125 YEARS OF BIRDING MILESTONES IN DUTCHESS COUNTY
||Winfrid A. Stearns publishes
his List of Birds in Fishkill on-Hudson, N.Y., the first
formal list of birds in Dutchess County.
D. Roosevelt keeps a birding diary listing all birds seen or
heard each day at the Hyde Park estate. Some birds were collected
and mounted and remain on display at his home.
||Maunsell S. Crosby, at
age 14, conducts the first Christmas Bird Count in Dutchess
County at Rhinebeck. This was the second year of the Audubon
||The Birds of New York
by Elon Eaton is published, containing a list of birds in each
county. The Dutchess County list was compiled mostly from the
records of Mary Hyatt and Lispenard Horton.
||The Rhinebeck Bird Club
is formed. It becomes very active, publishes lists and reports,
but withers by the mid 1920's.
||Allen Frost encourages
Maunsell Crosby to conduct a May census. The May census has
been an annual event ever since.
||Maunsell Crosby publishes
his Preliminary List of Birds of Dutchess County
|| Maunsell Crosby dies
suddenly from complications of appendicitis. His life work of
collecting data on Dutchess County birds remains unpublished.
||Ludlow Griscom compiles
Crosby's data into the book Birds of Dutchess County
||Ralph T. Waterman begins teaching
Bird Identification classes in the Arlington Adult Education
program with 10 students in attendance (some are still with
our club today).
||The first Dutchess County Bird Club
is started by Ralph T. Waterman and his students.
||A new Dutchess County Bird Club is established
with 71 members.
News Notes, a semi-annual newsletter,
begins publication with the Winter 1958/59 issue.
||The club is renamed after its founder, Ralph
T. Waterman, following his and his wife's tragic death in an
||The newsletter that became Wings
Over Dutchess begins publication.
The club hosts the first of many Audubon Screen Tours. Roger
Tory Peterson, among other well-known birders, visits Dutchess
County as a lecturer for one of the films during this first
||The first local telephone relay for reporting
rare birds is established.
||Florence Germond establishes the bluebird nesting
box trail, which has grown and been monitored yearly ever since.
Otis and Ginny Waterman welcome a son into the world, and name
him Roger Tory. To their delight, his namesake accepts their
invitation and comes to the christening.
|1963 - 1965
||Birds of Dutchess County, 1933-1964
is published in installments.
||The club acquires tax exempt status.
||Where to Bird in Dutchess County is published.
It is revised and republished in 1979.
||Birds of Dutchess County, 1965-1979 is
The New York State Breeding Bird Atlas project is begun.
||Checklist of the Birds of Dutchess County
is published, with abundance bar graphs.
||Where to Bird in Dutchess County, 2nd
edition is published.
||75th annual May bird census is conducted in Dutchess
||The Birds of Dutchess County reference
card is published.
40th Christmas Bird Count is coordinated by the club.
||Atlas 2000, the New York Breeding Bird Atlas
project, is begun.
||The Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club website is launched.
||RTWBC participates for the first time in the
Great River Sweep to help clean up the Hudson's banks.
||The Birds of Dutchess County is published.
FIRST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS
brief History of The Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club
published in Wings Over Dutchess, April 1983
In 1949 the first Dutchess County Bird Club was formed. At that
time Ralph Waterman was conducting classes in Bird Identification
at the Arlington High School Adult Education Program (in the building
that is now Arlington Middle School) and members of the class were
part of the club. Raymond Guernsey was president, Marion VanWagner
Recording Secretary and Eleanor Pink Record Chairman. Mr. Guernsey
financed the first efforts and a metal box was provided for the
record cards. The group met a few times each year for the next few
years and some of us continued to go to the identification classes
and participate in the annual spring bird census and the Christmas
bird count. However, the club was loosely formed and even though
we continued to send in records and have field trips, the club was
in need of reorganization.
In 1958 all the available people from the classes were asked to
meet at Baird State Park for a mid-summer get-together. There was
quite a crowd and from that a group was formed and plans went ahead.
In September a meeting was held at the Arlington High School and
the present Dutchess County Bird Club was born. Officers were elected
and Ray Connelly was the first president. We were off and running.
Then tragedy struck. Our founder and good friend and his wife were
killed in an accident in Myrtle Beach, S.C. They were on vacation
and had planned to return to bird with us and guide us in this new
venture. The club was renamed the Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club. We
started with 71 members and the membership grew the first year.
Our first bulletin was called Bird Notes and was published
through the courtesy of Victor Grover. Four copies a year were issued
for the first two years.
Our first bulletin, as we see it today, was printed November 1960.
Mary Key, Helen Manson and Florence Germond were the bulletin committee.
At first it was called The Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club News Bulletin.
We put out an appeal for a name and had many suggestions, including
The Chicken Hawk (Otis), The Juncoes Slate (Ray),
Bird Words, Creeper's Review and Wings Over Dutchess
(Sally Draney), which was unanimously chosen by the members. The
dues were $3 single, $5 family.
