On 24th January OLF founder, Tim Mackrill, joined many others in attending the funeral of our great friend, Chris Wood. Chris was a wonderful supporter of OLF from the very start, and will be greatly missed by us all. Tim was honoured to give the following tribute to Chris at the funeral.

“I was fortunate to meet Chris for the first time in 2012 when I took he and Diane Osprey watching in Rutland. It was immediately obvious that Chris had a real interest in the birds and so I suggested he sign up to become a volunteer for the Rutland Osprey Project. Chris jumped at the chance.

Over the next decade he spent countless hours monitoring the Manton Bay Osprey nest, often in the company of some of you, like Jane Dell, who are here today. Chris was a gentle and understated man, yet over the years he developed a remarkable knowledge of Ospreys thanks to the many hours he spent observing and photographing them at Rutland Water and elsewhere.

Despite living a 50-minute drive away, Chris liked to do the early morning shift, setting a very early alarm in order to arrive at Manton Bay for the 6am start, which he said was the best time of day to be in the hide. Such was his enthusiasm for the birds, he would often end up spending the whole day in Rutland, heading to Eyebrook reservoir or the Egleton reserve after his morning at Lyndon. I used to joke that just like the local Ospreys know where all the best fishing spots are, Chris knew all the best cafés in Rutland: tea, coffee, cake and scones were always key to helping fuel his long days monitoring Ospreys.

Chris didn’t just restrict his Osprey viewing to Rutland. Each winter he followed the birds to their wintering grounds in West Africa, making frequent trips to The Gambia and Senegal with Diane and also myself and groups of Osprey enthusiasts from Rutland and further afield. He had a particular interest in reading Osprey colour rings, logging birds from all over Europe and 35 from the UK alone.

Perhaps Chris’s most memorable sighting came in December 2013 when he found Osprey 5F at Tanji Marsh in The Gambia. This was a particularly special moment for Chris because this female Osprey had fledged from a nest near Rutland Water the previous year and this was the first time she had been seen since leaving Rutland on her first migration.

Ironically, when 5F returned to the UK, she settled in Wales rather than Rutland, initially at Pont Croesor in the Glaslyn valley, and then at Llyn Clywedog where she bred successfully for the first time in 2020. Chris followed 5F to Wales, becoming a regular visitor to view the Glaslyn Ospreys and later to Llyn Clywedog, becoming good friends with the people monitoring and protecting the Ospreys in both locations. It says everything about Chris that one of those people, Darren Moore, has driven over from North Wales to be here today.

Chris’s sightings of Ospreys from all over the UK – 25 from Scotland, three from Rutland, three from the Lake District, two from Kielder Forest, one from Wales and one from Poole Harbour – meant that his brilliant fieldwork led to friendships with people working with Ospreys in many places, from Gambia to northern Scotland. In fact, he was with Joanna Dailey from the Kielder Osprey project when they found one of Joanna’s birds at Esperanto Lodge in the Casamance region of southern Senegal: another very memorable moment. Joanna is currently back out in Senegal, staying at the same place.

Chris posted most of his sightings on Facebook, which brought him into contact with many other Ospreys enthusiasts. Many of these people eagerly followed Chris’s updates during his visits to The Gambia or when monitoring Ospreys in Rutland. Not only was he a dedicated observer, but he was also a brilliant photographer and thousands of people enjoyed viewing his outstanding images online. I know that many of the people who were friends with Chris on Facebook, are joining us online now.

Chris leaves a considerable legacy thanks to his dedication to monitoring Ospreys in the UK and West Africa, and the wonderful photos he took. He would often joke that the Ospreys intentionally stood on the wrong leg when he was trying to read their leg ring, but he thought nothing of waiting several hours in the blazing West African sun, in order to clinch the identification of a particular individual. That was, of course, as long as he had his trusty flask of tea and some digestive biscuits to keep him going. Joking aside, a huge amount of perseverance and skill went into Chris’s fieldwork, and the results speak for themselves. There are few other people who have made such a valuable contribution to the monitoring of UK Ospreys in the past decade.

Chris will be missed greatly by those of us who share his passion for Ospreys. He was extremely modest and I think he would have been completely overwhelmed by all the tributes that have been made since he died. They speak volumes for how well liked and respected Chris was. So too do the donations that have been made in memory of Chris, which are going to the Osprey Leadership Foundation, a charity I founded a few years ago. OLF works to inspire and enable young conservationists in the UK and The Gambia – countries at opposite ends of the Osprey migration flyway. Chris was a brilliant supporter of OLF from the outset, perhaps because he could really see the value of the work, particularly in The Gambia where empowering young conservationists to protect nature will help Ospreys and a range of other migratory birds. I will ensure that all of the money raised in memory of Chris will be put to the best possible use. As a small charity it will certainly make a huge difference to the work of OLF.

I consider myself very fortunate to have got to know Chris so well over the past decade and am truly thankful for our friendship and all the laughs we had together. Whenever a new Osprey is seen in The Gambia, or Rutland I will think of Chris, and I know many of you who are here today, will do the same. Just last week we received reports of two Rutland Ospreys in The Gambia, and then yesterday Joanna Dailey saw another Rutland bird in Senegal. My immediate thought each time was how pleased Chris would have been.

We have lost Chris far too soon, but he leaves an incredible legacy both in the UK and The Gambia, where he will be remembered as ‘the Osprey man’.

The dedication of this kind and gentle man to Ospreys will never be forgotten.”

If you wish to make a donation to OLF in memory of Chris, you can still do so here. Sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone who has donated so far. We have been overwhelmed by the support, which speaks volumes for how well liked and highly regarded Chris was by so many people. 

Share This