ABOUT US AND OUR HISTORY
By Eleonora di Liscia
Evanston News-Index, March 6, 1919:
“The first meeting of the new Evanston Bird Club occurs tonight at the Roycemore gymnasium, when the formal organization will be completed. The promoters of the new enterprise invite and urge the attendance of everyone who has any interest in birds—whether senti¬mental, scientific or economic— and hope that a large proportion of those who attend will become charter members of the club. The annual dues for active membership have been made the nominal sum of fifty cents, so that no one may be excluded because of expense.”
On March 6, 1919, a small but dedicated group of Evanston birders came together to create the then-named Evanston Bird Club, one of the earliest city bird clubs in the nation. Their achievement has spanned close to a century to date.
Today, the Evanston North Shore Bird Club has expanded many of the highlights offered by the original club. Our seven annual program nights range on topics from live bats to Bhutan and from poetry to Patagonia.
Our field trips cover local birding sites such as the Northwestern University’s Campus and Skokie Lagoons as well as venturing farther afield to Rollins Savanna and Calumet Sewage Ponds. Kirtland’s Warbler territory, the Mississippi River, Arizona. and even farther to Central America, including Belize.
Our quarterly newsletter has explored trips to India and Peru as well as articles investigating the impact of global warming on migration or how global factors affect our bird seed supply. Our biweekly E-News keeps members abreast of local conservation issues and upcoming events.
And we still sponsor one of the longest running area Christmas Bird Counts.
But our club has something more: a dynamic history. The founding mothers and fathers knew what they were doing was important. So, they worked tirelessly to promote the interests of birds and birders.
Their community outreach included hundreds of presentations to area schools and scouting troops. They sponsored an essay contest, made yearly donations for bird books to the Evanston Public Library, and they spoke out.
In the 1930s, our first President Mrs. Frederick (Bertha) Pattee exhorted the public about the toll that artificial lights were taking on birds. In the 1940s, the Club protested the trapping of Cardinals as well as a bill before Congress that would allow live decoys “which would be disastrous to water fowl.” They advocated to preserve Illinois Beach State Park and the Indiana Dunes.
Sometimes they lost. They lost tough fights to create a bird sanctuary in the local gravel pit at the end of Central Street, a shorebird hotspot, which became Evanston’s Lovelace Park, and they lost the Touhy Claypits at Touhy and McCormick, another bird and birders’ paradise.
They started a nature club at an orphanage, and they banded birds. Our second President, Mrs. J. Benton (Mary Hall) Schaub, herself banded 500 to 800 birds a year in her backyard sanctuary.
Today, the Evanston North Shore Bird Club invites you to become part of this proud tradition by bringing your own brand of dynamism into our club or simply coming along for the walk.
FROM OUR ARCHIVES
1955-1959: YEARS OF CONSERVATION
By Eleonora di Liscia
In the 1950’s second half, ENSBC became increasingly involved in conservation issues. Some of our most familiar birding locales today, such as Volo Bog, gained protection at this time. Unfortunately, some favorite sites of the 1950 club were also lost.
“As you know, conservation is one of our important facets, both to do what we can as a club, and to educate more citizens to their responsibilities in preserving our natural resources,” wrote president Helen McMillen in a June 3, 1958 letter to the three conservation consultants that ENSBC had enlisted to assist the Club.
In January, 1956, ENSBC board members suggested “that Evanston be needled to keep Perkins woods. All bird talks should include this idea.” Perkins Woods was already part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County and Evanston did not own it, but members were concerned that the woods were not being cared for. During the 1950s, members rescued plants from areas being developed in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin and planted them in the woods. According to Barbara Nobles, many disappeared as soon as they were planted.
The Club also focused action on Doetsch Pit (now Lovelace Park) and Bakers Lake.
“Doetsch Pit on Ridge Road is an area which is being filled in by the City of Evanston. There is considerable water at present, which is the result of springs. It is the interest of the Club to see that the future park plans for that location include the body of water in order to attract the birds which have frequented it in the past,” read June 18, 1956 Conservation Committee Minutes.
The Committee contacted city officials along with Mrs. Lovelace of the Garden Council to solicit their support for ENSBC’s plans. The Club also performed a bird survey to be presented to the City.
“What happened to Memorial Park—long eared owls are getting rats and mice there, same thing can happen at the Doetsch Pit area,” read a Nov. 15, 1956 Board meeting report.
Alas! A terse note in the April 21, 1959 minutes stated “A letter from Mrs. Dorothy Bohnen said there is no hope of saving Doetsch’s pit.”
The 1955-56 Conservation Report brought the welcome news that “Illinois Beach State Park has been saved from industrial encroachment as the attempt to rezone the land adjacent to it failed.” The report, which also dealt with national issues such as the problem of sharecropping around national refuges, further noted that eight young whooping cranes were reported at Aransas Refuge for a total of 28 birds.
