my year in birds: 2014

December 31, 2014

in Me

My traditional compilation, after the second full year in my new home and home township.

Once again, due to many (expensive) house projects, we did not travel.

  • New life birds: None.
  • Total life birds: #1100. No change.
  • Total ABA-area birds: 579. No new species this year.
  • Total state birds: 315. A Western Kingbird showed up a few miles from home. We found out as we arrived home after running a lot of errands, and (to give you an idea of how little I chase birds anymore) I took a nap instead of going to see it with Kingfisher. It hung around, and I saw it the next day.

Work county

  • Wayne County: 265. New species this year was Wild Turkey (finally).
  • Total Dearborn birds: 226, new was Glaucous Gull.
  • Total birds at work: 197, that Glaucous Gull was there.

Home county– as I’m catching up here, I won’t start annotating these lists for a year or so.

  • Total birds, Washtenaw County: 217
  • Total birds in my home township of Lodi Township: 164
  • Yard birds: 141; my better half has seen more species, so the yard list is actually 156. After 16 years, our yard list in Dearborn was 138.

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my year in birds: 2013

January 5, 2014

in Me

My traditional compilation, which is essentially the same as last year, except that I’m filling in the baseline data at my new home and home township.

Otherwise, nothing new as we did not travel. Like last year, I picked up an armchair lifer, which I am counting because 1) it’s my list, and 2) I made a specific trip to find this species to have in “escrow”. See last year’s armchair lifers note regarding list “rules,” although I do not submit my lists to the ABA. In fact, this year I’m letting my membership lapse. Not so much over the whole premise of competitive bird listing — I accept that’s what this organization was founded on and I do support the more conservation-oriented direction they are going in — but because of their movement to providing much of their member services which used to be in print online. I’m obviously no Luddite, but I spend far too much time in front of the computer for business and pleasure. I’ve already converted most of my professional journal subscriptions to online only, especially since my employer does not pay for my memberships and getting print versions are very expensive. Unfortunately, I find that I skim the contents and sometimes the abstracts, but far fewer papers ever get downloaded and read. Same with the many newsletters and other materials I now get electronically.  I have so much more information available to me, and yet I feel that I utilize and absorb less and less of it. I particularly do not want to be tethered to some sort of device to do all of my pleasure reading. Anyway, on to the list.

  • New life birds:  Purple Swamphen. Seen at the epicenter of establishment at Pembroke Pines in Florida in 2002.
  • Total life birds: yep, that was #1100.
  • Total ABA-area birds: 579. No new species this year.
  • Total state birds: 314, nothing new this year.
  • Total birds, Wayne County  (where I work): 264, same as last year.
  • Total birds in my new home township after first full year: 150.
  • Total Dearborn birds: 225, nothing new.
  • Total birds at work: 196, nothing new.
  • Yard birds, new house, after first full year: 126 (though my better half has over 130, I think). It took us a long time to get a Rock Pigeon (and we’ve never had one at the feeders), but I think less than a month to get Evening Grosbeak, a species that I hadn’t seen in the lower peninsula in over 20 years. Turkeys are resident, we’re waiting for one of the Pileated Woodpeckers we’ve seen in our woods to made a feeder appearance, and Connecticut Warbler is already on our list.  No complaints here!


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my year in birds: 2012

January 5, 2013

in Me

My traditional compilation.

I took no trips at all this year, as my father was ill and passed away, and we bought and sold a house. We barely had time to eat, much less bird.

  • New life birds:  I picked up an armchair lifer with the split of Gray-lined Hawk (saw mine in Nicaragua in 2009) from Gray Hawk (which I have seen numerous times in the U.S. as well as Mexico and Honduras). Okay, I know the “rules” state a species must be valid when seen and retroactive species are not allowed. If you submit your lists to the ABA, which I do not. Of course, I know dozens of people who also violate Rule 4 (Diagnostic field-marks for the bird, sufficient to identify to species, must have been seen and/or heard and/or documented by the recorder at the time of the encounter) and Rule 5 (The bird must have been encountered under conditions that conform to the ABA Code of Birding Ethics). This is why, in fact, I don’t participate in competitive bird listing.
  • Total life birds: 1099.
  • Total ABA-area birds: 579. No new species this year.
  • Total state birds: 314 (new this year were Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Red Crossbill).

