A History of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club, The First One Hundred Years
by Phillips M. Street (as published in Cassinia No. 63 1988-1989 Centennial Edition)
In commemoration of the 100th year of DVOC, member Phillips M. Street documented the history and accomplishments of our Club.
The Early Years
The Delaware Valley Ornithological Club came into being on February 3, 1890, when seven young men between the ages of 23 and 30 met at the 1624 Arch Street residence of William L. Baily’s family in Philadelphia and adopted a constitution. The groundwork had been laid at a similar meeting there a week before. Those attending the preliminary meeting were Baily, George S. Morris, J. Harris Reed, Samuel N. Rhoads and Spencer Trotter. They were joined by Witmer Stone and Charles Voelker at the second meeting when the organization was formalized. The seven founders chose Baily as president and Rhoads as secretary-treasurer. We will hear more about these enthusiastic pioneers later.
The early history of the Club is well documented, but most of the sources of this information are not readily available today. Cassinia, the Club’s journal, made its debut in 1901, and it was preceded by four small printed publications entitled Abstract of Proceedings of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club covering the years 1890 to 1900. The founding and aims of the young club were also described by Rhoads in a 1902 issue of Bird-Lore, “Bird Clubs in American, The Delaware Valley Club.”
By far the most intimate and detailed account of the early years is presented in a souvenir brochure issued for the twentieth anniversary meeting. No author is credited with this delightfully written and amusing production, but one strongly suspects that it was Stone. The title on the cover is “D.V.O.C.1890-1910.” The sub-title reads:
D. V. 0. C.
Twenty Year Souvenir
A Personal History of the Club
A Chronological List of Members and their Achievements
ILLUSTRATED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS FROM LIFE
IT’S ALL HERE AND IT’S ALL TRUE
The bound minutes of all the meetings from the Club’s inception through 1969 are in the custody of the Library of the Academy of Natural Sciences. There, too, is a meticulously prepared scrapbook containing much historical data for the years 1890 to 1899. In it are printed postcard meeting notices, bird paintings and sketches, field trip photographs, other Club announcements and clippings from the Public Ledger and The Philadelphia Record reporting on the meetings. Later minutes are still to be bound and placed in the Academy’s care.
A 1986 book by Joseph Kastner, entitled A World of Watchers, traces the history of bird watching in this country “from its scientific beginnings to the great birding boom of today.” The author devotes a fascinating chapter “The Good Fellows,” to the Club. It is nice to read here that “even among the bird clubs, which were originally pretty exclusive groups themselves, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (D.V.O.C.) was considered to be the exclusive birding club, a reputation which persists to this day.” Thank you, Mr. Kastner!
It is from all these sources, the notes of my father, J. Fletcher Street and my own, and the personal recollections of fellow members, that this account of the Club’s history has been prepared.
In this Centennial Year, it is interesting to look back and see how the Club celebrated its three previous quarter-century milestones.
A Twenty-fifth Anniversary Banquet was held at the Roosevelt Hotel on January 7, 1915, with 66 members and seven guests in attendance. A report of it in Cassinia describes the happy event and is repeated here in part.
Responding to the toast, “When I was in Sing Sing,” Dr. A. K. Fisher, President of the American Ornithologists’ Union, defended his choice of habitat and referred to his abiding affection for the D.V.O.C. The Secretary of the A.O.U. was also with us, Mr. John H. Sage, who described the activities of his local Connecticut society. Mr. Charles F. Batchelder presented a written testimonial of congratulation from the Nuttall Ornithological Club, and greetings were brought by Dr. T. S. Palmer from the Biological Survey, and by Mr. John T. Nichols from the Linnaean Society of New York. Messrs. William Palmer and Alexander Wetmore, of Washington, D.C., were also honored guests.
A former member of the Club, Dr. Robert T. Young, of the University of North Dakota, related incidents in his career when he was associated with Dr. Wm. E. Hughes on several questionable escapades. Dr. Hughes was given an opportunity to defend himself, responding to the toast, “The Oologist,” and announced his complete conversion to the spirit of the Audubon Society. Mr. Wm. L. Baily was then heartily acclaimed the “Momma and Poppa Bird” of the Club and related how it happened. Responding to the toast, ” Cassinia,” Mr. Robert Thomas Moore read extracts from an ancient manuscript, recently discovered and entitled “The D.V.O.C., or How a Great Egg was Hatched,” and Dr. Stone, prime instigator of all Club activities, closed the evening with congratulatory remarks and telling verses.
The splendid attendance as well as the spirit of good-fellowship, which was a conspicuous feature of the banquet, drew from Dr. Fisher a memorable tribute. He said: “I believe that such another gathering of bird students could not be assembled to a local ornithological banquet in any other city of America or possibly on either side of the Atlantic.
On February 1, 1940, some 90 members and guests attended a Fiftieth Anniversary Dinner at the Art Club of Philadelphia. The speakers were Fletcher Street on “The D.V.O.C., Its Past and Future”; Dr. Alexander Wetmore, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and a former President of the A.O.U., on “The A.O.U. Check-List,” stressing Dr. Stone’s work as Chairman of the Fourth Edition; Dr. James P. Chapin of the American Museum of Natural History, on “Opportunities of Ornithologists,” speaking from his own experiences and citing men in other lines of work who made their mark in ornithology; Dr. A.K. Fisher, now an Honorary Member of the Club, with “Reminiscences of Fellow Ornithologists”; and Charles M.B. Cadwalader, the President of the Academy of Natural Sciences, on “The Relationship of the D.V.O.C. to the Academy of Natural Sciences.”
I am fortunate to have a copy of Fletcher Street’s unpublished remarks with his comments on the founders and other early members who contributed so much to the first half-century of the Club. They follow.
Any organization that has functioned for so long a time must of necessity contain many vacant chairs, and I count myself fortunate in having come upon the scene soon enough to have been intimately associated with most of its early members who have contributed so largely to the success of the Club but who are no longer with us. Among the names which come prominently to mind are those of Norry DeHaven, Stew Brown, George Morris, Spencer Trotter and the beloved Witmer Stone. No organization of which these spirits have been a part could fail to succeed. It may be evidence of senility on my’ part, but sometimes I feel that the D.V.O.C. will never see such shining lights again, men of such personal magnetism and attractive-ness. Yet, again, as I look out over this gathering tonight, when I sense the individual talents of each one of you as I know them, then I realize that the D.V.O.C. is greater than any of its parts and is bound to go forward to even more noteworthy accomplishments.
To be for a long time a member of such a group as this is one way in which to store up many remembrances of pleasant associations. I might relate tonight many top experiences with Stone, Rhoads, Trotter, Stuart, Scoville, Potter and McDonald, the men with which I have been most intimate in this matter of bird pursuit, but all of you have had like experiences with those who have been closest to you in your bird study. These little pleasantries, as Stone used to say, constitute the ornithological background for more lasting friendships in all fields of endeavor.
Mr. Baily, one who could speak with full authority concerning the events of this period, has given me much valuable information.
During the years immediately following the Wilson, Audubon, and Cassin periods, any ornithological work around Philadelphia was at a virtual standstill. Then, in the late seventies, there did appear a number of young collectors of birds and eggs. Among them were William Collins, Rhoads, Trotter, Baily and Morris, but nothing was done according to any organized plan.
In 1881, a bird club was organized at Haverford College. This consisted of six members, of which Baily was one. It had lists of the common birds, and these were regularly tabulated. The club, however, was short-lived and soon disintegrated. Individual interest persisted, nevertheless. Baily joined the A.O.U. in 1885, at which time, he tells me, he already possessed some 800 bird skins. Morris and Trotter were doing likewise (collecting), yet the thought of any organization or joint effort had not yet crystallized. Then in 1889 we find Baily working as an architectural draughtsman in a Philadelphia office. A chance remark about birds caught the ear of another draughtsman (Reed), who confessed to a like interest. Baily brought in the lists which he had been keeping and spoke of his collection of skins. The more they talked, the more excited Reed became. Reed purchased a notebook and began to record the birds of Tinicum. Reed told Baily that he had a friend, one Charles Voelker, a master taxidermist, who had mounted several birds for him.
By early January in 1890 this bird study fever had gotten such a hold on Baily and Reed that they decided to ask their friends Rhoads, Morris and Trotter to join with them for the purpose of keeping combined lists. They met at Baily’s father’s house on Arch Street and, after a most harmonious meeting, agreed to form an ornithological society. Rhoads was appointed temporary secretary and Baily chairman. Rhoads was delegated to prepare a constitution to be presented at the next meeting a week hence. Witmer Stone, at Trotter’s suggestion, and Voelker, at Reed’s, were also invited to attend. So, on February 3, 1890, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club came into existence. I would like to say something of these men who broke the trail which we have been following for so many years.
