Headwaters Master Naturalist Stephanie Gardner gave a most interesting presentation to the Rockingham Bird Club (RBC) on December 7 entitled “When Archives Take Flight: The Bridgewater College Birding Journal, 1918 and 1947 – 1950”. As the Special Collections Librarian at Bridgewater College’s John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons, Stephanie told the story of a composition book she uncovered while inventorying the Collection six or so years ago. Her interest was immediately captured when she saw it was labeled “Birds of Bridgewater”. The first of three sections in the book is a list of birds identified by Charles S. Driver while taking a class under a Dr. Scott in the spring of 1918. After doing some detective work, Stephanie uncovered that Charles Driver was a Bridgewater College graduate, but in 1916. Dr. Scott was probably a professor at Indiana University where Charles Driver did graduate work in 1918. So much for Birds of Bridgewater! There are 117 species listed, from Robin to Kentucky Warbler. Notes include taxonomy info, field marks, dates seen, and nesting habits (for many).
Stephanie said that Charles Driver appeared to be quite socially inclined; here are some images from Special Collections of him with others. Note the string he is pulling to activate the camera in the second image; a hundred-year-old “selfie”. (Images from the Robert R. Newlen ’75 & John C. Bradford Special Collections, Bridgewater College.)
The second section in the notebook is titled “Birds observed in the vicinity of Bridgewater, Va 1947 – 48 – 49”. These pages list the first date in the year the species was seen, and some numbers observed. Of particular local interest is that Dr. Jopson (Harry “Doc” Jopson) and Max Carpenter were in the list of contributors. These two were founding members of the RBC and organized the first Christmas Bird Count in Rockingham County in 1954.
The last section lists the 108 species of birds observed by a group of 65 on a Virginia Society of Ornithology field trip. They visited Silver Lake, Mossy Creek, and Hone Quarry on a sunny, 82°F, day in May 1950.
In all three sections, it is interesting to see the numerous species which have since had their official names changed. Turkey Buzzards are now Turkey Vultures, Sparrow Hawks are now Kestrels, etc.
Many thanks to Stephanie for her sleuthing endeavors in revealing this piece of local historic natural history and for the great presentation. We are most fortunate to have Stephanie amongst our group with her knowledge combining nature and archiving practices.
For anyone interested in seeing this composition book, a copy can be downloaded from this page. Also, Special Collections are open by appointment; please contact Stephanie Gardner at sgardner [at] bridgewater.edu to schedule.
– Art Fovargue, Cohort VII, December 2022
Art currently serves as Historian for the Rockingham Bird Club.