Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Wins and Loss in the Birding World
January 11, 2014
By Steve Grinley

     Last weekend was one of ups and downs. On Saturday, we attended a “Celebration of the life of Warren Harrington.” When I open my Birder’s Life List & Diary Book, which I have kept since I started birding in the early nineteen-sixties, the first entry is for Common Loon. The May 1964 entry reads: “Flying over a long line of BBC cars on trip led by Warren H. Harrington – my first BBC trip.” 

     I was saddened to hear of Warren’s death in October. He was one of those excellent birders that were so accessible in those times, mentoring young birders like me by frequently leading many Brookline Bird Club (and South Shore Bird Club) trips, and sharing the experience he had gained. 

     Warren was a friend and fellow birder, whom I saw more infrequently in recent years. His yearly visits to the store with his wife, Ellie when he was home from Florida in the warmer weather were the highlight of my summer days. I guess his absence this past year should have been a clue, but I chose to think that he had so many other friends and family to visit with during his time up north, that he would have not have been able to make the trek from the South Shore to Newburyport. But I later heard that he had been ill and that he was again battling cancer. 

     I will miss Warren, the last of my mentors that have gone before us. I only hope that those young birders who follow will find the wisdom and guidance from such fine mentors as Warren, and the few others that I was lucky enough to have found when I was young.

     That same evening, we attended another celebration – this one more joyous! It was a surprise party, congratulating our fellow birder, Neil Haywood of Cambridge, for setting a new North American record of seeing 749 bird species in a single year! Just to put that feat into some perspective for any non-birders, I have yet to see 700 North American birds in my fifty years of birding!

     Neil surpassed the previous record holder, Sandy Komito in 1998, (of The Big Year book and movie fame), by one species. On December 28, from a boat along the North Carolina coast, Neil spotted a Great Skua, which put him over the top. Over the course of the year, Neil ended up spending 195 nights away from home during 2013. He logged 51,758 miles by car, 193,758 miles in the air on 177 flights though 56 cities, and spent 147 hours over some 15 days on boats. 

     All of us could tell that Neil was happy to be home and to be among his friends. Also attending the party were Jay Lehman, whose Big Year total for 2013 was a not-too-shabby 734, and Jeff Gordon, president of the American Birding Association and his wife, Liz. Neil dubbed this his Accidental Big Year because he really didn’t intend on going all out until almost April, after a few early year birding excursions that netted him some 375 species. You can read about his adventure on Neil’s blog at http://accidentalbigyear2013.blogspot.com. It is a great read as Neil has a gifted sense of humor.

     On Sunday, we ran into another fellow birder who was embarking on his own kind of Big Year. Dorian Anderson of Boston is attempting a green Big Year on bicycle. He wants see 600 species by peddling some 15,000 miles, crisscrossing the U.S. from New England to the West Coast and ending back in the middle of the country. And he plans to do this without using a drop of petroleum. He hopes to raise $100,000 for conservation efforts. 

     Dorian started out at Salisbury Beach State Reservation on January 1 and we caught up with him at the Jodrey State Fish Pier in Gloucester. Dorian had just found a dovekie, one of his target birds, in the harbor not far from the pier. A thick-billed murre was also in the vicinity. He is a brave man to be riding a bike in the frigid weather that we have been experiencing! You can read about Dorian’s adventure on his blog at http://bikingforbirds.blogspot.com. We wish him much success!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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