Trotter had been a Jessup Fund student at the Academy in 1876, as was Stone in 1890. He had helped transfer the collection of birds from the old building on Broad Street to the present site. He happened to be a nephew of George W. Lawrence, an early ornithologist and one of the founders of the A.O.U., and had met at Lawrence’s home many ornithologists of more or less renown. As I have already indicated, he was an inveterate collector, and as a boy the birds were gotten with a slapjack. At the time of the founding of the Club he was a brand new medical doctor and had just become established as a professor of biology at Swarthmore College. From the point of view of scientific knowledge, Trotter stood higher up the ornithological ladder than any of the others. He was always theorizing about his ornithology, and he treated every subject with which he dealt in a most original manner, so whenever Trotter spoke before the Club he had a large and enthusiastic audience. I think of Trotter as the greatest storyteller that ever came into our ranks. Many times, when I would call upon Stone, I would detect a twinkle in his eye, and I sensed that I was about to be treated to one of Trotter’s tales, and they were not always of the parlor variety.
Baily, Morris and Reed at this time were all incipient architects. Baily, too, laid claim to ornithological ancestry in the person of an uncle of the same name, the author of Our Own Birds, one of the first popular works on American ornithology. As I have suggested, he was a great note keeper and perhaps has treasured away today accounts of almost everything of importance that has happened in the D.V.O.C. during its long history. He became the Club’s first bird photographer, and I am pleased to announce that all his negatives are now reposing among the archives of the D.V.O.C.
Morris looked upon ornithology from the viewpoint of an artist, delighting in its aesthetic and poetic sides, although in his formative years he did much of his research to the accompaniment of a favorite fowling-piece. Morris made important contributions to the Club’s literature, and fortunately, many of his charming word pictures are preserved in the early numbers of Cassinia. Morris, too had somewhat of a claim to ornithological ancestry through his relationship to Edward Harris, the friend and patron of Audubon.
Reed, along with Rhoads, came out of Westtown Boarding School, where a love of natural history was fostered but collecting decried. This latter prohibition, however, seems to have had little weight with either of these gentlemen once they escaped from the severe discipline of that institution. Reed was a peculiar fellow and did not last long in the organization. It at length appeared that many of his observations were tinged with an over-zealous desire to report the unusual. Oddly, though, it was from him that I received my first impetus in bird study, for he gave to a nephew who was my boyhood friend a copy of Warren’s Birds of Pennsylvania, and it was from this volume that I first learned about birds.
Rhoads, it appears, was a New Jersey farmer at the time the Club was organized, but he early forsook this occupation and nearly forsook his pursuit of birds as well, for he became one of the foremost collectors of mammals in the United States. Enigmatical always, he at length returned to the fold, set up a sort of cloistered life in the Franklin Bookshop, and became once more a regular attendant at the D.V.O.C. For years Rhoads’ presence at the Club was a sort of balance wheel to over-enthusiastic observers, yet not always to his own advantage. I remember him once questioning the occurrence of a rare bird and persisting so in his heckling of the speaker, John Carter, that Carter finally reached into his pocket, pulled out the specimen and exclaimed, “Well, damn you, here it is. I shot it.” Yet no one in those early days was a closer observer of birds than Sam Rhoads. One bird and many mammals have been named or described by him.
Voelker, the son of a German forester, has long been stuffing birds at Krider’s taxidermy shop. He was a keen observer. Although always maintaining an interest in the Club, he did not remain prominently active, but even down to today if one desires an excellent mounted specimen he can get it from none other than Charles Voelker.
And lastly, let me talk about Stone. At the time the Club was founded he was a Jessup Fund student at the Academy. Previous to that time and to his meeting with Trotter, he was unacquainted with any other of the group. He was brought up on a copy of Wilson’s American Ornithology and from it got his first urge to study birds. Stew Brown was his great friend in those days, and it was with Brown that Stone did most of his earliest research, and Germantown was the hunting ground. His leaving is so recent that most of us know much of his later history and hold precious memories of him. How high he soared toward the heights of American ornithology Mr. Rehn has recently told us at a meeting of the Club, and he came to be known in every quarter of the world. As Baily was responsible for the inception of D.V.O.C., Stone was the fire that kept it aglow down through the years and is largely responsible for the high standing which it has attained.
Stone commenced his studies of Cape May’s birds as early as 1890. He made his first winter census there in January of 1892. His total of 34 species would not excite the present day census taker, but this count was made afoot in a limited area. It was Stone’s early realization of the importance of this area that led many other observers to it and to adjoining territories. The collective results obtained by these observers no doubt had much to do with his determination to publish a book about the birds of this district, a desire which culminated in the production of Bird Studies at Old Cape May. No less of an authority than our own Dr. Cornelius Weygandt has proclaimed this as “the greatest bird book ever written in America.”
The primary purpose of the Club during its first year of existence was the recording and comparison of data relating to bird migration as observed at several localities in the neighborhood of Philadelphia. Occasional papers were read and discussed by the members, and these later became an important feature of the meetings.
Looking back at the records, I learn that these early members were not as a class sentimental ornithologists. They were killers and eggers, too. McCadden was always in demand when anything had to be killed and responded nobly. I believe his record is 75 birds at one discharge of the gun. Fowler nearly exterminated the grackles of Holmesburg in his desire to secure a good series of skins. Baily exhibited a large series of English sparrow eggs and commented on their variation in size and color. Dr. Hughes was always ready for any outing that had eggs as its ultimate objective. I remember him once in the Poconos addressing Stuart after the latter had found a yellowthroat’s nest. “Take it for locality, Stuart.” Dick Hariow became one of the Club’s greatest collectors, and in later years it is Stuart, Miller and McMullen who are the most active. But today, with excellent series of skins and egg collections in museums, these avocations of early ornithologists are largely a thing of the past.
I do not know the proportion in other societies, but in the D.V.O.C. most of the members have been laymen. Apart from Stone, Trotter, Palmer, Rehn, Huber and Brooke Worth, who have possessed a scientific background, most of our members have had no other qualification save that of an intense love of nature. Therefore, most of the Club’s accomplishments, apart from the work of the gentlemen aforementioned, have been in the field of aesthetic ornithology rather than in that of scientific observation. Personally, I would not have it otherwise. A little of the scientific side leaks through on occasion and is of interest. I still have hopes that our own Brooke Worth, with his unusual points of view and inquisitive mind, will produce something in the way of scientific research, and that someday we may better understand more about scientific ornithology. We have several bird banders, and they are gathering together much valuable information about the movement of species.
On the other side of the picture, however, men who have produced such delightful word descriptions of birds and their ways as have Stone, Weygandt and our modest William Evans in his flights of verse possess more of the spirit of what the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club means to most of us with the high spirit of camaraderie and good fellowship than does any other phase of the work. Today, with the great advances in photography, both in motion pictures and in color, another field has been opened up to test the talents of this organization.
There is still much to learn and much work to do, and I know there are many persons willing and anxious to bend to the task. This spirit, which had its birth fifty years ago, will be maintained, I am confident, to lead the D.V.O.C. to greater accomplishments and usefulness.
The Seventy-fifth Anniversary was celebrated at a gala dinner at the Academy of Natural Sciences on April 4, 1965, with 137 members and 25 guests in attendance, with members and former members coming from far and wide. Notable guests included Dean Amadon, president of the A.O.U.; Roger Tory Peterson, president of the Wilson Ornithological Society; John Bodine, president of the Academy of Natural Sciences; Richard H. Pough, a founder of the Nature Conservancy and one of today’s most dedicated conservationists; and John Bull and Stuart Keith of the American Museum of Natural History.
Fellow members bringing greetings from other organizations with which they were then connected included Richard Darby, representing the Nuttall Club; Vincent Abraitys, the Urner Club; Frank McLaughlin, the New Jersey Audubon Society; Stanley Quickmire, the Audubon Center at Sharon, Connecticut; Raymond Middletown, the Norristown Bird Club; Maurice Broun, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association; Herbert Mills, the National Audubon Society; John Griswold, the Zoological Society of Philadelphia; and Radclyffe Roberts and Gilbert Menill of the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Herbert Cutler presented a slide show of Club activities in the past, “This is the D.V.O.C. That Was.” Roger Peterson spoke briefly on some of his early friendships in the Club. Pough, a former member in his Philadelphia days, was the principal speaker. He, commented Lester Thomas in the Proceedings, “drew a graphic picture of ornithology as it might be in a generation or so if the present trends of water and soil poisoning and despoliation and the widespread apathy of the public continue. Presented with humor and rationalization, Mr. Rough’s message cut deeply into the minds of his audience.”
How prophetic he was!
Some Members of Distinction
The Founders and many others have already been mentioned whose contributions were in the first half century of the Club’s existence. Presented here are further notes on some of these persons and vignettes of members who came later. Space does not permit comments on all who did their share and more on behalf of the organization through the years, but the writer hopes that he has included the majority of the most prominent and apologizes for any omissions. The task has been simplified somewhat by only including members now deceased. Some future historian can comment on those now living and active.
Dr. Samuel Woodhouse (1821-1904), the last of that group of early ornithologists which included Cassin, Gambel, Nuttall and Townsend, had long since retired from active service when in 1898 he met Stone at the Academy and was introduced to the D.V.O.C. He regularly attended meetings thereafter and was made an Honorary Member in 1900. His reminiscences of his experiences as physician and bird collector on expeditions to the Indian Territory of the Southwest and to Nicaragua and Honduras to explore mining possibilities and survey a route for an interocean canal, and his recollections of his contemporary ornithologists were a link to the past which fascinated his listeners.
