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June 2022

Vol. 50, No. 3

Zaps: 50-3

Zaps are notes of awareness and pleas for action that appear in the corresponding print edition of Bird Observer. Here they are from the current issue.

S. Waldo Bailey Journals (1902–1963) Released

PITTSFIELD, MA—The Hoffmann Bird Club, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, announces the online release of the journals of S. Waldo Bailey. Born in 1885 in West Newbury, Massachusetts, Bailey started his meticulous journals at age 17. He worked throughout Massachusetts in many capacities, including as a supervisor for the Civilian Conservation Corps in Berkshire County, warden at the Lenox Bird and Wildflower Sanctuary (now Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary), and his favorite—warden at Bartholomew’s Cobble (now owned by The Trustees). Spanning 60 years, his detailed and entertaining writings chronicled the travels of an astute naturalist from his early days in Essex County to his time in the Berkshires. Born 23 years after the death of a more famous writer, Henry David Thoreau, Bailey produced his own detailed observations of plants, animals, and the landscapes of Massachusetts.

The dozen or so 3-ringed binders were rescued from oblivion by Matt Kelly, and the 4000-plus pages of single-spaced, typed pages were individually scanned by student Alexander Olney under the supervision of professor Tom Tyning of Berkshire Community College. Wayne Hammond, of Williams College’s Chapin Library arranged for the journals to be placed online so the public may access these most important chronicles. Hammond said these journals represent, “one of the finest collections of rare books and manuscripts to be found among American colleges and universities, in which natural history and the history of science are important components.”

Bailey’s journals will be of tremendous interest to anyone enchanted by natural history, especially ornithology, historical botany, climate change, and twentieth-century contemporary history, particularly of Berkshire and Essex counties. Bailey noted the dates of the comings and goings of birds, the flowering dates of plants and wildflowers, weather, and much more. “I have seen the journals of Henry David Thoreau, and Bailey’s journals will definitely rank alongside them,” noted Kelly. “Bailey not only recorded the minute details he saw in nature, but did it with a prosaic flair, which makes it nearly impossible to stop reading.”

The website contains an introduction and historical background, then the journals are listed by year, with a few years unaccounted for. Since Bailey typed his journals, they are in searchable PDF format. There is one final file, which combines all the years’ files, enabling researchers to search the entire database for keywords. In a prior arrangement with the Bailey estate, Kelly has transferred the copyright of the journals to the Hoffmann Bird Club. The journals will find a permanent home in Williams College’s Chapin Library.

The Hoffmann Bird Club was established in 1940 to promote study of birds in Berkshire County; it is open to everyone. The club was named in honor of Ralph Hoffmann, an early twentieth-century naturalist who was born in Berkshire County. For information on Hoffmann Bird Club’s meetings and field trips, visit https://hoffmannbirdclub.org/.

To view the journals of S. Waldo Bailey, click here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1MwdHqV7bUuquM3b0DXgk43XqRgpZf59H.


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