Bird Observer - The New England Birding Journal

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

April 2016

Vol. 44, No. 2

The Essex County Ornithological Club: 1916-2016

John Nelson

Essex County Ornithological Club Canoe trip 2015. Photograph by Dave Brewster.

It started on the water—the Ipswich River in Essex County, Massachusetts. A group of men, perched on the cane seats of canoes owned by Ralph Lawson and Gil Emilio, set out one May morning in 1907 to find birds, by sight or sound, on or along the river and to record the birds they found. The group paddled out again the next year, and the next, and the Ipswich River Trip became an annual tradition, a two-day excursion held on the weekend closest to May 15. Birders commuted by train, trolley, and liveries to Howe’s Station in Middleton and then to the put-in spot at the water hole below Spofford’s Boathouse. Nights they spent in tents, with hay bales for bedding, at a riverside camp in Boxford or at the Pines, now Perkins Island in Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary (IRWS). Before settling in, the more resolute ventured out for night birds.

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