Charles J. Pennock (1857-1935) of Kennett Square became a member in 1895 and was President from 1901 to 1903. He was an expert on the birds of southern Chester County and Delaware, which state appointed him state ornithologist. He was a founder of the American Bird Banding Association and served as curator of oology at the Academy. Almost half of Kastner’s “The Good Fellows” is devoted to the incredible story of Pennock’s mysterious disappearance upon leaving a D.V.O.C. meeting on the night of May 15, 1913, the subsequent appearance of learned articles on Florida birds in the Auk, Wilson Bulletin and other journals by a John Williams of St. Marks, Florida; and the 1919 discovery by Stone, then editor of the Auk, that the handwriting in a Williams manuscript was that of Pennock. A brother-in-law was sent to St. Marks to find him, and Pennock returned home to continue his life as if nothing had happened and once more became an active member in the Club.
Although it becomes obvious while reading these pages that Witmer Stone (1866-1939) was the architect and guiding spirit of the Club from its inception until his passing, a tribute to him at the Club’s twentieth anniversary meeting by George Spencer Morris nicely affirms how true this was even in those early days. “And there is Stone, ever at the tiller, quiet in manner, but potent in influence. No matter who may be President, we all recognize him as the person behind the throne. With infinite tact, he gives a push here and a pull there as occasion requires, keeping us all in line. In our hearts we know that the guiding hand of Stone has made the D.V.O.C. what it is.”
Arthur Emien (1882-1941) joined the Club in 1897, was president from 1936 to 1938 and was probably Stone’s closest friend in Stone’s later years. He served on the Board of Trustees of the Academy and succeeded Stone as president of the Wissahickon Bird Club. His quiet, kindly presence at Club meetings and in the field made him a delight to be with.
Dr. William E. Hughes (1891-1944) became a member in 1891, the same year that he accompanied Robert E. Peary on one of his Arctic expeditions. He was president from 1895 to 1896. A medical doctor, Hughes was widely known as one of the foremost diagnosticians in the country. Stone commented in the Twenty Year Souvenir brochure that “probably no one man did more to make the Club a success than he. Ever ready to take part in or further field work far and near, so long as there was some ultimate prospect of eggs; and once in the field no one could equal his tireless energy or his zeal to promote the interests of other members of the party. As president at a critical time in the Club’s history, he added dignity to the conduct of the meetings and at the same time placed everyone at his ease.”
J. Fletcher Street (1880-1944), a member since 1903, was president from 1919 to 1921 and was treasurer of the A.O.U. at the time of his death. He was an able artist, a naturalist in the broadest sense and author of the book entitled Brief Bird Biographies, which was illustrated with his own pen and ink drawings. “Popular, energetic, with a faculty of making and keeping friends, Street, next to Witmer Stone, probably did as much as anyone toward building up the Club and stimulating the interest of its members,” wrote T.S. Palmer in the July 1947 Auk.
George H. Stuart 3rd (1872-1944) joined in 1913 and served as president from 1925 to 1927. A banker, he was for several years chairman of the In vesting Trustees of the A.O.U. An ardent oologist, his collection, gathered locally and in distant parts of the country and Canada, was presented to theAcademy by his widow.
John D. Carter (1874-1947), a member since 1900, was president from 1928 to 1930. He was an indefatigable nest finder, a good preparator and an oologist. His mounted specimens and collection of nests and eggs are housed in the Westtown School museum. He summered in the Poconos and contributed several articles to Cassinia on its birds.
One of our most colorful members was Samuel Scoville Jr. (1872-1950) who joined in 1907. He was a lawyer, writer and naturalist and an entertaining public speaker whose presence at a meeting or on a field trip always added to the enjoyment of the occasion. For years he wrote a column, “First Aid Law,” in The Philadelphia Record, later continued in The Evening Bulletin and signed “A Philadelphia Lawyer.” In it he gave legal advice colored with humor and many plugs for the natural world. He wrote several books, among them Boy Scouts in the Wilderness, Wild Folk, More Wild Folk, Lords of the Wild and Wild Honey.
John A. Gillespie (1893-1956), a member since 1927, served as president from 1942 to 1943. He was an avid bander, and he and his wife, Mabel, through whom he became interested in birds, maintained a banding station at their Glenolden home and banded over ten thousand birds. He particularly enjoyed working with birds of prey. He banded 91 Bald Eagles, often with Fred Schmid or Ed Reimann along to do the climbing, and 457 Ospreys. He was active in and a past president of the Eastern Bird Banding Association.
A young man who made an immediate impression was Richard D. Hariow (1889-1962), who became a member in 1904 a day after his fifteenth birthday. In 1910 Stone characterized him “as our most notable accession in recent years. When not engaged in breaking his limbs in pursuit of football fame, he is risking his neck in the pursuit of eggs.” The Cassinia from 1905 on contains many contributions, including beautifully written major papers in 1906 on “Summer Birds of Western Pike County, Pennsylvania,” in 1910 on “Breeding of the Raven in Pennsylvania,” and in 1911 on “The Center Furnace Swamp.” Two major papers in the Auk were “The Breeding Birds of Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania” in 1912 and “Breeding Habits of the Northern Raven” in 1922. His final paper, “The Tribal Nesting of the Pine Siskin in Pennsylvania,” was published in the 1950 Cassinia. He was curator of oology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology while coaching football at Harvard. In 1936 his fellow coaches named him Coach of the Year, and he was elected into the Football Hall of Fame in 1954. He was a noted botanist specializing in ferns and gentians, and he maintained a garden at LaAnna in the Poconos with rare specimens from many parts of the world. The Club elected him an Honorary Member in 1956.
Julian K. Potter (1883-1963) joined the Club in 1911, served a record eleven years as secretary from 1919 to 1929, was president from 1933 to 1936, and was elected an Honorary Member in 1954. A great field ornithologist, all- around naturalist and teacher in the field of many a young ornithologist, his influence on others was profound. He served as a regional editor of The Seasons in Bird-Lore from its inception until 1960. The Club held a surprise dinner for him in 1958. Among the special guests who spoke were Roger Peterson, Charles Rogers and Alexander Wetmore. He was presented with a painting by Conrad Roland and a citation naming him as the first DEVOC, an award to one whose contribution to ornithology and the Club have been outstanding. Potter’s influence continued long after his presidency, and it is safe to say that he is one of but a small handful of persons most responsible for the continued well-being of the Club. Like Stone before him, whether an officer or councillor or not, his influence was always there, either openly expressed or behind the scene. There has been no such dominant figure since.
James A.G. Rehn (1881-1965), a member since 1899, was president from 1922 to 1924. His professional niche at the Academy was entomology, and grasshoppers were his specialty. He described 954 species of Orthoptera new to science He was a naturalist in the widest sense and was equally at home as an ornithologist, mammalogist, herpetologist, ichthyologist or ecologist. Many of the present members have had the good fortune to have known this man of many talents and benefit from the knowledge which he so freely imparted at Club meetings. A kindly, gentle man who enjoyed the association with birders as much as the hobby of birding, delighting in their companionship on field trips and at meetings, was Henry T. Underdown (1875-1965). He served faithfully as treasurer for 32 years between 1927 and 1959 and was awarded a DEVOC in 1960, the second person to be so honored.
Norman J. McDonald (1885-1971), an Australian-born Scotsman, came to Philadelphia as a lad. He became a member of the Club in 1925, was president from 1944 to 1946 and was elected an Honorary Member in 1957. Mac was an all-around naturalist and imparted his knowledge freely to his fellow Club members and especially to the Boy Scouts. He served on the Scouts Philadelphia Council and was a founder of the Comstock Society, an organiza- tion devoted to furthering an appreciation of nature among scouts. Always in the forefront of any conservation effort, he worked for the preservation of open space in Cape May County, where he lived in his later years, for the establish- ment of the Tinicum refuge and for hawk protection in Pennsylvania. For these and many other endeavors, he was awarded a DEVOC in 1963, the third person to be so honored.
Wharton Huber (1877-1972) [Webmaster Note: The death date of 1972 is what is printed in the original Cassinia article. Research has confirmed that the correct date is 1942] joined in 1916, was editor of the 1925-1926 Cassinia and president from 1939 to 1941. He joined the staff of the Academy in 1920 and became curator of mammals in 1934. In 1921 he led the Academy’s expedition to Nicaragua, where he and Fletcher Street collected birds, mammals, fish and insects. He did other extensive collecting for the Academy and was an excellent preparator.
Earl L. Poole (1892-1972), ornithologist and artist, became a member in 1910 and was made an Honorary Member in 1946. He joined the Reading Museum in 1925 and was its director from 1.938 until his retirement in 1957. He was a frequent visitor to Hawk Mountain to witness the hawk shooting and active in the campaign to stop it. His Half Century of Bird Life in Berks County is one of the most thorough regional works ever written. Pennsylvania Birds, published in 1964, was an abridgement of a planned much larger definitive work for which, unfortunately, sufficient publication funds could not be found. His paintings and line drawings were used in illustrating Bird Studies at Old Cape May; Birds of the West Indies, as well as the field guide which followed; and The Birds of Colombia.