I moved to a new county this year, but I’ll still be working in my old home county of Wayne and old city of Dearborn. So I’ll keep those lists, and start  few new lists. I probably will not work too much on my new home county list, and I don’t live within a city limits, so I will be keeping a township list instead.

  • Total birds, Wayne County: 264 (new: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher).
  • Total birds in my new home township: 86.
  • Total Dearborn birds: 225 (new species this year: Dickcissel and Northern Shoveler). I saw 148 this  year.
  • Total birds at work: 196 (new this year: Northern Shoveler).
  • Yard birds, old house final life tally: 138 (added in 2012: Red-shouldered Hawk and Louisiana Waterthrush).
  • Yard birds, new house: 78. My husband Kingfisher spent more time here before we officially moved in, and has 96 species for the yard.

Happy New Year.

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I occasionally dabble in genealogy, the only hobby I have that has nothing to do with natural history or science. I’ve been most interested in my mother’s side of the family, which was a big mystery even when my grandmother was alive. My mom was an only child, but her mother came from a large family — of which only one sister was known. All her other siblings, cousins, ancestors…my grandmother was unclear on all their names or what became of them. All I knew was that she was raised on a farm in Amherstburg, Ontario (she remained a Canadian citizen her whole life) but her immediate family had come to live in Detroit sometime after 1900.

I began with her parents Henry Dubey and Annie Deneau. My grandmother said she thought they died of the flu — presumably the influenza pandemic of 1918. I finally found out they actually both died in early 1924: Henry on February 23, Annie on March 6, not of the flu, but of smallpox. A little research revealed that there was an outbreak of smallpox in Detroit from December 1923 to around June 1924, with well over 1,000 cases. The most fatal period was in early 1924.

It wasn’t until recently that I came across an article that noted that the most virulent portion of this epidemic was started by a single undiagnosed case in Windsor, Ontario; this person died on February 11. Smallpox moves fast, and the short time frame between this death and that of my great-grandfather made me curious. I was intrigued when I found an old medical journal article on the epidemic [1] that identified the first victim as “GD.”

I had already done substantial work on Henry Dubey’s side of the family, as he was directly descended from one of Canada’s original pioneers, Mathurin Dubé. I had no records of close relatives of Henry with the initials GD, so before I started working on cousins, I thought I’d take a look at the Deneau’s, my great-grandmother’s family. This was something I’d not tackled in depth, because this was an extremely prolific family — Essex County, Ontario is still chock-full of Deneaus. I caught a lucky break when I found another medical journal paper [2]. Among a number of gruesome photos of Windsor victims was one of a survivor noted as a “roomer in the Gordon Deneau household.”

Gordon Deneau was my great-grandmother Annie’s brother.

Unfortunately, Gordon had an unusual case of smallpox. He became ill on February 2, 1924, and after he died on February 11, the local paper invited people to his funeral. It wasn’t until attendees began coming down with the disease about a week later that health officials realized Gordon’s illness had been smallpox and many people had been exposed.  Through death records and newspaper archives, I was able to find many relatives and their in-laws and relatives who died in Windsor, Amherstburg, and other nearby communities. One article noted that 21 close relatives of Gordon Deneau died. Another mentioned that 8 of Antoine Deneau’s 14 children died in the epidemic; Antoine was my great-great-grandfather, and Annie and Gordon’s father.

It’s hard to imagine today the horror that must have penetrated my family. A recollection from a Windsor resident gives some hint at the dread they must have felt. Below I’ve listed the close relatives that died in a five-week period. I have come up with only 13 siblings in Annie’s family and 7 deaths, but the newspaper article (commemorating Antoine Deneau’s 92nd birthday in 1931) could be inaccurate. Note also that Annie and Henry were not the only Dubey/Deneau intermarriage.


