They say never meet your heroes, well today it happened to me and it was a humbling experience. As those of you that have followed the story of the Norfolk Bird Race over the last 18 months will know, the original inspiration for the race was the seminal Big Bird Race book written by David Tomlinson and Bill Oddie back in the 1980s. The concept of the race captured my imagination as a teenage boy and so 30 years later I decided to create a charity bird race of my own.
A few weeks before this year’s race I received an email from David Tomlinson himself. He had read an article about the race written by Jack Baddams in Birdwatching magazine and had got in touch to wish everyone taking part all the best. I was utterly stunned to hear from him and thrilled to say the least. Over the next couple of weeks leading up to the 2016 Bird Race I corresponded with David, getting little bits of trivia and gems of insight about the 1980s Big Bird Races. Eventually I plucked up the courage to ask him if he would present the trophy to the winner of this year’s race at the Norfolk Bird and Wildlife Fair and he said yes. However, not only would he come and present the Norfolk Bird Race Trophy, he would give me the original Big Bird Race Trophy complete with Hawaiian Goose egg signed by Peter Scott. Now if you are of a certain age and into birding you will know that this is a piece of birding history. The thought of even seeing this trophy was amazing, never mind becoming the custodian of it.
So on Sunday at the Norfolk Bird and Wildlife Fair, I finally met David and his lovely wife Jan (she of the fantastic picnics in the Big Bird Race book). He handed the trophy to me, which I tried to unwrap whilst shaking, signed my copy of the Big Bird Race book and dutifully let us boss him around as we took photos of the whole event. Unfortunately, none of the winning Tit Flock team captained by Jake Gearty could make it to the event so I accepted the Norfolk Bird Race Trophy on their behalf in the presence of Rick Simpson from Wader Quest. The Norfolk Bird Race Trophy will be handed out to winning teams annually, but like The Ashes stay at Lords, the Big Bird Race Trophy will stay with the Norfolk Bird Race team. However, having spent 30 years in David Tomlinson’s house, it would seem a shame to hide away the Big Bird Race Trophy and Peter Scott Egg, so we are planning on giving it a tour of the country, raising money for the bird race and giving wide-eyed, middle-aged men like myself the chance to see it in the flesh.
More details of this will follow in 2017.