Charles H. Rogers (1888-1977) became a Corresponding Member in 1905 and an Honorary Member in 1950. He participated in the first Christmas Count in 1900 and missed just one other, because of illness, during his life. He taught ornithology at Princeton and was curator of the bird collection there. One of his students was our fellow member, Robert Ridgely, now at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Rogers was one of the Club’s most frequent speakers, often twice annually, describing with specimens the various bird families of the world. For forty years he hosted monthly gatherings of the New Jersey Field Ornithologists, an informal group whose original intent was to write a book on the birds of New Jersey, an idea which never came to pass. They would meet, after cocktails (of which he disapproved) and dinner, at Guyot Hall for an evening of talking birds and examining specimens. Many Club members participated in these interesting and informative sessions.
Joseph A. Jacobs (1917-1977) joined in 1940 and was president from 1970 to 1971. Ornithology and botany were his hobbies and South Jersey his territory. He was a bander and studied the results of pesticides on the reproductive capacity of Bald Eagles and Ospreys. Joe was in the field banding Ospreys when he was suddenly taken in 1977. He was an active conservationist and had a part in having the “Glades” at Fortescue set aside as a preserve. He served on the board of the New Jersey Audubon Society and as an officer of the Wetlands Institute.
John F. Mcllvain (1917-1977) became a member in 1933 at the age of sixteen and was president from 1960 to 1961. In the sixteen years following a near fatal automobile accident which left him crippled, he still managed to travel extensively in search of birds and seldom missed a field trip or census. His determination won the admiration of his many friends.
Next to Potter, the most dominant figure in the D.V.O.C. in the post World War Two years was Ernest A. Choate (1900-1980). He became a member in 1932, edited Cassinia from 1943 to 1949, was President from 1958 to 1959, and was made an Honorary Member in 1969. He enlivened meetings with humorous and often biting comments, opened his home in Cape May to participants in the Christmas Counts, for which he was the compiler for many years, and was active in Cape May conservation battles. He was a founder of the Cape May Geographic Society. Ernie traveled extensively and acquired a very considerable life list. Being both an English teacher and an ornithologist, he became interested in the derivation of bird names. He spoke several times on this subject at Club meetings and in 1973 published The Dictionary of Bird Names, which had a wide circulation. A second edition has been published since his death, with Raymond A. Paynter as editor, to bring it into conformity with the Sixth Edition of the A.O.U. Check-list.
Joseph M. Cadbury (1910-1983) joined in 1929, was president from 1952 to 1953, and became an Honorary Member in 1975. He excelled as a teacher of the natural sciences at the Germantown Friends School for over forty years and as an instructor at the Audubon summer camp in Maine. He was a sharp observer, with a superb ear, which was the envy of his birding friends. Countless persons have been made aware of nature’s wonders through being fortunate enough to have been under this kindly man’s tutelage.
Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee (1901-1984), a member since 1922, was curator of ornithology at the Academy. He did field work and collecting in South America, Guatemala, Burma, Thailand and South Africa and reported on these expeditions to the Club in earlier years when he was an active member. He was a museum scientist, later specializing in systematics and distribution. His publications, widely used by Club members on their South American travels, included The Birds of Colombia, The Species of Birds of South America and Their Distribution, Guide to the Birds of South America and, with William H. Phelps Jr., A Guide to the Birds of Venezuela. A final work, published just two weeks before his death, was The Birds of China.
Another colorful member was Philip A. Livingston (1901-1986). A member since 1922, editor of Cassinia for the four issues from 1927 to 1941, president from 1956 to 1957, he was made an Honorary Member in 1971. He was never at a loss for words, was a delight to travel with and an excellent photographer and botanist. His Livingston Publishing Company specialized in publishing scientific books, and many of today’s important bird books, as well as Cassinia, were edited and produced by Phil. He established the D.V.O.C. Book Club in 1952 to purchase bird books for the members at the publisher’s discount and split the resultant saving between the purchaser and the Club treasury.
James Bond (1900-1989) joined the Club in 1923 and was made an Honorary Member in 1965. He was a curator of ornithology at the Academy and our oldest member in tenure at his death. He devoted a lifetime to the study of birds of the West Indies, and his Birds of the West Indies and the Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies which followed are the standard works on the region. For these studies he was awarded the Brewster Medal by the A.O.U. His other love was Maine, where he summered, and its warblers. He was an active participant in Club affairs for many years until ill health prevented his attendance. He presented many papers on the birds of the West Indies and Maine. A singular honor, of which he was most proud, was his selection in 1987 as an Honorary Member of the British Ornithologists’ Union.
Horace Alexander (1889-1989) married an American lady in 1958 and shuttled between England and America until moving here permanently in 1969. He joined the D.V.O.C. in 1960 and was made an Honorary Member in 1973. This delightful English Quaker was an authority on the Phylloscopus warblers, which he studied both in Britain and in India. He spent a total of about ten years in India over five decades and was a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. He served as an intermediary between India and Britain in the complex negotia- tions leading to Indian independence and stood by Gandhi’s side on that day of independence. He enjoyed his membership in the Club, the field trips and outings with members. On several occasions he presented programs on the birds of Britain and India and the seabirds noted on fifteen crossings of the Atlantic. He was one hundred years of age at his death last year.
An exception must be taken from the previous statement that living members will not be included in these vignettes. Recognition is given here to James Meritt, who edited Cassinia for the four issues between 1961 and 1966 and then retired, only to step into the breach a year later and once again assume the editorship through another five issues. He was secretary from 1976 to 1977, vice president from 1978 to 1979 and president from 1980 to 1981. Then, when another crisis arose, he once again alleviated it by volunteering to serve as treasurer, an office he held for four more years. No other person in the history of the Club has served in so many capacities, and we owe him our grateful thanks.
Ties With Other Ornithological Societies
The A.O.U. was founded in 1883. In November 1890, it was reported in the Club’s Twenty-year Souvenir Program, “Baily and Stone went to Washington to introduce the D.V.O.C. to the A.O.U. Stone took one of the broadsides and Baily a silk hat, and they no doubt made a profound impression.”
The first A.O.U. meeting to be held in Philadelphia was in 1891, jointly under the auspices of the Academy and the Club. The second was in 1903, with Stone, Baily and Pennock forming the committee on arrangements and seven Club members presenting papers. The A.O.U.’s twenty-fifth anniversary meeting was here in 1907 and featured a dinner at Boothby’s Cafe, a smoker at the Academy the following evening, a field trip to Bartram’s Gardens and a party at Mill Grove. The 1912 meeting included a reception for the members at Baily’s Ardmore home. Philadelphia meetings followed in 1916, 1921 and 1929, after which the A.O.U. deviated from the format of having predominately East Coast meetings, usually in Cambridge, New York, Philadelphia or Washington, and commenced going farther afield and even to Canada.
The Academy and the Club hosted a Cape May A.O.U. meeting in 1957 and one at Haverford College in 1976, with D.V.O.C. members active in the arrangements and leading field trips. A souvenir Auklet was produced for both of these meetings. The Wilson Ornithological Society, whose beginning antedated ours by just two years, pioneered in the idea of having meetings in a country setting with one at Jackson’s Mill, West Virginia, in 1950, an innovation which the A.O.U. soon followed. It was the success of a Wilson meeting at Cape May in 1954, hosted by the Academy and the Club, which led to the A.O.U. coming there three years later. The Wilson Society returned to Cape May for another meeting in 1972 and celebrated its Centennial in Philadelphia, Alexander Wilson’s adopted home town, in 1988. Frank Gill chaired the Local Committee with yeomanly assistance from Dawn Coughlan. D.V.O.C. members assisted on the registration desk at Rosemont College and led field trips. Three days of papers and sessions were held at Rosemont. Friday, June 10, was Centennial Day and featuredan outstanding international Parid symposium at the Academy and a gala reception there that evening.
D.V.O.C. members who have served the A.O.U as officers were Witmer Stone, editor of the Auk for twenty-five years and president (1975-76); John T. Emlen, president (1975-76; Frank Gill, vice president (1981-82); and Fletcher Street, treasurer (1942-44). Those similarly serving the Wilson Society were Frank L. Burns, a founder, president (1909-11); John Emien, president (1956-58); and Phillips Street, president (1909-11); John Emlen, president (1956-58); and Phillips Street, prresident (1962-64). George M. Sutton a Corresponding Member of the D.V.O.C. during his years as Pennsylvania State Ornithologist, served the Society as editor of the Wilson Bulletin and twice as President (1942-43 and 1946-47). Ernlen almost had what they call in ice hockey a hat trick, as he also served as President of the Northern Division of the Cooper Ornithological Society.
When Cassinia made its debut in 1901, its editor, Witmer Stone, commented:
“With the growth of the interest in local ornithology and the increasing activity of the Club, it seems desirable to issue the more important local papers , which are presented at its meeting in full, and to add such observations on migration, etc. as shall make our publication an annual resume of local ornithology. As it is important for both birds and bird journals to have distinctive names, we have adopted one for our annual which is eminently local and at the same time is a slight tribute to one of America’s greatest ornithologists. For the cover design of Cassinia we are indebted to our Associate member Mr. Alfred Morton Githens, while the portrait of Cassin is from a photograph presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences by Miss Lucy H. Baird, formerly to the property of her father, Prof. Spencer F. Baird.”
