (B&HNT) [now part of larger Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire]: Founder Member, later Vice-Chairman and, for few months, Chairman – before moving to northeast Somerset in September 1978.
  • Working Group on coexistence of differing interests at Grafham Reservoir/Water, Huntingdonshire (now Grafham Water Centre, Cambridgeshire): Chairman (representing (B&HNT) of group which met at intervals in 1960s. Originally a joint project of Mid Northants Water Board, Great Ouse Water Authority and Bedfordshire County Council (transferred to Anglian Water in 1974), this reservoir’s area of 6.3 km² and circumference of 16 km made it the third largest inland open water in England. Various bodies helped to make this a template for future reservoirs with potentially conflicting interests; regularly represented were local authorities, the Sailing Club, fishing interests, ramblers/cyclists and prospects for a future Visitor Centre, as well as the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in the shape of Sir Peter Scott, who also opened the nature reserve at the western end in 1966.
  • Wiltshire Ornithological Society (WOS): member from 1980s, Executive Committee, 1993–2006, President & Honorary Life Member from 2007 until death.
  • Great Bustard Group (GBG): member from inception in 1998; represented WOS until 2009 on the GBG Consultative Committee which oversaw the early planning and, from 2004, the first annual reintroductions of juvenile Great Bustards Otis tarda from Saratov, Russia (where many nests were destroyed during ploughing but the eggs, if seen, could be collected by the tractor-drivers and then hatched in incubators at local headquarters), with annually renewed permits from DEFRA and Russia; varying numbers of juveniles, once health-checked and acclimatised with minimum human involvement, have been released on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, in an attempt to re-establish a wild population; the first nests were recorded and three chicks hatched in 2009, but fox predation is a problem until the young are full-grown.
  • Also at other times: Committee, British Ornithologists’ Club (BOC), 1960s; Chairman, Seychelles Records Committee, 1992–94.

Section B. International conferences the organisation of which involved IJF-L

  • Working Conference on Birds of Prey and Owls, Caen, Calvados, Normandy, France, April 1964, under auspices of International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP): assisted organiser Phyllis Barclay-Smith; summary papers published in Proceedings.
  • XIV International Ornithological Congress (IOC), Oxford, England, July 1966, member British Executive Committee 1962–66 which planned the XIV Congress: also represented British Birds at the XII congress in 1958 (Helsinki, Finland) and the XV Congress in 1970 (The Hague, Netherlands).
  • European Conference at Green Park, Tring, Hertfordshire, December 1971 (after extensive planning with Dr JJM Flegg, R Spencer, Dr G Zink and others, under joint auspices of BTO and Vogelwarte Radolfzell): Chairman of Conference, with discussions centred on developing ornithological co-operation through Europe, standardising nest records, habitat codings, biometric and moult data, etc.

Section C. Mainly multi-discipline expeditions all involving IJF-L

Many were planned as surveys of possible nature reserves and national parks, using birds as indicators and photography for a full record; some involved raptors or desert migration studies.