Gordon Deneau, my great-grandmother Annie Deneau’s brother, dies undiagnosed on February 11.

Henry Dubey, my great-grandfather (Annie’s husband), dies February February 23. So does John Shaw, Gordon Deneau’s brother-in-law, and John’s sister Clara Shaw.

Virginie Dubey Deneau, Henry Dubey’s sister and the wife of Annie’s brother John dies February 24.

Albert Deneau, Annie’s brother and twin of Gordon, dies March 1. Reaford Deneau, Albert’s son, dies the same day.

Ida Deneau Cox, Annie’s sister, dies March 2. So does Claire Shaw, wife of John Shaw (Gordon Deneau’s brother-in-law).

Annie Deneau Dubey dies March 6. So does Adolphus Shaw, brother of Claire Shaw.

Rosalie Gibb Shaw, wife of Ernest Shaw (John and Clara Shaw’s brother) dies March 11.

Frances Cox, Ida Deneau Cox’s young daughter, dies March 15.

Augustus Deneau and Joseph Deneau , two more of Annie’s brothers, die March 24.

Another of Annie’s sisters, Rosanah Deneau, disappeared and it was implied she died in this epidemic as well. She was likely married at the time, and I have not found her married name yet.


There were 67 cases of smallpox in Windsor (it’s not clear if this also includes Amherstburg), of which 32 people died.  In Detroit, there were 105 deaths from 795 cases that occurred between March 16 and June 1, 1924; how many other than my great-grandparents were derived from the Deneau outbreak isn’t known. Neither Canada nor Michigan had compulsory vaccination at the time, although the border between Detroit and Canada was closed for a time to those not able to prove they had been vaccinated. In Detroit, over a quarter of the population was unvaccinated and another 41% needed boosters. All deaths were people who had not been vaccinated, or had not been recently re-vaccinated. As a result of this outbreak, 50,000 people in Windsor and about 750,000 in Detroit were vaccinated. For at least 20 years after than, smallpox cases never exceeded 100 in Detroit.

Maybe my grandmother wasn’t much of a family person, given her vagueness on other members. In 1924, she was 33 and married, and my mother was 4 years old. Had she been closer to the family, perhaps she would have attended her uncle’s funeral, and this story would have had to been told by someone else.

This post kicked off my genealogy blog, The Paper Family.

[1] Adams, F. 1924. The epidemic of virulent smallpox in Windsor and the vicinity. Canadian Medical Association Journal 692-696.

[2] Pierce, C. C. 1925. Some reasons for compulsory vaccination. Boston Medical and Surgical Journal 192:659-695.

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the year in birds: 2011

January 1, 2012

This tradition is now probably just for me, and my 3 remaining readers! I took two international trips this year: one to the central highlands of Nicaragua, my second time in this area (you can read about the highlights here and here), and the other a quick trip to Honduras. Also a business trip to […]

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updated: plotting a christmas bird count circle

December 24, 2011

A new and improved way to create circles on a Google Map or for use in Google Earth, especially handy for Christmas Bird Count circles.

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fill ‘er up

May 31, 2011

The Rouge River is an urban river, and its urban character is nowhere better reflected than where it gets harnessed into its concrete straitjacket.

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the saga of the antpitta

May 28, 2011

In 2007, a new species of antpitta was discovered in Urrao,  Antioquia, Colombia. Things went sideways from there. This is the kind of long, convoluted story that I find both fascinating and that I like to write about. It seems to have no end, though, so I’ll provide links to the most succinct timelines and […]

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My cats, indoors

March 25, 2011

I’ve banged this drum before, but please — keep your cats indoors.

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Update to urban bird literature

February 12, 2011

Over yonder in the right sidebar is a list of Urban Ecology Resources. You can expand each category by clicking on it.  One item in the Literature category is my urban bird bibliography (Word doc), where I keep track of papers published on the topic. I’ve just uploaded a new version. New additions include: Benitez-Lopez, […]

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