Obituary: Robert Spencer (1923-1994)

Published on 01 July 1995 in Obituaries

Robert Spencer BA MSc (1923-1994) Bob Spencer, who died on 21st September 1994 at die age of 71, was a national figure in die ornithological scene for 40 years. He joined the staff of die British Trust for Ornitiiology in 1954 as its first professional head of die Bird Ringing Scheme, following die retirement of Miss Elsie Leach, who for many years had occupied die role in a voluntary capacity. During the next 30 years, Bob was to preside over the many developments which resulted in the bird-ringing technique becoming die major ornitiiological research tool which it is recognised to be today. He initiated many changes in the quality and durability of materials, and in trapping, handling, ageing and sexing techniques to maximise die value of information obtained, yet always preached– and taught–a proper concern for the welfare of die bird in die hand. Amongst die first to use imported Japanese mist-nets, he drew on his own experiences witii them to draw up a code of conduct (under the aegis of the BTO’s Bird Ringing Committee) for their use by British ringers; he dealt firmly witii any instances of carelessness which came to his attention. When cannon-netting and rocketnetting techniques were devised, he insisted on diere being operating rules (witii the birds’ welfare in mind) for tiiose who wished to use them in conjunction witii BTO rings–withdrawal of which was the ultimate sanction. He refined the system of bird-ringing licences and devised strict training standards, to ensure tiiat ringers operated

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