I learned today of the passing on Saturday of Colin Wilkinson, a former colleague at the RSPB.
Colin worked first in the RSPB Central England Region (the cinderella of RSPB regions – lots of people, not so many birds) which morphed into the Midlands Region. He was based in the Banbury office and more recently at Otmoor. His expertise was in planning issues.
Here he is talking at Otmoor a couple of years ago:
because I live in ‘his’ RSPB region I had contact with Colin over local matters after I left the RSPB on such subjects as chicken farms, Fineshade Wood and the Nene Valley Gravel Pits.
And one of Colin’s major achievements (with others, it’s always teamwork, but he did a lot of the heavy lifting) was to get Government and Natural England to classify the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits as an SPA, Ramsar site and SSSI. That designation formed the core of a pilot Nature Improvement Areas and a NLHF Landscape Partnership Scheme. My local patch of Stanwick Lakes is one of the parts of the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA – see here for the very important and rather dull standard data form. Let us hope that this level of protection, imperfect though it is, will remain for a good long time as a part of Colin’s conservation legacy.
Colin was a talented artist and as part of his contribution to the Oxford Swift City project he contributed illustrations to the reprint of David Lack’s book Swifts in a Tower. I’ve looked at them again this afternoon and they are very good. Colin’s cover illustration for the book is wonderful, capturing as it does the bird and the Oxford University Museum of Science building so well.
I have an example of Colin’s artwork in the office where I write this and almost everything else I write. I look at it every day that I am at home.
It’s a clever illustration and was commissioned by my team as a leaving present for me when I left the RSPB. It accompanies a version of this scene that first appeared in the shooting press which showed a desolate RSPB nature reserve and a bird-rich grouse moor, and this is the alternate version.
Obviously I prefer Colin’s version which has lots of nice touches such as a glass of champagne, a copy of a book I wrote (held upside down by a Hare), a very common plumage of pale trousers and a blue shirt, a beer gut and, somewhat spookily, he’s got my feet right too. On the other side of the dry stone wall someone who could almost be a gamekeeper is carrying a dead male Hen Harrier.
It was a lovely present and every time I have corresponded with Colin since leaving the RSPB I have mentioned to him that his artwork stays on my office wall and still gives me great pleasure.
Colin Wilkinson was a talented, knowledgeable and very nice man. He was one of many who in an unfussy way made the RSPB work and formed the backbone of its success. Colin contracted Covid-19 and his fight against it left him with the need for surgery. Colin passed away on Saturday, peacefully with his family by his side.
Our thoughts must be with his family and many friends but those who knew him will also be running through memories of a creative man who dedicated his life to protecting and saving nature.