The Githens cover survived through 1945. Subsequent ones have contained bird art or photographs Lead articles in early issues were important and informative biographies of noted ornithologists of the past, commencing appropriately with John Cassin in 1901. Stone contributed the majority with papers on Cassin, John K. Townsend, Samuel Woodhouse, Adolphus Heermann, Thomas Wilson, William Gambel, George McCall and Titian Ramsey Peale; Spencer Trotter wrote on Charles Lucien Bonaparte, William Turnbull and old Philadelphia taxidermists Samuel Rhoads on George Ord and Constantine Rafinesque; and George S. Spencer Morris on Edward Harris and William Bartram. Commencing in 1917 Stone undertook the sad task of writing lead article obituaries of his associates in the Club – Samuel Wright in the 1917 issue, Stewardson Brown in 1921, George Spencer Morris in 1924, Spencer Trotter in 1930 and Charles Pennock in 1937. The last in this almost uninterrupted series was James A.G. Rehn’s 1939 tribute to and account of the life of the man who made the D.V.O.C. what it was and what it is-Witmer Stone.
Because so little was known about the distribution of birds in the early days, articles on the travels and findings of the pioneers in South Jersey, the Poconos and other counties to the west and north of Philadelphia were prominent features. Travel was not easy, and some of the accounts make fascinating reading.
For sheer enjoyment of beautiful prose, one must read the essays by such masters of the pen as Cornelius Weygandt with his “Chimney Swifts,” “The Wood Thrush,” “Consider the Swan,” “Some Birds of Brown’s Mills,” “Summer Birds of Broadhead’s Creek” and “Summer in the Poconos”; Morris with “Down the Pocomoke” and “The Valley of the Tacony”; Herbert Coggins with “The Heart of the New Jersey Pine Barrens” and “Crow Roost and Flight Lines”; and Samuel Scoville with “The Evening Grosbeak” and “The Pileated Woodpecker.”
Another feature was the spring migration report, assiduously tabulated by Stone with first arrival and bulk arrival dates. These reports continued through 1930, when it was decided that “the cumulative data of many years have pretty well determined the average dates and it is believed that the space formerly occupied by tables will be better used for additional notes on species.”
A Field Notes section encompassing all field notes worthy of mention was a valuable and regular feature through the year 1971, when it was regrettably discontinued. Now one must consult American Birds, The Delmarva Ornithologist, Records of New Jersey Birds and, since its inception, Pennsylvania Birds, to find the data which were once an integral part of the magazine.
An interesting feature introduced by Stone in 1901 and continued through 1924 was Club Notes section, with news of the members, their travels, who attended the A.O.U. meeting and how many papers they presented, items about the Spencer F. Baird Club and the Pennsylvania Audubon Society, reports of field trips taken, special events and any other items of interest.
A valuable and very complete bibliography of publications relating to the birds of region first appeared in 1905 and continued through 1951.
More recent issues have contained comprehensive reports on the birds of various regions within the Delaware Valley, often with annotated lists. As the Club has grown, so too have the number of obituaries in these pages. By far the most valuable addition to the product mix in recent years has been the increasing use of photographic documentation of rare and unusual sightings, the majority contributed by Alan Brady and the late Serge LaFrance, whose untimely death in 1988 cut short a brilliant photographic talent.
Cassinia was published annually through 1919. Expanding printing costs and other factors resulted in two or more years sometimes being combined into a single issue. Publication every other year now seems to be the norm that is economically feasible. There have been fourteen editors. Stone’s ten-year tenure was the longest, terminated by his selection as editor of the Auk, followed by Meritt with nine issues. Trotter and Choate with six, Robert T. Moore and Chandler Ross with five, Philip Livingston with four, Richard Bell, Ed Fingerhood and Lester Thomas with three, and Wharton Huber, Brooke Worth, Albert Conway, Keith Richards with one, plus Franklin Haas beginning with this issue.
Two years after the Club’s founding, a publication committee of Norris, Rhoads and Stone was appointed to prepare the way for a work on the birds of the Delaware Valley. Data were to come from the field notes of the members, all previously published data, and from the replies to a circular to be sent to other ornithologists and sportsmen requesting distribution data. The result was the publication in 1894 by the Club, with Stone as the author, of The Birds of Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This bound volume of 185 pages was offered for one dollar and brought up to date everything known about the past and present status of the region’s avifauna. The thoroughness of the prepara- tion is indicated by a bibliography of 235 titles covering the period from 1799 to 1894.
By far the Club’s most important publication was Stone’s Bird Studies at Old Cape May in 1937, one of a handful of truly great American ornithological works and winner of the A.O.U.’s coveted Brewster Medal. Nearly one hundred members of the Club are mentioned by Stone as having had a part in its preparation, with special mention given to the contributions of Walker Hand, Julian Potter, Charles Urner, Fletcher Street, Turner McMullen and Richard Miller. Earl Poole painted the frontispiece for each volume, an Osprey and a ‘ Laughing Gull. Of 240 photographs used, 88 were taken by Huber, 42 by Baily, 25 by Potter, 11 by John Bartram and Street and 10 by Norman McDonald. When long out of print and selling at prices in the secondary market only affordable to book collectors, the Club sold reprint rights to Dover Publications, and the proceeds became the nucleus of the Club’s Endowment Fund.
Birds of the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania, by Phillips Street, which first appeared in the 1954 Cassinia, was published as a book by the Club in 1956.
Pennsylvania Birds by Earl Poole was published in 1964. This annotated list, a condensation of material the author had amassed toward the eventual wnting of a much larger work, is the first state-wide book since Warren’s Birds of Pennsylvania in 1890.
The Club has published three editions of A Field List of the Birds of the Delaware Valley Region, in 1954, 1959 and 1972. A revised edition is now in preparation.
The D.V.O.C Collection
The beginnings of this collection are described in the scrapbook. In the summer of 1891 Messrs. J. Harris Reed and Witmer Stone conceived the idea of forming a collection of nests and eggs of Pennsylvania and New Jersey birds for the museum of the Academy. They brought together such specimens as were contained in their private collections to which Mr. Baily added a number from his cabinet. These were mounted on stands and exhibited at a meeting of the Club held October 6, 1891, after which they were presented to the Academy on the condition that the collection be kept separate as a Separate local collection, duplicates to be disposed of as the Ornithological Might suggest as better specimens were presented. In 1892 the first groups were prepared , and from this nucleus has grown the present collection – one of the most attractive features of the museum.
The minutes of the meeting of November 20, 1941, tell of a talk that evening by Fred Schmid of the Academy staff about the new bird hall and a preview afterward of the nearly completed Local Room and Audubon Hall. “This Delaware Valley collection of birds and nests by the Club has now been used in large measure for the birds for the Local Room. The Audubon Hall promises to be one of the finest presentation of birds of the world.
The first Club trip of which there is any record was to Tinicum in 1890 to a Barn Owl’s nest. Beginning in 1891 there were boat trips from Atlantic City on Norris DeHaven’s catboat. We read in the Twenty-year Souvenir Program that “those who enjoyed his hospitality on board the ‘Widgeon’ and explored the shores of Great Bay and Breeches Thorofare will long remember this period in the Club’s history. Oh! what a slaughter of Sharp-tailed Sparrows there was in pursuit of Nelsons and Acadians, and who shall forget the savory stews in which Mud-hens and Least Sandpipers figured and even an occasional Great Blue Heron”.
Another frequent gathering place was the Catoxen Cabin, built by five Club members at the western edge of the Pine Barrens on the bank of the Rancocas Creek near Medford, New Jersey. Two papers in the 1908 Cassinia describe it. One by Morris tells of choosing the location and erecting it, and another by Stone describes the bird life of the region.
Two or three outings a year, usually on Washington’s Birthday and Decoration (Memorial) Day were the rule in the early years, with access to public transportation being of prime importance. Automobiles were still scarce, but a network of rail and trolley lines blanketed the Delaware Valley. Two tokens for fifteen cents took one to any part of Philadelphia, and the railroads featured week-end and holiday excursions.
Commencing in 1915 three trips became the norm, with Good Friday being the third. February outings were to such places as Beverly, Haddonfield, New Lisbon (where Scoville and Street had a cabin on the Rancocas), Mantua Creek and Mays Landing in New Jersey and Crum and Darby creeks in Pennsylvania. There were Good Friday trips to the Catoxen Cabin, Mt. Holly and Taunton Lakes in New Jersey and to Baily’s home in Ardmore, the Chester and Ridley creek valleys, Tinicum Island, and West Chester in Pennsylvania and to Delaware City, Delaware. There were Decoration Day trips to Beverly, the Catoxen Cabin, Haddonfield, Mt. Holly, New Lisbon and along the Delaware River from Riverton to Fish House in New Jersey and to Ardmore, Rushland on the Neshaminy Creek, Norristown, to visit Ray Middleton’s banding station, and the Pennypack and Tacony creek valleys in Pennsylvania.
