Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn An Oasis for Birds and Birders | Page 4

The Birding Tribe: The Consummate Birder: An Interview with Bob Stymeist Introduction Bob Stymeist began birding at Mount Auburn in 1960 as a 12-year-old. His early interest in birds was strengthened by fellow birders and keenly devel- oped by his own independent study of avian life. Now, fifty years later, it is Bob encouraging others to explore the diversity of birds that can be found all around us, whether in an urban backyard or in Mount Auburn’s historic land- scape. Through the decades, he has given countless bird walks for the Friends of Mount Auburn and other birding clubs, and he has led our popular Nighthawks Watch program for more than 20 years. He also writes the birding posts for the Friends’ monthly electronic newsletter. Bob has birded in 28 countries worldwide and in all but one state (Hawaii). He has seen over 3,000 species of birds, but he is most proud of his Massachusetts State List of 442 and his Mount Auburn list, which at 201 is just 26 species shy of the Cemetery’s official list of 227 species. Because of his expertise in the world of birding and his longtime connection to the Cemetery, Mount Auburn’s Visitor Services Coordinator Jessica Bussmann and Media & Imaging Coordinator Jennifer Johnston recently took a long walk with Bob around the grounds for a candid conversation about his history of birding in this unique landscape. Q. Can you tell us about your early years birding at Mount Auburn? We heard that someone used to leave you notes under a rock with locations of bird sightings on them. A. A friend of mine and one of the most active bird- ers at the time, Peg Fowler, used to leave me a list of what she had seen under a rock at the spruce tree at the foot of Indian Ridge. It was our way of reporting what was seen, but eventually others found out and often added bird reports. Now, of course, we have the chalk board at the main gate to report sightings. When I first became interested in birds I had no idea that anyone else was interested in them. My earliest record of seeing birds at Mount Auburn was in 1960 when I was 12, but I was interested in birds before that. In 1961, I remem- ber coming here alone often. It wasn’t until 1964, when I went on my first official bird walk at Mount Auburn with the Brookline Bird Club, that I found out there were a lot of people who enjoyed bird watching! 2 | Sweet Auburn Q. A. Was there anyone in particular who introduced you more into the world of birding? I used to visit the Star Bookshop located in the Harvard Lampoon Castle while other kids were hanging out in Harvard Square. I got to know Eva Thur- man, who ran the store for Milton Starr, and told her of my interest in birds. I would go downstairs to the nature section and read the bird books because I didn’t own any myself. Eva introduced me to a friend, George Drew, in Belmont who was also interested in birds. He took me to his favorite birding areas in Belmont and to Great Mead- ows in Concord. I had a really old and crummy pair of binoculars and, as a birthday present, Eva gave me my first Swift binos. George took me on a special all-day birding trip to Plum Island where I met Herman D’Entremont, one of the most active members of the Brookline Bird Club. Meeting Herman and his friends really got me out and about birding. Q. A. How did the Brookline Bird Club shape you as a birder? I started to go to more and more places to see birds—Cape Cod, Mt. Greylock, even out of state to places like the Jersey shore—thanks to Herman. I also met Steve Grinley, another birder my age from Newton, and the three of us went everywhere! At that time, the Club only scheduled a few trips for Mount Auburn, all during the first two weeks of May. I pointed out that they could see a lot more birds if they added more trips in the spring. The following spring I le