Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Avid Birders and Conservationists to be Honored
November 1, 2008
I’ve spoken in past columns about the efforts to preserve the Common Pastures. Numerous conservation organizations including Essex County Greenbelt, Trust for Public Lands along with the town of Newbury and city of Newburyport, along with the efforts and contributions of many individuals, have made tremendous strides in preserving what remains as open property east of Route 95 between Scotland Road and Hale Street.
An observation platform was recently erected on the edge of one of the parcels, Wet Meadows, on Scotland Road. This Sunday at 9 am, that platform will be dedicated to the memory of two individuals who aided in the preservation effort, Lawrence Jodrey and Gerald Soucy. Together, they were birders extraordinaire and key mentors for me in my early years of birding, and mentors to many others as well. They led numerous Newburyport and Rockport trips for the Brookline Bird Club and they were always birding the Newburyport area on their own. Larry’s “CURLEW” and Jerry’s “AVOCET” license plates on their respective vehicles were regular sites. The two were always together and they were simply known as “Larry and Jerry” or “Jerry and the Judge”. Back in the sixties, they sometimes had famed birder and author John Keiran riding in their back seat and often a new protégé, Tom Martin, now of Boxford – a fellow teen birding friend of mine at the time. In later years, it was their loving poodle “Brandy”, who accompanied them. But they were always together, Larry and Jerry. I can’t say that I ever saw one in the field without the other. Not ever.
Larry and Jerry made sure that all the birders in the area were aware of any special bird that was around. They would stop on the road and tell you what was around and, since there were no cell phones back then, they would often drive out of their way to find people to tell, or they would stay on the bird until others arrived. That is rare these days. If they were at home and heard of a rare bird they would call everyone they knew. They always shared their sightings and their birding knowledge with all who would listen. And listen we did.
Larry and Jerry were always conscious of, and often vocal about, the loss of habitat that they witnessed over the years. The Common Pastures were always close to their hearts, as they birded the area often. They had treasured the song of the Upland Sandpiper (or Plover as it was called in those days) perched on a short cedar tree on this breeding ground. They enjoyed watching rough-legged hawks, harriers and short-eared owls hunt the open fields. But they, like many of us, also saw much of the open grasslands replaced by industrial buildings. They mourned the loss of land to development, and the disappearance of some of these birds to the area as a result.
But they didn’t just spread an awareness to the loss of habitat. They contributed monetarily to Essex County Greenbelt, and other conservation organizations, to help preserve this beautiful landscape and valuable habitat for birds and other wildlife. So it is fitting that an observation platform in that tranquil spot, overlooking the habitat and birds that they helped preserve, should be dedicated to them and their spirit for conservation.
I am a better birder today for having had Larry and Jerry as mentors, teachers, and, especially, as honorable friends. We are all thankful for their contributions to birding and to the preservation of this property that will be enjoyed for generations to come.
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