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The Way We Were–And Still Are?

14-3-03-01 [Harriet Davidson]ABA member Harriet Davidson (right) is the very essence of the modern birder: She’s an unrepentant lister, an S&D (“status and distribution”) junkie, and a widely published author (including new-media offerings like DVDs about penguins). Okay, she’s the essence of a particularly ambitious and energetic sort of modern birder.

There’s more. Davidson was the only woman on the first exploratory team at Attu. Which, if you know anything about Attu, means she’s been around for a while. A very long while. Harriet Davidson is 95 years young.

Davidson’s commentary, “On Rereading Jean Piatt’s Adventures in Birding,” appearing on pp. 16-20 of the May/June Birding, is a bewitching and effective blend of reminiscence and modern-day musing. At one level, I read the commentary as a straightforward retelling of the way things used to be. At another level, I can’t help but feel a trans-epochal link with the great birders who were active well before my birth. Channeling the mid-20th century birding great Jean Piatt, Davidson affirms a great capital-B “Brotherhood” of birders. In this view, we’re all birding brothers and sisters, as different as we might otherwise be.

What about you? If you’re an ABA member and have read Davidson’s commentary, what do you think? How do her reflections comport with your own? Are you struck by all the ways birding has changed in the past several decades? Or are you more impressed by the timelessness and universality of Jean Piatt and Harriet Davidson’s “Brotherhood”?

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Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd

Editor, Birding magazine at American Birding Association
Ted Floyd is the longtime Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives with the ABA. Ted has written 200+ magazine articles and 5 books, including How to Know the Birds (National Geographic, 2019). He is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and has served on several nonprofit boards. Join Ted at The ABA Blog for his semimonthly spot, “How to Know the Birds,” celebrating common birds and the uncommonly interesting things they do.
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