My Birding Mentor

Dr. Bruce Miller on road to Chincoteague VA - early 90s photo: Greg Miller

Yesterday, April 4, would have been my father’s birthday.  I lost my father, friend, and birding mentor in late 2000.  He was a large animal veterinarian for the State of Ohio.  He was also a birder since a very young boy.  It was his patience and steady temperament that made him not only a good birder, but an outstanding mentor.  His approach to birding was thorough and meticulous, yet still he conveyed quiet joy and passion for the hobby.

I enjoyed many of my fondest memories birding with him from boyhood until he could no longer get out to watch birds.  He didn’t have all the field guides and sound recordings that we have available to us birders today.  He learned his bird identification and bird song recognition by experience.  And I was the fortunate recipient of his careful mentoring and years of experience.

One of the last major birding trips we were able to make together was to South Texas in April, 1996.  I dug through some old photo albums and scanned a few to post here.  Here’s a picture from the Edwards Plateau of Central Texas.  We stopped at this park for a target bird, the Golden-cheeked Warbler.  And we were successful.

Dr. Bruce Miller - Lost Maples State Park TX - 1996 photo: Greg Miller

Here’s my dad at one of our favorite National Wildlife Refuges, Santa Ana NWR in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.

Dr. Bruce Miller - Santa Ana NWR - TX April 1996 photo: Greg Miller

One of the crowning moments of the trip was a special life bird experience for my dad–the gawdy Green Jay.  We got close views at Sabal Palm.  And my father, in his own quiet way, said “Boy.  I’ve waited all my life to see this bird.”  I had heard him talk of Green Jays before.  It was one of his favorite birds.  So I asked him, when was the first time he had ever seen a picture of a Green Jay.  He told me, “When I was five.  I saw a picture on a card.”  Wow, I thought.  He’s waited 61 years for this moment.  Birding has to be the coolest hobby…ever.  Thanks, dad.

Green Jays - Sabal Palm TX - April 1996 photo: Greg Miller

3 thoughts on “My Birding Mentor

  1. Reading this post brought back many fond memories!

    In his later years my brothers and I went on the MBG bird count with him. He was always fun to bird with. I also remember one time in the evening his big brown 4-door car came flying in the lane. There was a Ross’s Goose on Boyd’s pond. Dad ended up finishing the chores himself!

    Thanks for sharing the photos and memories, Greg. I miss him.

    Paul

  2. Greg,
    Thanks for posting this about your dad. I knew him quite well as he was an elder at BCF. I also have wonderful memories of Dr. Bruce. He was personable, patient, and wise. I know that you have many great memories of your dad and that you still miss him. We miss him too.
    God Bless,
    JD

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