Cape May became the favorite destination in the twenties with a ferry to Camden and excursion train to the shore. The round trip fare was one dollar! Two February and five May trips went there in a five-year period. Other shore excursions during the late twenties and early thirties were to Barnegat, Brigantine, Avalon and Stone Harbor.
The number and scope of the field trips increased markedly in the postwar years, with as many as a dozen outings in some years. A winter trip to the Shark River area and the nearby ponds became a January fixture. The first Pocono winter trip was in 1955 with a Boreal Chickadee and Pine Grosbeaks the best finds. These trips occurred irregularly until 1976, when they became an annual event with our Saturday night headquarters being the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) at Dingmans Ferry. Then came Washington’s Birthday (later President’s Day) weekends at Montauk or Cape Ann, with Cape Ann’s more boreal avifauna soon making it the destination of choice and Montauk being relegated to only an occasional visit. A late April weekend trip to the Delmarva Peninsula, an early fall trip from Bamegat to Cape May and an early November visit to Bake Oven Knob also became fixtures.
There were occasional sea trips on fishing boats, usually out of Cape May, in hopes of finding Cory’s and Greater Shear-waters, Wilson’s Petrels and an occasional surprise. One of these was an Audubon’s Shearwater, found on a trip from Asbury Park in 1951. It was not until 1973, when a trip on the “Super Cat” from Sandy Hook went all the way out to the Hudson Canyon, that an entirely new vista to pelagic birding opened up. Alan Brady has been leading joint trips with the Umer Club ever since, most of them from Barnegat on the “Miss Barnegat Light,” with a much broader understanding of the occurrence and distribution of pelagics the result. They recorded the first presence of the South Polar Skua in the North Atlantic, established the first record of a Buller’s Shearwater in the Atlantic Ocean, have seen Northern Skuas and all three jaegers, and determined that Northern Fulmars were much more common offshore than earlier believed.
Perhaps the first official club trip by plane to fly overseas to a foreign land was the June 1968 trip to Iceland. Participants were Art Bergey, Ernie Choate, 24 Joe Jacobs, Phil Livingston, John Mcllvain, Will Middleton, D’Arcy Northwood, Gene Stem, three wives and Bergey’s son. Ornithological highlights were seeing a Gyrfalcon; three House Martins, a rare straggler there; and the visit to Lake Myvatn with its one hundred thousand pairs of nesting waterfowl, including Whooper Swans, Greylag Geese, Tufted Ducks and Barrow’s Goldeneyes, while the fiords, glaciers, waterfalls and thermal areas delighted the photographers.
No participant will ever forget the field trips taken in “The Three”-a thirty-year-old DC-3 owned by the Revyuk Foundation. Steve Wylie, then of the Philadelphia Zoo and now the director of the Oklahoma City Zoo, remarked to me at a Club meeting in early 1973 that this plane was available for the use of non-profit scientific groups, the only expense being the cost of fuel, and where should we go. I suggested Churchill, a date was set, the plane reserved, and Jim Meritt carried the ball from there with detailed plans, contacts and reservations. Lucky D.V.O.C.ers on this June 1973 trip were Alan Brady, John Evans, Joe Jacobs, Al Kronschnabel, John LaVia, Ed Manners, Meritt, John Sawyer, Bob Sehl, Gene Stern, Les Thomas, Street-and Wylie. Memories include the strange sight of Bonaparte’s Gulls, Lesser Yellowlegs and Hudsonian Godwits perched in trees, Arctic Loons, Lesser Golden-Plover and American Pipit at their nests, Willow Ptarmigans, Smith’s Longspurs, Harris’ Sparrows and one Hoary Redpoll. And of course the Beluga Whales and pack ice. Meritt arranged a stopover at Brandon, Manitoba, on the way back, where Jack Lane showed us Sprague’s Pipits and Baird’s Sparrows on the prairie and LeConte’s Sparrows in Douglas marsh.
While flying home, Thomas suggested a trip to Alaska, so the following June we went. Newcomers on this expedition were John Billings, Ernie Choate, Bob Garner, Frank Hubbart and Will Middleton. We visited Nome; Savoonga and Gambell on St. Lawrence Island; Hooper Bay, at the recommendation of Howard Brokaw; Fairbanks; and Mt. McKinley National Park. The many highlights included an unforgettable morning at Savoonga watching countless thousands of seabirds at their breeding cliffside colony, two days at Gambel with the view from Chibukak Point of the rugged coastline of Siberia only fifty miles away and the parade of constantly passing seabirds, with Steller’s Eiders the prize find; the high country north of Nome with its Yellow-billed Loon, Wandering Tattlers, Wheatears, Arctic Warblers and a Gyrfalcon eyrie; the Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, Emperor Geese, Spectacled Eiders and Sabine’s Gulls at Hooper Bay; and the pair of Three-toed Woodpeckers, new to all of us, the Hawk Owls, a Canada Lynx, Caribou, Dall Sheep and Grizzly Bears at Mt. McKinley. Again we visited Brandon coming home, with Lane taking us to a marsh alive with Eared Grebes, Ruddy Ducks and Black Terns.
March 1975 found us in Guatemala and Belize with John Yrizarry, an expert tropical birder, as our guide. First-time participants were Art Bergey, Harry Franzen, John Mcllvain, Frank Moody and George Reynard. Landing at the rough and rocky Tikal airstrip was a white-knuckle experience. We marvelled at the great temples recovered from the jungle and revelled in our four days of tropical birding. Orange-breasted and Bat falcons on the temples and Oscellated Turkey, Crested Guans and Emerald Toucanets in the jungle were exciting. Then it was on to Belize for three days of both highland and lowland birding with Dora Weyer, including a boat trip to the Crooked Tree Lagoon.
The next year it was Texas in May. Enjoying their first trip on “The Three” were Jim Akers, Dick Bell, Julian Boryszewski, John Danzenbaker, Armas Hill, Rick Mellon, John Miller, Frank Neumann, Keith Richards, Harry Todd, Bill Tucker and Steve Wing. En route we ticked off the Eurasian Tree Sparrow at St. Louis and the Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler on the Edwards Plateau near Austin. Then came McAllen and a late afternoon visit to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park with, just before dark, an Elf Owl popping out of its hole to the delight of thirty or so birders gathered below awaiting this nightly event. A red-letter day at Santa Ana gave us the two Hook-billed Kites which were there that spring. Then came a day upriver at the Gonzales ranch and Falcon Dam. Three days at Big Bend completed our trip. Ro Wauer, the Park naturalist, was our guide. While we found Scaled Quail, Poorwill, Lucifer Hummingbird and Crissal Thrasher, the principal goal was to see a Colima Warbler. This entailed a four-mile ride on horseback to Boot Spring. Here we found singing Colima and Townsend’s warblers and enjoyed the marvelous vista which the top affords.
This, sad to relate, was our last trip on “The Three.” The Foundation encountered hard times and disposed of the plane. Those of us who enjoyed one or more of the four expeditions will always have vivid memories of some incredible birding experiences. Seven members enjoyed all four trips-Evans, Jacobs, Kronschnabel, always the provider of food and drinks aboard, LaVia, Meritt, Street and Thomas. Four others missed but one-Brady, Sawyer, Sehl and Stem.
In spite of the loss of our plane, we now had tropical birding in our blood, and a trip to Costa Rica was planned for March 1978 with Yrizarry again the leader. Our first Resplendent Quetzal at Monteverde drew a spontaneous cheer as it flew over our heads. There were two days of incredible birding at LaSelva and a final day in the high mountains of the Cerro de la Muerte where we found Barred Parakeets, Fiery-throated and Scintillant hummingbirds, Flame- throated Warblers and “Big Foot,” as we dubbed the Large-footed Finch, which we finally succeeded in finding.
Armas Hill arranged another Costa Rica trip for June 1979. A planned boat trip to Cocos Island had to be cancelled, but we did sail from Puntarenas to Golfito, near the Panama border, through wild seas, wind and rain which soaked us all. Here we found a Short-tailed Nighthawk, not even on our Costa Rican checklist, as we waited for the plane which was to fly us over to the Corcovado National Park. It never came, so we chartered a boat to take us across the bay, hired a truck in Puerto Jiminez, and set out for the mountains When the road ended at a stream too swollen to ford, we started walking upstream, met a native who led us on upriver on one of the most exhaustive walks any of us has ever taken. Alternately walking and wading and then climbing a steep mountain trail, we reached the park border. Our aim was to see a Scarlet Macaw. Ironically, it was only after all our exertions and we had circled back to almost where we started that we found them! On our drive north to San Jose, we stopped at the Cerro ‘de la Muerte again and saw the elusive Wrenthrush and six Quetzals, their long tails missing at this season To top off another great trip, we had time to find the Mangrove Cuckoo and Black- whiskered Vireo in Miami between planes on the way home.
