[Bristol-Birds] So what is going on here ? A lifetime in raptor studies.

  • From: "Wallace Coffey" <jwcoffey@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Bristol-birds" <bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2012 22:42:28 -0400

So what is going on here ?

Some years ago, at the request of Tom McNeil and Rob Biller, I posted memories 
about many birders and old records and historic birding in the area, etc.  It 
was not only fun but it was an opportunity to connect many present birders with 
much of the past that I either knew about or experienced.  It was shared under 
the heading "Snippets".

Most of you have seen a constant stream of postings about eagles.  Surely some 
of you are bored to death with all of that if you see it as nothing more than 
being saturated with my ego.

On a sunny winter day as I left Dr. Lee R. Herndon's house in Elizabethton, I 
looked across the street at a owl roosting box he had put on a tree in a vacant 
woodlot.  A red morph Eastern Screech Owl was sunning in the entrance hole. 

Perhaps this best marks the beginning of half a century studying raptors. 

That was 1964 and he was asked if we could catch it and place a bird band on 
its leg.  He did not have any bands that large.  That seemed strange.  He was 
not interested in getting bands that size.  He sort of dismissed the entire 
notion that ordering and keeping larger bands in inventory was necessary.

It was obvious I would never be able to band larger birds because I had a 
sub-permit to band birds under him and he provided my USF&WS bands.  I decided, 
on the drive home, something needed to change and that meant getting my own 
master banding permit and ordering larger bands.  It happened swiftly.
The large supply of raptor bands that fit the largest hawks, owls and eagles 
are still with me.  I have used most sizes on raptors.

That marked a turn in my banding direction and bird study which led down an 
endless road in life.  It has been an obsession with studying both diurnal and 
nocturnal raptors.  As an amateur raptor biologists, the focus was more and 
more into nesting, distribution, migration, radio tracking and rediscovery of 
old records.  Fascinating and famous raptor researchers have become friends and 
several professionals still contribute on a regular basis.  They sense the 
passion and do as much as they can to help.

Most of the results were never for the pure sense of science.  What was learned 
was not to support a career or satisfy a demand to publish.  It has 
strengthened personal capabilities to assist those who do such things and as 
both a tool and encouragement in mentoring young people pursuing a career in 
academia or field biology.  Along the way, much of it was in support of those 
carrying out important and needed management of raptors.

Last winter it was decided to share everything about all that we have been 
doing with eagles.  Why learn and experience so much and take it to the grave ? 
 Others can learn from what was being done and it will not only given them an 
opportunity to enrich their knowledge of birds of prey but also, in some ways,
contribute to their careers, jobs or whatever from what they learn.  Those that 
show the most interest are invited to help.  Obviously, many people could care 
less. We've never felt others need to be interested in what we do or need to 
bird the same way we do. Those who have a more narrow view of all of birding, 
sometimes think what we do should not be on these lists but times and ways are 
changing. It's always a learning experience.

You will see many more e-mail posts in the coming weeks about what we've 
learned about raptors in our region and how some of that can be used to better 
help you and others more enjoy birding.

The first will begin with an attempt to understand Bald Eagle migration in the 
Mountain Empire Region.

Wallace Coffey
Bristol TN

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