Wednesday 8 November 2023

David Saunders MBE

We are sad to report the passing of David Saunders MBE in October 2023. David moved to Pembrokeshire in 1960 and was appointed first warden of Skomer Island, when it was declared a National Nature Reserve. He worked on the Island for seven years, with his wife and two children. David’s passion for seabirds then led him to help lead Operation Seafarer (the first national seabird census of 1969–1970), which provided the first comprehensive account of the numbers and distribution of seabirds around the coasts of Britain and Ireland. He was the director of the West Wales Naturalists Trust from 1976 to 1994. The West Wales Naturalists Trust was a fore-runner of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. Later, David was known for his writing and lectures. He spent a number of years lecturing on cruise ships and across the counties of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. He was the author of number of books focused on seabirds and bird watching. His book "Where to Watch Birds in Wales" has recently been printed in its 5th edition. He continued to be a regular contributor to a number of publications. 

Bearded man with binoculars stands in front of the sea on a sunny day. In the background is a red, blue and white tour boat.

Photo credit: SEWBReC – Mary Gillham Archive Project -

David was awarded the MBE in 2003 for "Services to Wildlife Conservation in Wales", and in 2014 was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Welsh Ornithological Society. David was determined to help the Wildlife Trusts in Wales to work together more effectively and he helped set up quarterly meetings at Gregynog Hall to coordinate responses to All Wales consultations from the Welsh Office and others. Each Wildlife Trust was represented by one trustee and one staff member. 

David led the campaign to save Carmel Woods from being quarried, which led to the discovery of the only Welsh Turlough [seasonal water body with specialist fauna]. The Grasslands Trust owned the site, and then Nature Resources Wales bought it when the Grasslands Trust went into administration and it is now leased by us. It is comforting to think of the fact that one of our best nature reserves in Carmarthenshire is ours because David helped to save it all those years ago. 

After leaving the West Wales Wildlife Trust, David kept in close contact with staff. Nigel Ajax-Lewis first met him in the mid 1970s through Cardiff University, and was still in contact during the pandemic, when they corresponded about the bird interest of Aberthaw for his latest book on where to watch birds. He maintained a passionate interest in Skomer and Skokholm Islands and was in regular email contact with me, and in close contact with the Friends of the Islands. David is survived by his wife Shirley, children Robert, Rachel and Catherine, grandchildren Rhys, Huw, Sian, Owen, Eve, William and Emily and great grandson Leo. The family have asked that if you wish to mark his passing, donations can be made in his memory to The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales at:

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