Date: 3/29/19 5:20 am
From: Maggie peretto via CTBirds <ctbirds...>
Subject: [CT Birds] 60 Years of Birding Paul Desjardins.
Sixty Years With Hartford Audubon, and Still Counting !!
By Doug Beach

Paul Desjardins has seen a lot of birds over the last sixty years. He also has an incredible memory. He recalls thewarm summer day of August 30, 1969, when he saw a Loggerhead Shrike at Station 43, and a White-winged Crossbill at the West Hartford Reservoir. And on May 11, 1972, Paul saw 13 Blackburnian, 16 Magnolia, 21 Nashville, 27 Black-throated Blue, 33 Black-and-white, 46 Northern Parula, and 55 Black-throated Green Warblers; all in West Hartford !!

Paul’s love affair with birding began when he was in elementary school. He joined what was then the Hartford Bird Study Club in 1959, when he was just twelve years old. His first recorded field trip was on February 21, 1959, when he visited Old Saybrook for the very first time. Since then, he has made an astonishing 6445 recorded outings !! Paul has a North American Life List of 728 species, with 376 in Connecticut, and 236 in the South Windsor meadows.

Paul fondly remembers some of his more unusual sightings; such as on May 19, 1961, when he found a Black-backed Woodpecker while walking to school in West Hartford; and a Boreal Chickadee which he spotted on October 16, 1974 while delivering mail in Windsor; clearly his best “work bird”. He is also credited with finding the first Ross’s Goose in Hartford County.

He recalls the Brambling which came to a feeder in Weston, Conn. in 1997, a round trip of 156 miles from his home in Windsor Locks. “I made five trips to Weston before I finally saw that Brambling”, Paul declared.

He also remembers birding in Connecticut and in Arizona on the same day. “I saw a Brown Thrasher in the morning, and a Curve-billed Thrasher in the afternoon”, he said with a grin.

Even the most unusual of circumstances provided opportunities; such as the time when Paul was going through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He was marching in formation when he spotted his very first Western Meadowlark. Regulations would not allow him to turn his head, and it was then that Paul realized he had excellent peripheral vision !!

We asked what was his most humorous birding incident. “Well, I’m not sure how humorous it was”, Paul replied, “but I fell into the Bering Sea and missed seeing a Ringed Plover. Fortunately I was able to see another one later in the trip.”

We then asked what has changed over the years. “Hartford Audubon Society itself is much the same”, he replied, “except that monthly meetings used to be held at both the Connecticut Historical Society and at The Childrens’ Museum in West Hartford.

“However, finding birds is now much easier, what with cell phones and the internet. And optics, especially in telescopes, have improved dramatically.

“Winters seemed colder back in the day.” Paul recalled encountering a flock of Starlings on January 22, 1961, the day Hartford recorded its all-time record low temperature of -26 degrees. “It was so cold that the Starlings couldn’t even fly !!

“Today there are so many more House Finch, Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Bald Eagles. But, unfortunately, there are fewer Meadowlarks, Ruffed Grouse, Brown Thrashers, and Golden-winged Warblers.”

Much has changed over the years, but certainly not Paul’s love of the birds, or his love of Hartford Audubon Society. “How nice and welcoming the members are”, Paul declares. “That is something that has never changed.”

Maggie Peretto
Hartford Audubon President
Manchester, CT
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