This week’s #52 Ancestors theme is ‘I can identify’ I thought I would write about my Grandad, Ron Pilbeam. It was his influence that encouraged me in my love of bird watching.
I have written in my blogs before about Ronald Pilbeam, he was born on 17 March 1912 in Three Cups, a tiny hamlet on the edge of Punnetts Town near Heathfield in Sussex. He had one brother, Sydney, older than him and 3 sisters, Phillis, Gwen and Joan. He grew up on the farm at Rushford Farm and when my mum was a child, had a dairy herd which were milked and the milk sold daily to the locals around Punnetts Town and Heathfield.
Growing up in the countryside as he did he could identify a number of the farmland and garden birds he saw daily around and about and at some point he joined the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. When I was 10 years old in the hot summer of 1976, he built a large fish pond in the front garden and he had a whole load of fish in there which all seemed to be named after his grandchildren, I remember him showing me Kerry! That summer I stayed, as I often did, for a week or two with my grandparents and remember the pond developing. It was large, square with a rim of paving slabs. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any photos of it amongst my collection. When the hole had been dug and the liner put in, all that remained was the pouring in of the water and stamping down of the liner and Grandad asked me to get into the pond to push the liner down with my feet while he poured in the water with a hose.
In return for this most important job, he would buy me a member to the Young Ornithologists Club (YOC) the young arm of the RSPB. Well how could I refuse? the pond was filled with water, and I joined the YOC. He paid for my membership every year until after my 18th birthday when I graduated up to the RSPB and some point he stopped paying and I gave up birdwatching for a while.
As a child I became fascinated by birds and bird watching and even now I get excited by some of the birds I attract into my small back garden on my feeders. In my 20s I became more attracted to boys than birds and gave up the birdwatching for a while, which is extremely annoying because I remember on a coach trip in Turkey with a friend, the coach driver stopped to let people get off and watch some Lammergeiers (bearded vulture) that I would kill to see now. I think I did vaguely see them but wasn’t really that excited. It wasn’t until I met my other half, Pete that I once again became a member of the RSPB and have been ever since. When my sister’s three children were young I bought them YOC membership too until they became 18 and I hope one day at least one of them will again become enthusiastic about birdwatching just like I did. Pete and I have travelled around many parts of Britain over the years and seen many different birds that we could identify with the help of various books and sometimes other birders. We’ve been to Scotland to see Divers and Skuas and Osprey, oh and a sudden stop along the road to watch a Golden Eagle. We turned the corner at the cliffs in Yorkshire called Bempton Cliffs and had 5 new birds in five minutes and I’ve had nuthatch, treecreeper and a grey wagtail in my garden amongst a lot more common ones. If it hadn’t have been for Grandad starting me off at the age of 10 I don’t suppose I would ever have become quite so excited about birds as I am. Just one of those special Grandparent/Grandchild moments!