Tributes are pouring in following the sudden death of prominent nature conservationist and champion of Pembrokeshire’s bird colony, David Saunders, MBE.

News of his death was broken by his family on Sunday evening.

“David was taken into hospital unwell earlier this week, and passed away peacefully with my mother by his side,” said his son, Rob Saunders.

“David was a private person and had requested that his passing was to be marked in a private manner so his funeral will be attended by immediate family with family flowers only. If you wish to mark his passing, donations can be made in his memory to The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

David Saunders was appointed as the very first warden of Skomer Island in 1960 when he began a lifelong association with Pembrokeshire.

He organised the first ever census of the breeding seabirds of the British Isles - Operation Seafarer – and for 20 years served as Director of the West Wales Trust for Nature Conservation and Honorary Warden of Grassholm.

He helped initiate the Pembrokeshire Bird Report and continued to be a prolific lecturer and author, his publications including ‘Where to Watch Birds in Wales’, ‘The Birds of Pembrokeshire’ and ‘Seabirds of Britain and Ireland’. He is also a former president of WOS.

Following Sunday’s announcement, tributes have been pouring in for David Saunders.

“David made a significant contribution to nature conservation over so many years in his voluntary work as well as in his professional life,” commented Sarah Kessell, who is the chief executive officer of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

“His dedication was recognized by the awarding of an MBE in 2003 for his services to nature conservation in Wales and in 2014 a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Welsh Ornithological Society.

"David’s lifelong passion for wildlife will be fondly remembered and he will be sorely missed.”

Also paying his respects is Greg Morgan who is the RSPB Cymru Site Manager at Ramsey and Grassholm.

"David Saunders was an Honorary Warden for RSPB Grassholm during a period when the Society had no staff based here in Pembrokeshire," he said.

"He was a valuable source of information during this time, and a diligent record keeper. RSPB Cymru is greatly saddened by his loss and we extend our condolences to his family."