There’s something about the fraternity of birders that when one of us passes on I find myself compelled to go birding in the person’s honor. I know it’s silly, but I keep doing it. Now that I’m reaching a certain age, I seem to know more folks in that generation preceding mine and I’m more likely to have met the birders we hear about from time to time who have passed on. So it was this week with long-time Oklahoma birder Jeri McMahon. She was a giant in the Oklahoma birding community, having served as OOS president and reaching approximately 7000 (!) life birds. As this wonderful tribute from the ABA’s Jeff Gordon attests, she was also really dedicated to getting more young people into birding. Jeri found great joy in birding, and she was passionate about sharing that joy with others.
Maybe that’s the thing – the joy. When you know that someone really enjoys something, it’s a fitting tribute to do that thing to honor the person’s memory. So Jeri, I took some time out when I learned that you had left us, and I went birding. I found something that many might find repulsive, but I know if you had been with me at that spot and witnessed this young vulture working on a deer carcass in a sedge meadow, you would’ve been thrilled.
Jeri, you are now one among a growing army of folks who’ve gone before me, marking the changing seasons by their songs, chasing rarities, learning and sharing by word of mouth as much as by whatever technical tips made it into the latest field guide. Like me, you started as a child, and birding for you never lost its sense of wonder and fun. I will think of you on every field trip, and see your face in the faces of children I introduce to the pastime that we have loved so well.
So for those of you who might read this and be here when I am gone, know that I will care not for flowers or stuffy funeral ceremonies. If you want to remember me, then do as I would do and just go birding.