Peter Hamel was a man of many talents.  He was an ordained Anglican priest, a university lecturer, and a keen bird researcher, a birder in the truest sense.  Peter was hooked on birds as a youngster.  He kept detailed bird journals as a member of Hamilton’s Nature club and he kept doing this for seventy years, wherever he was, including Ontario, England, Uganda, and of course in BC.  He was keeping track daily of every bird he saw at Haida Gwaii and he kept all of these journals.

Peter was also an educated man.  He had a BA from McMaster (1962), a Bachelor of Theology from Wycliffe College (1965), an MA from Trinity College Cambridge (1968) and a Master’s of Environmental Studies from York University (1976).  He was a man of conviction and strength who wouldn’t shy away from protest and intimidation.  He worked and narrowly survived the likes of Ugandan dictator Edi Amin and yes, he was there with his Haida friends facing the RCMP at the Lyell Island blockade in the 1980’s.  These protests eventually led to the establishment of Gwaii Haanas National Park. He was a respected man who remained true to his convictions, even serving his church and country on an Amazon Pollution Probe.  Peter was always engaged.  He worked and studied abroad, but he is best known for work with birds in British Columbia.

Peter being a professional researcher, and completing many surveys and studies from his base at Masset in Haida Gwaii was able to record several first in Canada birds, including the Bristle Thighed Curlew, the Little Stint, and the Eurasian Hobby.  With his wife and partner Margo, they worked to restore Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary to the original estuarine status. Peter and Margo also built the Nature Centre.  The success of reintroducing tidal flow in 1995, into the sanctuary lands was a game changer which enabled many species to flourish.  Peter and Margo were very proud of their sanctuary from which they were able to welcome folks from around the globe.  They were especially pleased when connecting with children, all potential naturalists.

Peter was never happier than when he was monitoring a storm triggered bird fall-out.  On those days he would travel the length of Haida Gwaii from Tow Hill to Sandspit seeking the oddities of migration.  And yes, there were sandpipers, albatross, and all kinds of Asian strays.  Birding was a way of life for Peter.  Identifying a little stint running like a little golf ball between the legs of the Dunlin, was one of many delights.  Peter had many Haida friends but none were truer than Martin Williams with whom he birded and walked the land.

Peter was where he wanted to be in Masset.  He was there when he died on February 18, 2024.  Peter was one of BC Nature’s greatest bird naturalists.