Monday, August 1, 2011

A Tribute to my friend and Mentor John Turner

John Turner was a gentle man who loved nature. Not only birds but all of nature, for example he loved orchids and invertebrates especially moths & Butterflies & took great pleasure in photographing them. He would email me numerous photos at a time of various species of butterfly, tempting me to get into them as well. It worked; I’ve started ticking them as well.

Lesser Wanderer Butterfly - Johns way of tempting me to start ticking them as well.

Small Grass Yellow Butterfly - another of Johns lovely photos

John loved the marine environment, he was a keen diver and that really began his love for photography. His house was decorated in beautiful underwater photographs that he had taken.

Green Grasshopper - one of the many photos he would send me.

John really loved birds. He loved experiencing them. He had a family of Magpie-larks in his backyard that he had tamed. He would sit for hours with a cup of coffee and interact with them. He new every individual bird in that group.  We’d go out to dinner and he would tell me all the things they’d been doing. His face glowing with joy.

John at Billiat Conservation Park, we had 2 Mallee Emuwrens that day.

Dear John, he had the most gentle and patient nature. He was kind, thoughtful and extremely generous with his time and money.  John spent so much time teaching me about birding. I was a novice and he was so experienced in birding, he was my mentor. We went birding together a lot. The master and his apprentice...

He must have loved a challenge as I am chaotic, disorganised, impatient and impulsive. John, on the other hand was organised, methodical & a planner.

He didn't give up. Over the years John taught me how to use mapping software on my computer, how to use a handheld GPS, how to keep birding records, how to log birds online, how to plan trips, how to learn bird calls and whistle them in so you don’t need playback, how to make friends with birds in the field, how to just "be" in the mallee in order to find birds, what to look for when trying to identify a Raptor. What equipment to use, how to look after your equipment, right down to driving techniques!

He had the patience of a saint, it was a real challenge to slow me down and be organised but he never gave up on me. Thankfully he eventually succeeded and I learnt so much from him. In my opinion John was the Dalai Lama of birding.

He was really meticulous and he put so much effort into his record keeping. His knowledge was incredible, he was a walking HANZAB. If I needed to know anything at all about Birds I’d just ring him and he knew the answer or had it filed in his amazing office of records and he knew exactly which folder it was in!

Brown-headed Honeyeater - John took this at Gluepot in 2010

It was his patience & meticulous nature that gave him the ability to take amazing photos.  He did not use expensive camera gear, rather a little Panasonic Lumix bridging camera with a 1.7 times teleconverter. One of the many things he taught me is that it is not solely the camera that you use, but rather how you use it, that counts. It was also these qualities that allowed him the opportunities to get good photos as the birds came to him.

Striated Grasswren
This is my favourite of Johns photo's.
John took this sitting on the ground, enjoying his surroundings & eating a sandwich!!

Chestnut Quail-thrush - John took this at Gluepot in 2010

Some of the things John used to say really stick in my mind. He stated regularly that if you don’t know what a bird is “think common” as 95% of the time it will be a common bird. We all like to hope it will be a rarity of course but in reality that does not happen often.

“Remember to look up” to check for Swifts.... He loved Swifts!!

“Check the tail, the width and shape of the wings, how does it hold its wings when soaring” when identifying a Raptor.

I hear him every time I go birding. Every situation one of his sayings will come into my mind.

John Turner died on 8th December 2010 after a long and painful illness. I lost my dear friend and mentor.

I am grieving. I miss the fact that I cannot ring him and chat. I miss his company & friendship. I feel so sad because I cant tell him every time I get a new tick. I feel his loss because I can't share funny incidents with him when I know how much he would have laughed. I miss the fact that he was always happy to hear from me and always willing to go birding when I wanted a friend to share the experience with. I miss my friend.

It was such a privilege to have had him in my life and I will always love him, miss him and hear him every time I’m in the field looking for birds. He is still alive in my heart. He is with me every time I see a bird.

My friend and Mentor John Turner
He enjoyed Pelagic trips!!