  • Edinburgh University to St Kilda, Scotland, July 1948. Other participants included Hamish Campbell, Frank Fraser Darling, James Fisher, Duncan Poore, and VC Robertson.
  • First Mountfort Anglo-Spanish to Coto Doñana, Andalucia, Spain, April–May 1956. Apart from Guy Mountfort himself, other participants were Mauricio González-Gordon y Díez (later Marqués de Bonanza), Field-Marshal Lord & Lady Alanbrooke, James Fisher, GJA (Jerry) Jamieson, the Honourable Mariegold Fitzalan-Howard (later Jamieson), Eric Hosking, Roger Tory Peterson, ER (John) Parrinder, and George Shannon.
  • Second Mountfort Anglo-Spanish to Coto Doñana, April–May 1957. Apart from Mountfort himself, other participants were Mauricio González, the Alanbrookes, Hosking and Shannon again (see above) plus Dr José Antonio (Tono) Valverde-Gómez, PAD (Phil) Hollom, Sir Julian & Lady Huxley, JAd’E (Tony) Miller, EM (Max) Nicholson, and Dr RJH (John) Raines.
  • Private post-IOC to central and north Finland, June 1958. With Eric Hosking, John & Eileen Parrinder, and George Shannon; at various times, also Chris Booth and, from Finland, Nils Fritzen and Mauri Rautkeri.
  • Hosking Anglo-Spanish to Sierra Cazorla, southeast Spain, May–June 1959. Apart from Eric Hosking himself, other participants were Antonio Cano, Dr Tono Valverde, Dr John Ash, Johnnie & Gwen Johnson, John & Eileen Parrinder, Robert Spencer, George Shannon, and Dr John Stafford.
  • Mountfort Anglo-Bulgarian to Bulgaria, including lower Danube and coast, also Rhodope Mountains, May–June 1960. Apart from Guy Mountfort himself, other participants included Phil Hollom, Eric Hosking, Jerry Jamieson, EDH (Johnnie) Johnson, George Shannon, Robert (Bob) Spencer, and Dr John Stafford.
  • Private to Danube Delta, Romania, May 1961. With Phil Hollom, Stanley Cramp, local support.
  • First Mountfort Anglo-Jordanian to Azraq, Petra and Wadi Rhum, among other areas, advising on possible national parks, April–May 1963. Apart from Guy Mountfort himself, other participants were Sdeuard Bisserôt (insects, reptiles, amphibians, photography), Jan Gillett (botany), Phil Hollom, Eric Hosking, Sir Julian Huxley, Max Nicholson, Professor Duncan Poore (plant ecology), George Shannon, DIM (Ian) Wallace, and John Wightman.
  • MD England to Portugal for nesting Black-shouldered Kites Elanus caeruleus, May 1964, after a successful photographic exploration in 1963. Apart from Derrick England himself, Dr Kevin Carlson, Dr Rudolph Carlson, and Esmé Ferguson-Lees, among others.
  • Second Mountfort Anglo-Jordanian to Azraq (mainly), April–May 1965. Apart from Mountfort himself, other participants again included Bisserôt, Hosking, Nicholson, Shannon and Wallace, plus Julian Rzoska (hydrobiology) and Clifford Townsend (botany).
  • International Jordan Expedition, AprilMay 1966 (mainly Azraq). Led by Dr J Morton Boyd and, apart from Ian Wallace and IJF-L (ornithology) with Dr John Ash and Robert Spencer concentrating on bird-ringing, other participants were SI Atallah (mammalogy), JA Davies (climatology), DS Fletcher (entomology), H Löffler & G Bonomi (limnology), RE Lewis (Syphonaptera), JC Rodda (hydrology), and E Sutherland (human ecology). Cyclostyled report to International Biological Programme, 84 pages.
  • First BOU Expedition to Lake Chad, Nigeria, 1967. Led by Dr C Hilary Fry, other participants being Dr John S Ash and Robert J Dowsett.
  • Second BOU Expedition to Lake Chad, Nigeria, 1968. Again with Fry and Ash, also Trevor Lloyd-Evans.
  • Private expeditions to Sri Lanka, December–January 1984–85 and 1998–99. Both led by IJF-L, the first also including Sdeuard Bisserôt, Eric & Dorothy Hosking and George Shannon, the second DeepalWarakagoda, Drs Ian & Gill Cardy and KF-L.
  • In 1970s and 1980s, IJF-L also led more than 60 birdwatching tours to ten countries for three different travel companies. Half of this total involved just three regions: Morocco, Seychelles, and Kenya. The others were Florida and Everglades (USA), Gambia, Greece, Caucasus (southwest Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan), south Ukraine (Odessa to Askania-Nova), Jordan, Eritrea, and Thailand. Perhaps the most memorable of these for a raptor enthusiast was the first, to the steppe reserve of Askania-Nova in Kherson province, Ukraine, which a director of Academy Travel persuaded him to take over when the advertised leader had had to withdraw at a late stage: for example, nesting Steppe Eagles Aquila nipalensis and a sizeable colony of Western Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus occupying a disused rookery (Corvus frugilegus).

Section D. Selection of publications wholly or partly by IJF-L

1944–45. Encouraged by Tucker, IJF-L submitted many short notes to BB over the next decade [these were always carefully edited and, as necessary, condensed by Tucker or JD Wood, thus encouraging a personal lifetime’s obsession with conciseness, grammar and readability!]; the first note (Brit. Birds 38: 38–39) reported Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus nests with three eggs and three young; the next five in this first volume related to scarce migrants in Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire.