For Baker’s Lake, the Committee studied the number of area species and visitors. One proposal included setting aside a small area for shooting when the egrets were not in residence. The Club also met with Barrington groups interested in a wild life refuge.
In 1957, attention turned to Volo and Wauconda Bogs, both projects initiated by the Nature Conservancy. Club members were urged to contribute to purchase these preserves. In October, 1957, the ENSBC Board voted to send $100 and to present this action at the next meeting: “In this way the members at large will be made aware of the action, and will be advised that additional contributions will be accepted to help this worthy cause.” By May 1958, half the cost for Volo Bog had been raised.
The May 18, 1959 Board minutes reported that “the bird sanctuary in Lincoln Park is being spoiled but an effort is being made to retain it.”
In October, 1958, the Club reported on Senator Douglas’s bill to save the Indiana Dunes. Indiana senators opposed the Bill. The Club formed a Chicago Area Committee for preserving the Dunes.
The October 6, 1959 Board minutes reported that the governor was blocking the Des Plaines River wildlife area, a project which ENSBC advocated. A bill to protect Mourning Doves from hunting during nesting season had also been defeated. ENSBC sent a resolution supporting protections for the Dove to the state representative.
At the March, 1956 meeting, members found it “surprising to learn that the use of detergents by the many housewives is killing plant life along canals.”
In 1956, ENSBC set up a scholarship to send worthy applicants to Audubon Camp. For a cost of $95, two teachers were sent to camp on partial scholarships. In 1957, the Club set aside $200.
On April 4, 1956, ENSBC appeared on the radio. Then president Mildred L. (Robert E.) Rulison and Vice President Mrs. Walter S. Huxford spoke about the club and local bird species on “At Home With the Hanby’s” on WEAW. Mrs. Rulison and Huxford also conducted a week-long course for beginning birders.
In 1957, ENSBC formed a committee to revise the booklet “Where to Bird in Chicago” which would be sold at local meetings.
Preceding the official Chicago North Shore Christmas Count by one year, 28 ENSBC birders observed 42 species on December 26, 1959. Notable species included Snowy and Great Horned Owls and one Red-headed Woodpecker.
“There is a natural bond of affinity between those who have gone to the fields in
March to hear the tinkle of the Horned Larks on the frozen ground; or in the hope of
seeing a meadowlark in the snowy stubble; or a group of early bluebirds on fence or
wire. There is a deep understanding among those who have heart the mystical nuptial
flight song of the woodcock at an April dusk, who have been surprised by the babbling
rapture of the ruby=crown’s mating song in the budding woods of early May; who have
listened with moist eyes to the robins singing in the rain, with its nostalgic memories
of childhood; or who have waited in a reverent and breathless silence, while the Wood
thrush chimed his bells in a June twilight.”
The above quotation is from a letter dated February 3, 1940, written by Fred Patee to the Evanston North
Shore Bird Club after the death of his wife, Bertha, the club’s founder and president
for 20 years from 1919-1939. Quoted in A Birder’s Guide to the Chicago Region
authored by club members Lynne Carpenter and Joel Greenberg.
PRESIDENTS OF THE EVANSTON NORTH SHORE BIRD CLUB
Ms. Fredrick Pattee 1919-1939
Ms. J. Benton Schaub 1939-1945
Ms. Norval Langworthy 1945-1947
Ms. Paul Stephenson 1949-1951
Ms. Walter Huxford 1951-1952
Ms. Reba Cambell 1952-1954
Mr. Alan Rogers 1954-1955
Ms. Robert Rulison 1955-1957
Ms. Helen McMillen 1957-1959
Ms. Walter Huxford 1959-1960
Mr. Marvin Ericson 1960-1962
Ms. Hadley Abernathy 1962-1964
Ms. Sidney North 1964-1965
Mr. Thomas Thoresen 1965-1967
Mr. Russell Mannette 1967-1969
Mr. Russell V. Watts 1969-1971
Ms. Roger O. Brown 1971-1972
Ms. James R. Ware 1972-1973
Mr. Jeffrey Sanders 1976-1976
Mr. Howard Glass 1976-1977
Ms. Lynne Carpenter 1977-1979
Mr. David B. Johnson 1979-1981
Mr. Homer H. Eshbaugh 1981-1983
Mr. David B. Johnson 1983-1985
Mr. Joel Greenberg 1985-1992
Mr. Ralph G. Herbst 1992-1996
Ms. Kristene Richardson 1996-1998
Ms. Mary Singh 1998-2001
Ms. Libby Hill 2001-2005
Mr. Tim Wallace 2006-2011
Dr. Gary Hantsbarger 2011-2017
Gerry Ginsburg 2017-