a childhood saved

A Naturalist's Notebook

When I was 14-15 years old, I wrote a series of 23 essays as a weekly assignment for my high school English class. I called the series "A Naturalist's Notebook." Naturalist's Notebook Table of Contents

Bird Census Report: December 19, 1973

Unfortunately, I did not go on the Peekskill count, but the Audubon count was a total success. I got three "lifers," birds I had seen for the first time: rusty blackbird, pied-billed grebe, and winter wren.

We started off at Kensico reservoir, and we had with us nine "workers." Mr. Bob Augustine and Miss Thelma Smith took David B. and me along. Mr. Lester Holmes and Lou Bowen went around the reservoir. Dr. Bob Schweitzer, leader of the count, Pat Schweitzer, and Ken Schweitzer took another area. Mr. Augustine drove us to the IBM center, where we sw a few species of sparrow, cardinals, chickadees, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and a few other species.

Mr. Augustine wandered off, and we lost him. After about 45 minutes he came back and reported several ruffed grouse, two rusty blackbirds, a mute swan, and a few sparrow species. (Of course, these are abstract terms—I think he saw 2 field sparrows, 5 tree sparrows, 3 ruffed grouse, etc.) Then we went to the parking lot of IBM, where I spotted a red-tailed hawk.

Miss Smith left, so Mr. Augustine took us through the woods to a few productive spots. Here was where I saw my first rusty blackbird and winter wren. We saw another red-tailed and a large group of assorted sparrows.

By this time, snow was really beginning to fall, and Mr. Augustine was taking us on wild "skidding practice" sessions! We passed cars over the side of the road, sideways on the road, and in many other positions. One of the high points of the day was when we walked into a little patch of briars whereupon Mr. Augustine imitated [the sound of] a tufted titmouse. Suddenly a sharp-shinned hawk swooped out of the sky and skimmed right over us!

After this, we went to Byram Lake, where we saw nothing. Wampus Pond also produced nothing. We decided to go back to Kensico reservoir to improve its reputation—all Mr. Holmes and Mr. Bowen had seen was 5 mallards! Well, I must say, we improved its reputation! One hundred nineteen Canada geese, 3 pied-billed grebes, 5 buffleheads, 1 golden-eye, and 2 more mallards were seen. Happy and triumphant, we skidded away into the darkening sky.

We arrived at Greenwich Audubon Center and relaxed. We all compiled our reports, totaled up all individuals and returned them to the head compilers. We came up with 40 species and 714 individuals, but Dr. Schweitzer still had his report to hand in. Finally, my father came with his trusty Land-Rover and took us home.

Next: "Log Cabins" January 2, 1974