1949. With James Fisher & Hamish Campbell, ‘Breeding of the Northern Golden Plover on St Kilda’. Birds 42: 379–382, plates 71–72 (73–76 also relate).

1951. ‘The Peregrine population of Great Britain’, parts I and II. Bird Notes [forerunner of RSPB’s Birds magazine] 24: 200–205, 309–314. [First attempt at assessing total numbers in UK and Ireland: see ref [20], below.]

1952–71. Significant proportion of BB texts accompanying regular photographic series of ‘rarely photographed species’ and ‘less familiar birds’, perhaps most notably including original data in next two:

1959. ‘Studies of less familiar birds. 102. Lammergeier. Photographs by Antonio Cano and Eric Hosking’. Birds 52: 25–29, plates 1–8.

1959. ‘Photographic studies of some less familiar birds. XCV. Terek Sandpiper. Photographs by Eric Hosking’. Birds 52: 85–90, plates 13–20.

1956. With KE Barham & PJ Conder, ‘Bee-eaters nesting in Britain, 1955’. Bird Notes 27: 34–

1957. ‘The rarer birds of prey. Their present status in the British Isles. Peregrine’. Birds 50: 149–155.

1961. With Guy Mountfort, ‘Observations on the birds of Bulgaria’. Ibis 103a: 443–471.

1962. With EM Nicholson, ‘The Hastings Rarities’. Birds 55: 281–282, 299–384.

1963. Changes in the status of birds of prey in Europe’. Birds 56: 140–148, plates 21–26.

1964. ‘Summary of the present status of birds of prey and owls in western Europe’. In Report on the Working Conference on Birds of Prey and Owls, Caen, Calvados, Normandy, 10–12 April 1964: 132–138.

1965, 1974. Extensive revisions for 2nd and 3rd editions of A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe (Peterson, Mountfort & Hollom 1954 et seq) in collaboration with the authors and DIM (Ian) Wallace. Collins. 344 pages.

196673. ‘Ornithology’ sections, with DIM Wallace, in Hemsley & George,[8] Boyd,[2] and Nelson.[16]

1969. With EM Nicholson & Dr JA Nelder, ‘The Hastings Rarities again’. Birds 62: 364–381.

1970. With Dr CH Fry & Dr JS Ash, ‘Spring weights of Palaearctic migrants at Lake Chad’. Ibis 112: 58–

1971. All raptors, grouse, gamebirds, cranes, rails, bustards and thrushes in JLF Parslow: The Status of Birds in Britain and Ireland (edited by Dr DW Snow for BOU), pp 58–91. Blackwell, Oxford.

1972. With Bruce Campbell, A Field Guide to Birds’ Nests. Constable. 545 pages.

1972–75. Comments on photos and some texts for The World’s Wild Places. 6 vols. The Amazon, Africa’s Rift Valley, Great Barrier Reef, Borneo, The Himalayas, and The Sahara. Time Life Books, Amsterdam. Each 184 pages with many photos.

1975. A Guide to Bird-Watching in Europe. Lead author/editor with Quentin Hockliffe and Ko Zweeres; 19 national contributors. Bodley Head. 299 pages and 18 double-page status tables by countries. [Also adapted Dutch translation.]

1977. Author/editor of ‘Field characters’ in The Birds of the Western Palearctic, vol 1., other sections written/edited by S Cramp, KEL Simmons, R Gillmor, PAD Hollom, R Hudson, EM Nicholson, MA Ogilvie, PJS Olney, Prof KH Voous, Dr J Wattel. OUP, Oxford. 722 pages.

1978–79. The Natural History of Britain and Northern Europe. 5 vols. Lead editor with Bruce Campbell, and part-author. Main authors Denis Owen (Towns and Gardens), Arnold Darlington (Mountains and Moorlands), Richard Barnes (Coasts and Estuaries), Derrick Boatman (Fields and Lowlands), and Brian Whitton (Rivers, Lakes and Marshes). George Rainbird. Each 224 pages with habitat photographs and field-guide treatment of both vertebrates and selected invertebrates.

