Published on 01 April 2002 in Obituaries

Known to most of his friends as Bert, he was also Herbert to many, and H. E. Axell on more formal occasions. However you knew him, he was famous in birding circles for half a century, and something of a legend in his own lifetime. When he died, in November 2001, an era seemed to have come to an end. Bert Axell left many friends to mourn his passing, and there are lots of us around who learned much from him and were influenced by his thinking. It was not all sweetness and light, though. Big, forceful, and fiercely independent, he could sometimes be opinionated and awkward, and, sadly, it has to be said that not all of his professional colleagues were endeared to him. The problem was, however, as often as not of their making as much as his, and perhaps not enough consideration and understanding were always given to his determined and single-minded approach to his job ­ which, for a significant part of his life, really boiled down to making the RSPB’s reserve at Minsmere, in Suffolk, the best bird reserve on earth. He probably succeeded. He will always be associated with Minsmere, but his involvement in birds dates back way beyond his time there. He grew up as an enthusiastic young birdwatcher on the coastal borders of Sussex and Kent. Dungeness was part of his youthful patch, and it was at Dungeness that his life as a professional ornithologist and conservationist took off. That was in

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