a childhood saved

Nature Journals 1971-1972

The text here is transcribed from my original handwritten notes, edited to fix spelling mistakes. Editorial comments or clarifications are in [brackets], and the text boxes on the right provide more detail on individuals, events, or situations highlighted with a yellow box (yellow box) in the journals. My notes for 1971-72 were less detailed and frequent than those in subsequent years.



yellow box We got my dog Minx when I was two years old, and he grew up with me. He died when I was 18.

yellow box Until I was 11 or 12 years old, there were no other children my age nearby. None of the kids I knew at school were into nature, at least not to the extent that I was, and I felt isolated. But then David B. and his family moved to a house about a quarter-mile away. When I discovered that David was interested in nature, I was overjoyed. We spent summers catching snakes together, watching hawks, and exploring the woods. We were best friends for a few years.

1: Minx yellow box , my dog, flushed a green heron today. Temperature this morning: 49°F.

4: Flushed heron again today, also caught baby painted turtle.

6: David B. yellow box let pet northern water snake go in Lake Woodrock

8: Lake Woodrock is completely drained; hole in dam needs to be fixed. Found crayfish tracks and a large crayfish.

24: Heard a screech owl at 12:00 midnight, barred owl at 4:00 am.


2: Seventeen Canada geese landed in Lake Woodrock in the evening.

11: Made plaster casts of deer and raccoon tracks. Saw killdeer and a kestrel.

17: Muskrat house found on "Sunny Island" in our lake.


6: Yesterday, temperature was 32°F, first frost. Today saw 7 or 8 wood ducks at Lake Woodrock

9: Temp this morning was 21°F.

10: First snow, melted.

22: Second snow.

23: Ice nearly covers whole lake.

29: Flying squirrel got into house, we got it out in the afternoon.


2: Temp this morning was 16°F.

6: Snowed today, ice on lake 1.5 inches thick.

9: Forty geese in Lake Woodrock

yellow box Ed Hicks was another kindred spirit. My seventh-grade science teacher, he was one of the first adults I met who shared my passion for birds and wildlife. He was a mentor to me, and his biology classes were a high point of my school day.

18: Annual Christmas Bird Count, Peekskill count with Mr. Hicks. yellow box

30: Partially albino chickadee sighted around the house.



6: Two evening grosbeaks. Temperature was 7°F.

8: Flock of approximately 30 evening grosbeaks

15: Found where 3 flying squirrels live, in an old dead tulip-tree near cottage.

20: Found an injured mourning dove, put in box with food and water.

23: Let dove go, it flew off fine.

26: Four pine siskins at feeder


25: Saw a few common redpolls

27: About 40 redpolls. Saw 3 pheasant, 4 grouse at Brinton Brook Sanctuary. yellow box

yellow box Brinton Brook Audubon Sanctuary was a sanctuary for more than wildlife. It was my haven, a place that I spent hours quietly exploring, almost always on my own. The back entrance to the sanctuary was about an hour's walk from my house, and I used to get up well before dawn to get there in time to see the morning's first burst of activity by deer, birds, and other animals.


1: Redwings arrive.

2: Grackles arrive.

3: First thunderstorm.

11: Saw coots and buffleheads on Croton River.

25: Pileated woodpecker at Lake Woodrock.

30: Hooded Mergansers (2) and a Bohemian waxwing!


14: Partial albino chickadee back around, female red-bellied woodpecker, also a mallard nesting on muskrat house.

22: Pine siskins are still here.

May [See also my sketchbook pages for May, 1972]

1: Baltimore oriole, siskin, catbird.

2: Wood thrush, and otter in lake!

8: Mallard eggs gone, siskins still here, green heron, Cape May warbler.

27: Another mallard nesting, also a wood thrush nesting.

29: Mallard abandoned nest again.

I didn't write much in my journals during the summer months. I found the seasons of change—spring and autumn—much more exciting than summer, and the heat and humidity of summer sapped me of inspiration. During the summer of 1972, I was more devoted to my sketchbook than to my journal.