1983–87. The Shell Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland. Text-author, with Ian Willis (colour plates) and JTR Sharrock (maps). Rainbird, Michael Joseph & Penguin Group. 336 pages. [Also Dutch translation adapted as Tirions Vogelgids (1986) and German translation adapted as Vőgel Mitteleuropas (1987).]

1992. Endangered Birds. With artwork by Emma Faull; foreword by Gerald Durrell. George Philip. 192 pages, 103 illustrations mostly in colour.

2001. Raptors of the World. Lead author with DA Christie. 112 colour plates by K Franklin, D Mead, P Burton. Helm & Black. 992 pages. [Also Spanish translation as Rapaces del Mundo (2004).]

2005. Raptors of the World: A Field Guide. Lead author with DA Christie. 118 colour plates by K Franklin, D Mead, P Burton and A Harris. Helm & Black. 320 pages. [Also French and German translations as Guide des Rapaces Diurnes du Monde (2008) and Die Greifvögel der Welt (2009).]

2007. ‘A history of British Birds[17] with MA Ogilvie and RJ Chandler. Birds 100: 3–15.

2007. Birds of Wiltshire. Lead editor/author on behalf of Wiltshire Ornithological Society with P Castle, P Cranswick, S Edwards, P Combridge, R Turner and L Cady. 200+ contributors. 30 colour photos, many distribution maps, line-drawings, tables. WOS, Devizes. 848 pages, 4 end-paper maps.

2008. Scientific names: abbreviations and pronunciation. Birds 101: 97–99.

2010. ‘The Wiltshire Hawk Owl and a plea for caution in the rejection of historical records’ with P Combridge, P Cranswick, R Turner and P Castle. Birds 103: 673–675.

2011. A Field Guide to Monitoring Nests. Lead author with R Castell and D Leech. BTO, Thetford. 272 pages with many photos, small maps.

2012. ‘Looking back eight decades to Wiltshire’s first bird report’. Hobby 37 (2011): 93–117. [Has much wider relevance to the evolution of English annual county bird reports in general and to changing taxonomic practices.]

2015. Obituary of Philip Arthur Dominic Hollom (1912–2014), who died at the remarkable age of 102. Ibis 157: 433–434. [A number of other obituaries written by IJF-L over the years included one each for Roger Tory Peterson (1908–96, in Spanish, Biologica Dec 1996: 15) and Guy Reginald Mountfort (1905–2003, in Ibis 146: 572–574); thus, he wrote one apiece for each of the three authors of the ground-breaking A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe (1954 et seq).

 Among his many other publications are Forewords or Introductions to various books, particularly on Raptors (eg English edition of Grossman & Hamlet 1964,[6] Porter et al. 1981[19]) and on national and local Grid Atlases (eg BTO Breeding 1968–72, BTO Winter 1981–84, Sitters 1988[21]).

Section E. Awards

1950. Gold Medal (plus Holford and then Lawrence Medals) from Royal Horticultural Society, London, awarded jointly to FM Wyatt & IJ Ferguson-Lees for exhibition of fruiting branches of conifers, 29–30 August. Specimens from about 80 trees were collected by the two exhibitors, with generous permissions from Tilgate, Bedgebury, Westonbirt, Borde Hill, Leonardslee, Roffey Park, Milton Mount and Cheal’s Nursery; the display extended the full length of one end of the Exhibition Hall. The Holford Medal was first awarded to them[10] for the year’s best exhibit by amateurs, but this was later replaced by the Lawrence Medal, which takes account of most professional exhibits as well.

1960s on. Honorary Life Membership of Cooper Ornithological Society.

1976. Bernard W Tucker Medal of British Trust for Ornithology (then Hertfordshire but now Norfolk), awarded for services to concept and organisation of first Breeding Atlas, December 1976.

1979 on. Honorary Life Subscriber to British Birds on leaving Editorial Board after 27 years, 1952–79.

1997 on. Automatic Honorary Life Membership of British Ornithologists’ Union, Oxford, after 50 years of unbroken membership, 1948–97.