There has been even more travel in the last decade, some of it Club oriented and some simply groups of persons, mainly club members traveling together to bird in the western states, Canada, South and Central America or other exotic parts of the world. To list them all, the participants and the highlights, would be too lengthy and will not be attempted here. Some of those organizing these trips have included Alan Brady, Annas Hill and Phil Street to such foreign places as Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico Costa Rica, Australia, Spain, India and Nepal, while Brian Moscatello, Rick Mellon and Hart Rufe have been active in leading trips to many parts of the Unlted States and Canada. Favorite destinations for Club trips in this country have been the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, California and Texas. Fellow members Joel Abramson, Pete Dunne, Brian Moscatello, and Tom and Margaret Southerland organize and conduct bird tours professionally to many parts of the world, and D.V.O.C members have participated in several of their trips Besides the club field trips that have become annual affairs, some others which have been offered frequently in recent years include Shark River in winter,, an owl trip in March, Pedricktown for the Ruffs in April, Bombay Hook and Little Creek refuges in July, Long Beach Island in both winter and Summer’ and a warbler trip to the Poconos in early June with Bill and Naomi Murphy.
Early efforts by members were mainly through the Pennsylvania Audubon Society. A note in the first issue of Cassinia states that the organization “has been doing excellent work in the interest of bird protection during the year, especially on education lines. A free traveling library on birds and nature was established, and ten sets of ten books are now circulating among the schools of the state which have no access to public libraries. The annual meeting was held at the Academy of Natural Sciences as usual, and Mr. W. L. Baily made an address on ‘The Gulls and Terns of the Maine Coast,’ illustrated by lantern slides. The officers for 1902 are: President, Witmer Stone; Secretary, Mrs. Edward Robbins; Treasurer, William L. Baily.” The following year Cassinia reported that the membership had grown to over seven thousand persons and that Frank M. Chapman was the annual meeting speaker. A paragraph in the 1907 Cassinia reported that the Society had been reorganized, and Stone and Baily still held their offices. There is no further mention of the Society in later issues nor any hint as to why and when it ceased to exist as a separate organization.
Most conservation emphasis into the thirties was on bird protection. There are several mentions in the minutes of the passage of resolutions urging the continuation of protection for Whistling Swans, urging a one-year moratorium on waterfowl hunting, and calling for hawk protection.
Hawk shooting at Cape May and on the Pennsylvania ridges became of increasing concern. T. Gilbert Pearson, president of the National Association of Audubon Societies, wrote to Norman McDonald in April 1931 with an offer that the Society would defray the expense of a man to be stationed at Cape May during the fall migration to cooperate with the local game warden in an effort to stop the killing of protected species. Pearson also stated that a bill had been proposed in Harrisburg to extend the present bounty on Goshawks to include Broad-winged, Marsh, Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned hawks and Great Horned, Barred, Snowy and Screech owls! A motion by Edward Weyl was passed that “an active and alert Conservation Committee be formed for the purpose of pursuing the matter of hawks at Cape May in particular, and for keeping the members posted as to legislative bills aiding or harming conservation.”
Richard Pough and Henry Collins traveled to Drehersville in October 1932 to witness the slaughter at Hawk Mountain, and McDonald brought back photographs of the carnage at a subsequent visit. Two years later, Pough reported that Mrs. Rosalie Edge of the Emergency Conservation Committee had received a lease on some fourteen hundred acres of the mountain for a year with an option to buy the land outright for $2.50 an acre! Maurice Broun and an assistant had been engaged to police the property. On motion, the Club agreed to contribute a sum toward the purchase. And so the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary was born, and its success is history.
Shooting of protected birds elsewhere continued, particularly along the Blue Mountain and the shore of Lake Erie. The Club prepared and distributed a flier with silhouettes of hawks to educate hunters as to which groups are protected. A Pennsylvania Hawk Committee was formed and sponsored an open meeting at the Academy in April 1956 to discuss the problem, and five hundred persons attended. As an aftermath, the Committee was urged to expand and become statewide in scope and suggest necessary legislation. Phillips Street was chosen to be Chairman and McDonald Executive Director. Other Club members on the committee were Nelson Hoy, Albert Linton and Philip Livingston. Money was raised, and a bill with good bipartisan sponsorship was entered in the House to remove the Goshawk, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks from the unprotected list. After much strenuous politicking, the bill passed the House by a wide margin but became stalled in the Senate when some unfortunate publicity and pressure from the Pennsylvania Sportsmen’s Federation appeared. A compromise was eventually negotiated which granted protection to the three accipiters during the months of September and October along the ridges east of the Susquehanna River, and this effectively stopped most of the shooting. Complete protection came in 1972, when the Migratory Bird Treaty Act added the hawks and owls to the list of species protected by Canada, the United States and Mexico.
A major conservation effort, commenced by the D.V.O.C., was the rescue Of Tinicum. John Gillespie was advocating action as early as 1937, soon to be Joined by Hoy and others. In 1949 a committee of Hoy as chairman, along with McDonald and William Lukens, was appointed to explore ways of furthering the idea of having Tinicum made into a wildlife refuge. News in 1952 that the Bureau ot Engineers, as part of the Schuylkill River Cleanup Project, was planning to deposit silt dredged from the river into part of the Tinicum marshes owned by the Gulf Oil Corporation resulted in a new committee being formed to continue the effort. Allston Jenkins was named chairman, with David .Cutler. Hoy, James Fowler, Quintin Kramer and Edward Woolman the other members. Fund-raising commenced, and thousands of letters were sent to the Redevelopment Authority urging the selection of an alternate site. One cannot overemphasize the incredible patience and expertise which Jenkins showed in negotiating, step by step, over the next year, ways to make the dream a reality. It was dyring this period that the Philadelphia Conservationists was born. There were meetings with the Authority, the Army Engineers, the City Manager, and a sympathetic Mayor Joseph Clark. Jenkins persuaded the city to assent to the use of 160 acres on the old Model Farms area north of the airport as an alternate site and agree to the establishment of a wildlife preserve, the dredging company to accept the alternate site, and the Gulf Oil Corporation to transfer its land to the city for a refuge. This is an oversimplification of the story, for many problems, pitfalls and conditions arose which had to be resolved. But they were in the next two years, an enabling ordinance approved in 1955 and the formal agreement to transfer the land from Gulf to the city finalized in December just two weeks before the dark administration left office! The ensuing years brought more crises, with dumping along the Darby Creek, the placement of 1-95 and the viaduct for the airport railroad to be contended with. Then came the final satisfaction in 1973, when the Tinicum title was transferred from the city to the federal government to make the area a part of the National Wildlife Refuge system.
With Tinicum saved, Allston Jenkins and his Philadelphia Conservationists turned their efforts toward New Jersey’s threatened wetlands with spectacular results. Some acquisitions were not too difficult; others required patience and even court appearances. The task was helped immensely by the passage of the Green Acres program in 1961, enabling land which they had committed for to be sold to the state. Other lands were sold to the federal government for incorporation in the National Wildlife Refuge system. Piece by piece, the land around Great Bay was acquired and transferred to the Brigantine Refuge The Holgate peninsula was one of the early successes, followed soon by the purchase of Little Beach Island. The Oyster Creek area came next and then the north end of Bngantine Island. This one thousand-acre tract was saved from a developer’s bid through intervention by the Conservationists. Dick Pough then with the Nature Conservancy, gave freely of his time and talents in assisting in this endeavor. With the purchase of the Tuckerton marshes by Green Acres and the Barrel Islands by the Conservationists, a vast and immensely important area had been preserved and the threat of development arrested.
Equally impressive were the acquisitions of the Supawna Meadows-Goose Pond area where the Salem River enters the Delaware Bay and the Fortescue marshes, wintering areas for Snow Geese, Black Ducks and Bald Eagles Other major acquisitions by the Philadelphia Conservationists were the Trenton Marsh, several tracts of land and Herring Island at the northern end of Barnegat Bay, marshland at Stone Harbor, Cedar Island at Avalon and the tip of the peninsula at Corson’s Inlet. Herbert Mills was active in some of these negotiations
That much of the Cape May area today enjoys protective status is due in no small part to the efforts of Club members. Among those most prominently contributing to the successes in having so much of this vital area save were Ernie Choate Pete Dunne, Norman McDonald, Frank McLaughlin, D’Arcy Northwood, Alfred Nicholson, Keith Seager, and Clay and Pat Sutton. I asked Pat Sutton if she could document the events leading to the present amount of and under protection, and a brief summary of her detailed comments follows J
A Witmer Stone Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1935 when the National Audubon Society leased about seven hundred acres north and east of the town of Cape May Point. Two years later it was turned over to New Jersey Audubon, and subsequently some of it became a part of Cape May Point State Park. This park was a military base until a 1962 storm badly damaged much of it. The military moved out in 1964, transferring the land to the state to be made into a State Natural Area. Ernie Choate was a key figure in the establishment of the park, which today encompasses about two hundred acres. The Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO) and the hawk watch platform are in the park, and the CMBO headquarters is in the Northwood home at Lily Lake, it having been willed to New Jersey Audubon by D’Arcy’s widow, Ann.
Higbee’s Beach, the last remaining dune forest along the bay shoreline, was ;purchased by the state in 1978, saving it from becoming a campground. Clay Sutton, as Cape May County’s Environmental Planner, fought the proposed campground, and Pete Dunne and Clay documented the flight paths of migrants over Higbee’s. This documentation led to the availability of federal funds for protection of endangered and threatened species habitat. Today the Higbee’s Beach Wildlife Management Area encompasses 613 acres (417 owned by the state and 196 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).
