R. B. (Dick) Treleaven MBE (1920-2009)
Dick was one of the most remarkable and unusual authorities on Peregrines in the world. Always a colourful character he was more of an artist than a scientist and was never happier then when he was out on the cliffs of Cornwall, watching these magnificent birds flying in their natural environment. He spent well over sixty years studying them and trying to capture the excitement of seeing them in his paintings. He used to say that he was never completely satisfied with his work, but many feel that it would be hard to improve upon the picture which forms the cover of his book In Pursuit of the Peregrine.
A keen falconer at one time, he developed an understanding of many birds of prey and flew Goshawks himself, but never wanted to keep a Peregrine, since he felt it looked wrong in captivity. Later, he spent more time in the field and as his knowledge increased, it was not long before his views were being sought by experts all over the world. I remember asking the great Derek Ratcliffe one day for his views on some aspect of the Peregrine’s hunting and he said that he was not certain about the details, but that Dick Treleaven would know! Dick himself was equally modest and when faced with the familiar problem of deciding whether a particular bird was a male or female, would readily admit to being uncertain at times.
Despite his status, he remained a very likeable and approachable individual and his enormous enthusiasm was very infectious. He was always generous with advice and guidance and did everything he could to encourage others in their Peregrine studies. In the fullness of time, this was recognised in the award of an MBE for his services to ornithology in Cornwall. He could have gone to Buckingham Palace to receive his splendid medal from a member of the Royal Family, but since this meant he could only take two people with him, he typically opted instead for a local ceremony, with the Lord Lieutenant, in his home town of Launceston and was joined by 112 guests.
Dick could be very witty, too, as when visitors sometimes expressed surprise that Peregrines did not behave exactly as they had expected them to, he would point out that while we had all read the books on the birds behaviour, the Peregrines apparently had not!
We have lost a great expert and friend.
Denis Corley, March 2010.
Books by R. B. Treleaven
- In Pursuit of the Peregrine, Tiercel Publishing 1988
- The Private Life of the Peregrine Falcon, Headland Publications 1977
Obituary in British Birds
An obituary for Dick Treleaven appeared in the November issue of British Birds, 2010 (Vol.103): B. (Dick) Treleaven (1920–2009) by Denis Corely.