Wayne R. Petersen
Carolyn and John Marsh. Photograph by Julia Yoshida.
Bird Observer has enjoyed a long and fruitful existence—an existence initiated with the journal's seminal publication in 1973. Throughout the 45 years of this venerable run, a sometimes little-known fact is that no one on the staff has ever received financial compensation for the thousands of hours of volunteer time that have made the publication of the journal possible. In an age of rising publication costs and skilled and talented workers often unwilling to give up huge chunks of time without compensation, Bird Observer, with a robust and enduring circulation of many hundreds of subscribers, is practically unique in its quality as a birding journal. So it should not come as a surprise that behind the scenes there have been dozens of committed volunteers involved in producing the journal through the years, but very few that can top the efforts of Carolyn and John Marsh.
This self-described neophyte birding team first showed up on the Bird Observer radar screen in the mid-1980s following a recommendation by the late Miriam Dickey—a beloved Mass Audubon teacher who for many years served as a mentor to new birders and aspiring ornithologists—that Carolyn should subscribe to Bird Observer, which she enthusiastically did in 1986. This happened to be at a time when the journal was periodically offering birding workshops for folks who had a burgeoning interest in birds. Today, Carolyn claims that her connection to Bird Observer journal and these birding workshops were major enhancers of her birding education.
But this was only the beginning. In 1997, Carolyn took on the role of Subscription Manager of the journal, a position she held until 2003, and late in 1997 she was also elected to the Board of Directors, a position she actively held until 2016. As a result of Carolyn's enthusiasm for the journal, vision for its content, and her proven skill at managing both authors and copy, in 2004 she earned the distinction of becoming Managing Editor. During the two years of Carolyn's editorship, she oversaw the publication of such timely or original articles as "The First Annual Superbowl of Birding," "Good News for Massachusetts Birds: Introducing Massachusetts eBird www.massaudubon.org/ebird," and "The Digital Camera as an Identification Tool." On her watch, the first and only insect appeared as an At A Glance mystery feature; as well as the first and only color cover for the print journal to celebrate the 2004 occurrence of a Red-footed Falcon on Martha's Vineyard. She also maintained the tradition of the journal by featuring such important articles as "A Springtime Exploration of Essex County's Coastal Islands with Notes on Their Historic Use by Colonially Nesting Birds," "First Nest Record of Common Raven in Essex County," "The ‘Wellesley Boys'—Contributions to Continental Birding," and "Bird Conservation and the Important Bird Area (IBA) Program: It's All About Habitat."
While Carolyn was artfully guiding and maintaining the mission of Bird Observer as the Managing Editor, in 2004 her husband John quietly stepped up to take over her long-standing role as Subscription Manager. This transition ultimately resulted in the effective movement of the journal's subscription base into the digital age of the 21st century. The Board of Directors of Bird Observer will forever be in debt to John Marsh for his nearly seamless and effective management of the subscriptions and circulation of the journal during this tedious transition period. As if this wasn't long enough, John also graciously served on the Board of the journal from 2005-2011 and from 2014-2016. During these final three years, Carolyn also graciously agreed to serve as vice-president.
Unfortunately volunteerism often goes under-recognized. And in an organization where everyone since the genesis of the journal has been a volunteer, it can be difficult to single out individuals. However, in the case of Carolyn and John Marsh, it is a distinction clearly deserving of recognition. So without saying anything further, let it simply be said: Carolyn and John, a HUGE THANK YOU for all that you have done to help make our modest journal the publication that it is today, and for sharing your wisdom and good humor for all the years that you have given us. Best of luck in whatever you two decide to conquer next, and good birding always!