The 187-acre south Cape Mav Meadows, also threatened with becoming a campground, was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1981. The conservancy also purchased the 192-acre Hidden Valley Ranch, the largest privately owned tract remaining at the tip of the peninsula, in 1986. This farm is contiguous with Higbee’s and becomes a part of that Wildlife Management Area.
Farther up the bayshore in Cumberland County, the Great Bear Swamp was saved through the combined efforts of many agencies and individuals, including the Cumberland County Conservation League, New Jersey Audubon,’ the Philadelphia Conservationists and several D.V.O.C. members. Comments Pat Sutton: “Coupling Bear Swamp East Natural Area, Bevan Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Fortescue WMA, Egg Island WMA, Nantuxent WMA and Fortescue Glades, you have one of the largest assemblages of protected land in all of New Jersey”.
The Cape May National Wildlife Refuge was dedicated on May 13, 1989. It, savs Pat “will be comprised of two divisions. The Delaware Bay Division will encompass seven thousand acres along the Delaware Bay from Norbury’s Landing to Bidwell’s Creek just north of Reed’s Beach, as well as the headwaters of Bidwell’s Creek, Dias Creek, Green Creek and Fishing Creek. The Great Cedar Swamp Division will encompass 7700 acres of Great Cedar Swamp running from Dennisville north to Petersburg.”
Article III of the original Constitution stated that the members “shall be persons who are interested in ornithology considered in its widest sense.” Women, therefore, were not specifically barred from membership in the early years except by tradition. There is a comment in the scrapbook that in 1891 there was a serious discussion of female membership but “the record shows that the question was apparently ‘laid on the table’ where it has since remained.” And here it remained for some sixty years.
A women’s club, the Spencer F. Baird Ornithological Club, was organized in Philadelphia in 1900 with the blessing and support of Stone. He and other D.V.O.C. members were frequent speakers at its meetings, but, after an enthusiastic beginning, interest waned, and the club eventually folded.
An entire meeting was devoted to the question in November 1951. A committee had been appointed for the purpose of proposing a change in the Constitution. After spirited discussion a vote was taken. The stand-patters not only won the day with enough votes to keep the status quo, but succeeded in making it official and not just implied by having the word “male” inserted in Article II so that it read that the members “shall be male persons.”
A smoldering fire flares up into flame occasionally, and this was no exception. A flare-up in late 1974 resulted in the appointment of another committee to reconsider the matter. Its report in January 1975 gave the pros and cons and the comments of other clubs, and arguments were heard from many members. A vote by ballot followed, and the results were 14 votes for admitting women, 35 against and 2 abstaining.
A chink in the armor occurred that December when the Linnaean Society sent us Helen Hays as their exchange speaker with a talk on Great Gull Island. It was decided to make this meeting a “Ladies Night.” The attendance, 70 persons, was at least one-third greater than normal.
All was relatively quiet until the early 1980s, when the pressure once more became intense. Many able birding couples did not belong to the D.V.O.C. because of the restriction, and other members lost interest because their wives could not accompany them to meetings or on field trips. There was a veiled threat that a new society similar to the D.V.O.C. might be organized which would include both sexes. And there was the undeniable fact, admitted to grudgingly by a few die-hards, that a female birder is just as proficient as a male. After many long and heated discussions, a committee was appointed to propose a change in the Constitution and present it to the membership. This it did on November 4, 1982. The entire meeting was devoted to the debate and vote. The word “male” was deleted from the Constitution by a vote of 57 to 10. The battle was finally won.
At the annual meeting on January 6,1983, Kate Brethwaite, Mary Brokaw, Helen McWilliams, Naomi Murphy and Cynthia Uptegraft became the first women elected, soon to be followed by many more. They have put new enthusiasm into the Club and greatly increased the attendance at meetings and on field trips. Barbara Haas now serves as the Club’s treasurer, and Sandra Sherman produces and edits the Philadelphia Larus, our newsletter.
A Witmer Stone Award for Ornithological Research was established in 1943. It may be awarded annually at the discretion of the Council to that member who submits the best paper, not published prior to the last such award, which embodies the results of ornithological research not undertaken in the course of professional duties.
A Julian K. Potter Award was established in 1964. It may be presented annually to that member who has made an outstanding contribution to field.
What was intended to be the Club’s most prestigious award is a certificate depicting a queer-looking caricature of a bird drawn by Joseph Devlin and naming the recipient a DEVOC-one who has devoted a long and useful life to the sport and science of bird study as a member of the Club. This honor has only been bestowed by Council three times – to Julian Potter in 1958, Henry Underdown in 1960 and Norman McDonald in 1963.
The D.V.O.C Today
How drastic some population changes have been during the lifetime of the Club can be illustrated by two items. Stone reported in the Auk that George Stuart shot a Passenger Pigeon at Canadensis, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 1895, the last one taken in eastern Pennsylvania. Conversely, it was reported in Cassinia that “Mr. S. N. Rhoads exhibited a Starling obtained at Audubon, N.J. on Nov. 24, 1910, and presented it to the Club.” Gone or nearly so are the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Sedge Wren and Henslow’s Sparrow as breeding birds in our area, while in have come the Starling and the House Finch. Shorebirds and some granivorous species have increased, while many insectivorous species and waterfowl have declined. Assisting in the assessment of population trends is where the Club excels today.
The founders made their identifications with the gun or through opera glasses and consulted Nuttall’s Ornithology, Chapman’s Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America or Warren’s Birds of Pennsylvania for the written word and plates. Today’s members have binoculars and telescopes of a quality not dreamed of even fifty years ago. They have a choice of field guides and an array of books and periodicals which delve deeply into plumages and the differentia- tions between similar species. Tapes of songs and calls have added still another dimension to field identification. George Reynard, a research associate at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, is our expert in this field. With all these tools todays members have much more expertise in field identification than did their predecessors.
The fun of competition has always played a part in the field work but never more so than today. Some has its scientific value; other is simply for pleasure. National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Counts have contributed important statistical information, yet there has been enjoyable competition. When the Cape May counts started, there was competition with New York; then Bombay Hook came along to challenge Cape May and occasionally won. Last year Club members participated in at least 23 different counts in the Delaware Valley. There has been active participation in the Fish and Wildlife Service Breeding Bird Censuses, and the cumulative data from these are important indications of changes in our populations. The recently completed Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas, under the direction of Frank Gill and Dan Brauning brought out the best in the D.V.O.C., with persons not only censusing blocks ocally but also in many distant parts of the state where coverage was otherwise lacking. Among those whose efforts were outstanding in this regard were Barbara and Franklin Haas, Ed Fingerhood, Paul Schwalbe and Chris Walters.
The Big Days, started in 1928 to see how many species could be seen in a day, are just for fun. So, too, are the annual Spring Round-ups, but there can be some lasting value here if the same area is covered each year and the numbers seen per species given. The first Round-up was held in 1933 with fifty persons comprising twenty groups participating. A specific May date was chosen for the event each year, but this was changed in 1979 to allow each group to select its own date anytime between May 5 and 20. New Jersey Audubon’s World Series of Birding was inaugurated in 1984, with teams from all over the country competing.; D.V.O.C. sponsored teams have competed each year, and the 1985 team of Alan Brady, Kate Brethwaite. Chris and Michael Danzenbaker and Armas Hill was the winner with 189 species, a great achievement against blue ribbon adversaries.
Listing is a sort of competition and many members enjoy this game to the fullest. There are world, foreign areas, American Birding Association (ABA) area, A.O.U. area, state, county and even local or back yard lists. Our Delaware Valley Birdline, a joint endeavor of the Academy and the Club, has been in operation since December 1974. Keith Richards manned it for five years, and Armas Hill has done so since then. Its weekly report is eagerly awaited. A North American Rare Bird Alert, upon reporting a rarity, will cause the big list birder to drop everything, board a plane and go for the bird if it is on the want list. Attu has become the must destination for Club members seeking to break the 700 species barrier in the ABA listing area. The indefatigable John Danzenbaker is second among the top world listers with 6814 species, the top lister in the A.O.U. area with 1549, and second in New Jersey with 376. Art Bergey’s 744 is tops among Club members in the ABA listing area. Paul Dumont’s 338 species is high in Delaware, while Barbara Haas has the largest Pennsylvania list with 330, one ahead of her husband, thanks to a Yellow Rail.
In 1905. 30 out of 77 active members (39 percent) were members of the A.O.U. Today that ratio has declined to 11 percent, and nine percent belong to the Wilson Society. By far the most popular second bird organization is the ABA, with 21 percent of our members on its roll. This is understandable with its emphasis on the sport side of birding, lists and identification, the three areas in which our membership is most interested.
The Delaware Valley Ornithological Club has had an illustrious one hundred years. Its next century presents many problems which must be met if the pleasure we get from birds is to continue on anywhere near its present level. Air and water pollution must be arrested and habitat preserved both here and in the tropics, where so many of our birds spend over half of their lives. These are the paramount concerns we face. We must be active politically as individuals and generous in our support of organizations devoted to protecting the planet and its wildlife if we are to give those who follow us in birding the opportunity to enjoy it as much as we do.