Otis Waterman was elected president in 1960 and we had the first
of many Audubon Screen Tours. The first year we had as our speaker
Roger Tory Peterson. Half of the proceeds from the lectures went
to the Arlington High School Scholarship Fund. In return we used
the school auditorium free of charge. A Western Meadowlark was found
mated to an Eastern Meadowlark female on Layton Rd. in Bangall,
and caused a few traffic jams. The birds, with their offspring,
were collected and taken to an aviary on Long Island for study by
the Museum of Natural History. In 1961 the first telephone relay
was started and called the Wild Goose Chase. It did help many of
us to see rare and interesting birds.
Brad Whiting, who was our first treasurer, became president in 1962.
Even though he served only one year before moving to Colorado, he
was a good influence and our club membership grew to 141. Though
younger in those days, and well able to make our own way, the ladies
were pleased to have Brad help them over and through fences. How
we missed him when he left.
Florence Germond was elected in the fall of 1963 as the first woman
president. It was during her term that the memorable trip was taken
to Montauk Point. We hosted the Federation of New York Bird Clubs'
annual meeting, and the Bluebird Trail was started.. We gave the
first scholarship to Maine Audubon Camp and published Birds of
Dutchess County, 1933-1964.
Jim Key became president in 1965, and the Audubon Screen Tours continued.
Alice Jones and Helen Manson put on interesting exhibits in the
school lobby which attracted much attention before the lecture and
during the intermission. The annual dinner was $4.00, and 65 young
birds were fledged from the growing Bluebird Trail. We put on an
exhibit at the first annual Sportsmen's Show, the first of many,
and had an exhibit at the Arlington Scholarship Fair. In 1967 we
sent the first used commemorative postage stamps to the Florida
Audubon Society for the Bald Eagle Program.
Bill Strauss followed Jim as president in 1967, and the bulletin
was changed to its present size, having used the longer paper that
some felt was hard to file. The first Harris' Sparrow to be recorded
in the county was found at a feeder in Dover Plains. Through the
relay calls, many went to see it. Our good friend, George Decker,
passed away. George had found the only Townsend's Solitaire ever
seen in Dutchess County; the skin is in the Museum of Natural History
(editor's note: another Townsend's Solitaire appeared in Dutchess
in 1990, several years after this article was written). Work
was done on the trail around Thompson Pond and many interesting
trips were taken to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. The growing Bluebird
Trail fledged 124 young.
Edward Briggs was elected in the fall of 1969, and we moved to the
new Arlington High School building in Freedom Plains. The first
Black-legged Kittiwake was seen on the Hudson River by Davis Finch.
We were privileged to have Davis living in the county. We enjoyed
working and birding with him. Some of us started participating in
the Connecticut Christmas Bird counts, which we did for many years.
The annual dinner was $5.50 and the club purchased the ill-fated
film, "Our Endangered EnvironmentSoil" to be shown
in the schools. It was a good idea but the film was ruined at an
early showing. The John Burroughs Natural History Society hosted
the Federation of New York State Bird Clubs annual meeting at Mohonk,
with our assistance. Mary and Jim Key reached 606 species on their
Otis Waterman was elected for the second time in 1971, and 135 acres
were added to the Thompson Pond Nature Preserve. A second Black-legged
Kittiwake was also found on the Hudson River by Jim and Mary Key.
Jim Fiedler went to Maine Audubon Camp on the eleventh scholarship.
The annual club dues were $4 single and $6 family. We had well over
200 members. In 1972 we had the last of the Audubon Wildlife Films.
We were forced to discontinue them due to rising costs and low attendance.
Vivian Gilbert followed in 1973 and brought her youth and vitality.
We held the first yard sale at Eleanor Pink's garage and it was
a huge success. The money went into a Conservation Fund. The Zoological
Survey of Dutchess County was conducted under the leadership of
Erik Kiviat, and many of us participated. Sadly we bid Vivian and
her family good-bye as they moved to Colorado.
As Vice-president Alice Jones filled out Vivian's term and was elected
president in the fall of 1975. Thompson Pond Preserve was fully
paid up with $50,000 raised in three years. The club was pressured
to become an Audubon Chapter. After much thought and discussion
it was voted to remain the Waterman Bird Club, however we are an
affiliated club. The constitution and by-laws were revised and updated
and we acquired a tax free status. Many hours were spent by the
Education Committee to put together a birding guide, and in October
1977 Where to Bird in Dutchess County was published. An Audubon's
Warbler (now a subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler) was found at
DeOrsey's feeder, and 199 Bluebirds were fledged from the trail.
Helen Manson was elected in 1977 and the Rare Bird Alert was officially
added to the list of permanent committees in the constitution. Mary
Key kept us informed of any rare and unusual birds, not only in
the county but elsewhere in surrounding states and Canada. The checklist
of Birds of Dutchess County was revised and updated and reprinted;
a hardworking committee put together a slide presentation "Symbols
of the States" which was shown to many groups over the next
two years. Fifty-five Turkey Vultures were found at a roost on Quaker
Hill in December and January. Two good members left our area - Bob
Smart and Dan Nickerson. We gave them a sendoff with an August picnic,
our first annual August picnic get-together. A bluebird box building
bee was held at Florence Germond's and 52 boxes were built. Plans
were formulated for the Federation meeting to be held in the county
Aline Romero was elected in the fall of 1979. Though she served
only one year before they moved back to Oklahoma, she left her mark.
