Thursday, 28 February 2013

Back in time – SODOFF

S.O.D.O.F.F. was conceived in 1991 in a pub in Wallingford by a few birders who wanted a bit more oomph from a meeting about birds and birding.

SODOFF stands for “South Oxfordshire Ornithological Fellowship of Friends” sounds like something from “Lord of the Rings” but believe me not all of us are Hobbits or Elves come to that!

We decided to hold regular meetings around 3 per year and issue a “journal” for each meeting, the meetings were held in Cholsey at the old pavilion until it got burned down (It wasn’t us) and the last meeting was held in the Old School Day Centre here at Marymead.

The core team initially for SODOFF was Ian Lewington, Peter Pool, Carl Salmon, Steve Young and myself. We also recruited many others with special skills or no skills whatsoever to help out and/or write various articles, these included Roger and Geoff Wyatt, Martin Hallam, George Reszeter and many other well-known Oxfordshire birders.

The “Teletree” was developed alongside; this was a telephone-based system for disseminating information on rare or scarce county birds. Initially around 10 members but this grew over the next few years to 30+ members and started to get rather complex for getting information to all concerned.

With the hibernation of SODOFF (we aint gone away yet!) the Teletree became OBIS (great for acronyms aren’t we) and continued on well in to the 2000’s but as communication media progressed this fell in to disuse but it done the job for those years it was active and a lot of county birders saw some good stuff because of it.

The OOS (Oxford Ornithological Society) perceived us as a potential threat and we even had a meeting with the OOS president, Dr Andy Gosler in a pub in Wallingford one evening and were successful in allaying any fears of a fledgling bird club usurping the authority of the oldest bird society in the world.

The first meeting was held on 12th August 1992, the journal was entitled “Not the birds of Oxfordshire” and was mainly about the Teletree, at this point George Reszeter was onboard as a photographic consultant and Geoff Wyatt for catering and Roger Wyatt joined the board with a special responsibility for hall bookings. Andy Swash gave a talk that evening on the birds of Venezuela.

“Roger’s noises” (Roger Wyatt), “Martins ID quiz” (Martin Hallam) and “the mystery bird quiz” (Lew) were born and provided many an entertaining time trying to guess what bird made this or that noise especially after several cans of Caffreys.

I’m sure Bill Campbell would have frowned on us and then offered us a wee drop of whisky from his hip flask!

Over the next few years we had talks from the esteemed Mr Lev Levington himself, Jon King, Dave Cotteridge, Tim Loseby, Dave Massey, Andy Swash (again), Mike Amphlett and many other notable “ornithologists” “photographers” and “ecologists”.

The journal took on many guises with names like “SODBB”, “SOD the new year”, “Bastard Wing”,  “Turdus”, “SOD’ING World”, “Scilly Sod” to name but a few and featured many class articles such as “Chumming for Black Grouse”, (remember that Rog!),  “5 go North”, “Society wedding of the year”, and the now infamous “Skinny dipping on Scilly” photographed by George Reszeter and organised by Debbie Lewington, still have to get you back for that Debs, and the very prestigious “Serious back Page” with all the graphics dominated by our prestigious local bird artist Mr Levington.
The editorial meetings usually took place in the George and Dragon in Sutton Courtney where many useless ideas were formulated and included in the journals and at the meetings.

We even had T-shirts, car stickers etc printed, and even designed a pair of logo’d unisex undergarments. The T-shirts and car stickers were seen throughout the land from Scilly to Wick on various twitches, and the name of SODOFF became known internationally with several sodoff’ers flouting their T-shirts on international birding trips.

SODOFF eventually went in to hibernation in the late 90’s due to financial considerations waiting for the day it will re-awaken and take the birding world by storm once again.

Paul Chandler a.k.a. oxonbirder, I accept no responsibility for the accuracy of the above article as I cannot remember it all (too pissed then and too old now)!




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