The End of an Era

Raymond was the last survivor of the Golden Age of Aviculture – the years between the two World Wars, the late 1940s and early 50s. He was friends with most of the outstanding aviculturists of the age – these included his dear friend Jean Delacour in France (the doyen of aviculturists around the world), Alfred Ezra (the father of Raymond’s late wife, Ruth), the Duke of Bedford, Herbert Whitley (the founder of Paignton Zoo), John Spedan Lewis, Dick de Quincey, Sydney Porter (the first person in the UK to breed the kea in 1946), and many, many more – there was hardly anyone in post-war UK aviculture who Raymond didn’t know.

Raymond Sawyer at his 87th Birthday party

Sir David Attenborough was among the guests at his recent 87th birthday celebration and, Dr Henry Quinque, who maintains an impressive collection of endangered species outside Paris, specially flew over from France with his wife to attend Raymond’s birhday celebration.

Raymond has a long list of more than 20 UK first breedings to his credit. He was first to breed the blue-bellied roller, emerald and splendid starlings, violet turaco, masked crimson tanager, blue-faced honeyeater, blue whistling hrush and black-billed weaver. He had considerable success breeding stilts and avocets, and was first to breed the wattled jacana, masked lapwing and long-toed lapwing. He was also immensely proud of having bred a giant tortoise.

Raymond was at the core of the Avicultural Society and the Garden Party was invariably the highlight of the year. He was always a mine of information, always freely given, and to wander around the aviaries with him was an education in itself inevitably all conversations also littered with amusing anecdotes. He had a wicked sense of humour and enjoyed telling a good tale as well. His love of birds was always foremost and he will be deeply missed.