An endowment fund was set up whereby money can be given to the club
in the name of someone who has passed away. A second yard sale was
held, also at Eleanor's garage and the money was used for the Federation
of New York Bird Clubs' annual meeting, which was held at Holiday
Hills, Pawling. It was a huge success, even the weather. It could
not have been done without the cooperation of everyone. Where
to Bird was revised and republished.
Meg Guernsey, whose great uncle was a guiding light many years ago,
was elected in 1980. Birds of Dutchess County, 1965-1979
was published. This was the result of years of record keeping by
Eleanor and compiled into book form by Otis. A Fulvous Whistling
Tree Duck (known today as Fulvous Whistling-Duck) and a Northern
Wheatear were found in Cruger Island area and added to our growing
checklist. The New York State Breeding Bird Atlas started in 1980
and swung into high gear with Barbara Butler at the helm. 1981 was
a banner year for the Bluebirds. Over 400 were fledged and banded
Lou Endsley was elected in the fall of 1982 and quickly organized
his committees. Some thought was given to raising the dues which
since 1975 have been $5 single, $7.50 family. However it was found
not to be necessary at this time. As we enter our twenty-fifth year
as an active bird club we find many of the original members still
active. Some old friends have gone and many new friends are added
to our list of members. It is hoped that the club will continue
for many more years.
Top of Page
T. WATERMAN REMEMBERED
Otis T. Waterman
published in Wings Over Dutchess, April 1983
My father was born in 1901 in Kinderhook, N.Y. His childhood was
spent in Poughkeepsie on Forbus Street and Grand Avenue where he
had a large garden and met my mother, Katherine (always called Pete).
He managed to finish only the eighth grade before running away to
join the army during WWI at age 16. My grandmother had him returned
home, being underage, but as the war ended he did enlist, serving
as an aide to General Pershing on a trip to Panama after the war.
Married in 1921, he took up chicken farming with Pete on the Sharon
Turnpike near Millbrook, which lasted until 1933 when they (we)
moved to Poughkeepsie and he started the Waterman and Heaton Insurance
Agency which was succeeded by the Hill Agency.
Ralph, an outdoorsman and sportsman since childhood, spent his summers
fishing on Upton Lake. He was an avid trout fisherman (particularly
fly fishing) spending many hours each season on the Sprout Creek
in LaGrange or the Wappingers Creek above Pleasant Valley. His interest
in birds did not really commence until 1943 when he took over as
Scoutmaster of Troop 2 and then 16 in Poughkeepsie. He was guiding
a number of us Boy Scouts, including myself, to attain the Eagle
Badge. This required a merit badge in Ornithology and identifying
40 birds in the field. He became extremely interested and took to
the field almost every chance he could. His favorite birding spots
then were a marsh behind our house, Ireland's farm and Brickyard
Swamp, all in the Town of Poughkeepsie. The first is still there
for the most part, the second is a housing development, and the
third is the 44 Plaza Shopping Center.
He subsequently became an intense bird student, being helped by
Allen Frost and Ray Guernsey (Meg Guernsey's great uncle), both
experienced birders in the county since the nineteen-twenties. They
in turn had birded with Maunsell Crosby, probably the father of
Dutchess County birding, who lived at his estate, "Grasmere,"
southwest of Rhinebeck. Ralph was also helped by several ornithologists
at Vassar College, including Ralph Palmer in particular.
Ralph first went on Dutchess County's historic (started in 1919)
May Census in 1945 with George Gray, Allen Frost, Ray Guernsey and
Frank Gardner. These were probably the only birders in the county
at the time. I joined them in 1946 mostly as an observer of the
My father's real claim to fame was the many people he taught and
interested in birding in a relatively short period of time (1943-1958).
He started his adult education classes at Arlington High School
in 1948 at the urging of Eleanor Pink. Eleanor recalls that it was
difficult to get the required ten to start the first class but its
members included Marion Van Wagner, Dan Muncell, Helen Manson, Bill
and Louise Chrystal, Marge King, Natale Mestechen and several more.
Subsequent classes produced birders which formed the first Dutchess
County Bird Club in April 1949 with Ray Guernsey as president. This
club did not last for some reason, but by 1958 with more students
available, the second Dutchess County Bird Club (changed to The
Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club after my parents' death in an auto accident
in November 1958 in Myrtle Beach, SC) was formed.
In my opinion the success of the adult education classes (Ralph
also gave many talks to local groups here and in Myrtle Beach where
they went in winters 1952-1958) was Ralph's charismatic nature and
his intense interest in everything he did from fishing to woodworking
to birding to ceramics to golf. This leadership ability manifested
itself throughout his life as he was president or head of the Masons,
the Kiwanis, the Dutchess Golf and Country Club, the Chamber of
Commerce, First NYS Forest Practice Board, etc., etc.