October [sketchbook pages for October]

1: Temperature this morning was 38°F.

2: Temp this morning was 34°F, first frost.

3: Three wood ducks entered our lake (upper lake) this morn.

5: Large flock of wood ducks and one male mallard in lake this morning, one or two male woodies [wood ducks] still in a semi-eclipse pattern. About 10 ducks in all. Heard white-throated sparrows today and saw a great blue heron flying above upper lake.

9: About 24 wood duck in lake, also saw an immature myrtle warbler near house.

10: Temp this morning was 32°F, widespread frost.

14: Migrating grackles all around, great big flocks.

17: Wood ducks have been here ever day since October 5. Also saw first junco of season.

19: First snow, melted late in morning. Also saw a flock of ruby-crowned kinglets.

20: Temp this morning was 26°F.

21: 24°F this morning! Cold for October. Wood ducks gone.

29: Many leaves fallen.

31: Saw a large flock of evening grosbeaks, many pine siskins, also unusually large amount of sapsuckers.

November [sketchbook pages for November]

yellow box I eventually met Bob Augustine, a crack birder whom I'd read about in the Saw Mill River Audubon Society's newsletter. He drove me around during a Christmas Bird Count one year and scared me half to death by deciding he wanted to practice his skills at controlling a skid by skidding the car repeatedly at high speed in a snowy, mostly empty parking lot. See my Naturalist's Notebook essay for more details.

2: Today, called Mr. Robert Augustine yellow box [of the Saw Mill River Audubon Society] and told him of our siskins and grosbeaks. He said they have been seen much earlier than this. Also he said that the first two weeks of November are great for winter finches.

4: Heard a screech owl at 6am, quite light out. Saw a skunk hit by a car on Furnace Dock Road, went over and put him in a safe place, gave him some food which he did not eat. Also saw a bittern today, verified sighting through binoculars. He put on his camouflage act for me. Evening grosbeaks still around.

5: Complete birding list for today: Blue jay, purple grackle, mockingbird, siskin, evening grosbeak, black-capped chickadee, titmouse, house sparrow, white-throated sparrow, ruby-crowned kinglet, flicker, cardinal, robin, crow, junco, red-breasted nuthatch, white-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, and mourning dove. First time I have ever seen a red-breasted nuthatch around here.

7: Saw six red crossbills in a hemlock by the bridge on Brook Lane! Then, walking down Spruce Lane I spotted one white-winged crossbill! Saw both species in about 2 hours. Saw the reds at 6am.

9: Saw a kingfisher today. Also saw a great big flock (approx 200) of evening grosbeaks going north-east.

15: Snowed about 1 inch.

16: Snow still there, temp 20°F. Ice has covered nearly whole lake.

18: Still a little snow left. Yesterday, we had a male Baltimore oriole near our feeder. Quite late!

22: 19°F this morn. Lake completely frozen.

23: 15°F this morning.

26: Red-bellied woodpecker back (one male). Last spring we had a nesting pair.

30: Snowed again.

December [sketchbook pages for December]

2: Today, saw 1 red-breasted nuthatch, 4 or 5 white-winged crossbills.

4: Another red-br nuthatch, also a mockingbird.

6: Baltimore oriole still around!

7: Saw a vesper sparrow today at the feeder.

9: Oriole still around!

12: We now have a female red-bellied woodpecker, too. Resident flying squirrels back again. A light snow today and a catbird!

15: Tomorrow morning at 5am I will be going on the Peekskill Bird Count with Mr. Hicks, my 7th grade biology teacher from last year. Then on Sunday the 17th I will go on the Saw Mill River Audubon Society bird count.

16: Had 20 canvasbacks at George's Island, a few swamp sparrows, many mockers [mockingbirds]. Thirty-four species, a low count. The oriole didn't show up, but he has been seen in the count period.

17: Better than yesterday, but not much. See "birds" notebook for information.

18: Oriole still around.

21: Oriole still here.

28: Carolina wren, oriole, no snow on ground.

30: Opossum near Bath's house on Brook Lane.

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