2007 on. Honorary Life Membership of Wiltshire Ornithological Society, Devizes, for services towards the planning, organisation and publication of Birds of Wiltshire complete with tetrad atlas maps.

2015 on. Honorary Life Membership of British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford, Norfolk, after 70 years of unbroken membership, 1946–2015.

Section F. Other references

[1] Anon. 1952. ‘Editorial’. Brit. Birds 45: 185-186.

[2] Boyd, HM. 1967. International Jordan Expedition 1966. International Biological Programme cyclostyled report. 84 pages.

[3] Davies, NB. 1992. Dunnock Behavior and Social Evolution; illustrated by David Quinn. Oxford University Press. 272 pages [Many refs to other publications on Dunnock studies]

[4] Gooders, J (ed). 1969–71. Birds of the World. Part-works building into 9 vols. IPC Magazines, London.

[5] Greenwood, JJD. 2012. ‘John Nelder: statistics, birdwatching and the Hastings Rarities’. Brit. Birds 105: 733–737.

[6] Grossman, ML, & Hamlet, J. 1964. Birds of Prey of the World. Cassell, London.

[7] Harrison, JM. 1968. Bristow and the Hastings Rarities Affair. AH Butler, St Leonards-on-Sea.

[8] Hemsley, JH, & George, M. 1966. ‘Azraq Desert National Park, Jordan, Draft National Plan’. In International Biological Programme, Conservation of Terrestrial Communities. London.

[9] Hosking, E, with FW Lane. 1970. An Eye for a Bird (autobiography). xviii and 302 pages, 16 colour photos and many monochrome. Includes sections and chapters on the expeditions to Coto Doñana 1956–57 (pp 176–189), Finland 1958 (pp 95–101), Sierra de Cazorla 1959 (pp 190–195), Bulgaria 1960 (pp 196–204), and Jordan 1963 and 1965 (pp 213–232).

[10] Melville, R. 1951. ‘Conifers coning in 1950’. Journal RHS 76: 19–22 and figs 1–12.

[11] Moores, C. 2013. ‘Hastings revisited. James Ferguson-Lees interviewed’. Birdwatch Aug 2013: 29–33.

[12] Mountfort, G. 1958. Portrait of a Wilderness. The Story of the Coto Doñana Expeditions. Many photos by Eric Hosking. Hutchinson, London.

[13] Mountfort, G. 1962. Portrait of a River. The Wildlife of the Danube from the Black Sea to Budapest. Many photos by Eric Hosking. Hutchinson, London.

[14] Mountfort, G. 1965. Portrait of a Desert. The Story of an Expedition to Jordan. Many photos by Eric Hosking. Collins, London.

[15] Nelder, JA. 1962. ‘A statistical examination of the Hastings Rarities’. Brit. Birds 55: 283–298.

[16] Nelson, B. 1973. Azraq, Desert Oasis. Allen Lane. 436 pages with 90 monochrome photos, other illustrations; includes many ornithological and other data from 1963, 1965 and 1966 expeditions.

[17] Ogilvie, MA, IJF-L, & Chandler, RJ. 2007. ‘A history of British Birds’. Brit. Birds 100: 3–15.

[18] Pemberton, JE. 1997. Who’s Who in Ornithology. Buckingham Press. pp 123–124.

[19] Porter, RF, Willis, I, Christensen, S, & Nielsen, BP. 1981. Flight Identification of European Raptors. Poyser, Berkhamsted.

[20] Ratcliffe, D. 1980. The Peregrine Falcon. Poyser, Calton, Staffordshire. pp 72–81.

[21] Sitters, HP. 1988. Tetrad Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Devon. Devon BW&PS, Yelverton.

[22] Sharrock, JTR. 1967. ‘Personalities 6. I. J. Ferguson-Lees’. Brit. Birds 55: 256–259, plate 8.

[23] Walpole-Bond, J. 1938. A History of the Birds of Sussex. 3 vols. Witherby, London.

[24] Witherby, HF, Jourdain, FCR, Ticehurst, NF, & Tucker, BW. 1938–41. The Handbook of British Birds. 5 vols. Witherby, London.

[25] Woodhouse, LGO. 1949. The Butterfly Fauna of Ceylon. 2nd ed. Apothecaries Co, Colombo.