RE: [CALBIRDS] Stallcup, the Great Spirit
- I first met Rich in Denali National Park where I was working when he was
scouting for a trip. I next ran into him at Big Bend when he was, again,
scouting for a trip. The third time was in Monterey; initially we walked
past each other, then we both spun around and said "Hey, I know you!".
It was almost like a game, where would we meet again? The last time was on
Hawk Hill. Peace and new birds, Rich.
Orangevale, Sacramento County
From: John Sterling jsterling@...
Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2012 14:50:02 -0800
To: jeffgyr@..., jbouton2@..., catsrule1203@...,
littlekittenmonster@..., alwilson@..., Bogeymogie@...,
Subject: [CALBIRDS] Stallcup, the Great Spirit
I heard the news about Rich while looking for birds in the town of Smith
River during the Del Norte CBC on Sunday. Todd Easterla got the phone call
and relayed the news to me as we stood in the rain looking for rare
warblers and orioles. Todd and I spent the rest of the day and Monday
birding and sharing stories about Rich. Todd was especially fond of the
moment last year at the Pt Reyes CBC compilation dinner when Rich motioned
that Todd was to sit next to him. Todd felt honored by the privilege. I
also felt honored to be in Rich's presence every time from the moment that
I met him in 1973 on an epic journey to Arizona for two weeks. I was only
13 years old at the time, but Rich mentored me on the trip and I was
awestruck. He quickly become my idol. I have a photo of him that I took
while we were preparing to camp at Sonoita Creek. I've had that photo
taped to a wall in my house ever since.
He meant so much more to me than being a role model as a birder. He was a
cultural icon who transcended mere birding in his influence. While at Mono
Lake in 1976, he facilitated my rite of passage into adulthood by chanting
at dusk while we meditated at the "Fountain of Youth" spring. It was a
spiritual awakening for me (an awakening to the spiritual and magical world
of nature), and 12 years later during a celebration at Mono Lake, I told
Rich about what that evening meant to me. He gave me a great big bear hug
and I could see in his eyes that he know exactly what I had experienced as
private as it was. As a birding mentor, he encouraged me to lead and sent
short notes encouraging or congratulating me....these notes were precious
and kept me going during my teen and college years. On that same trip in
1976, I told him that I wanted to do a state Big Year in 1977 as it was
during my junior and the beginning of my senior years in high school. He
asked me what my goal was...I told him 350 species. This would mean that I
would have to get to every area of the state, see most if not all of the
regular breeding and wintering species with a few vagrants added to the
mix. Rich flatly told me that 350 would not be acceptable and that I had
to get to 400 (which I did on the last day of the year). His response was
a challenge for me to think "bigger". I took on that challenge primarily
because he gave it to me and I didn't want to let him down.
Although birds, bugs, herps, plants etc were very important to Rich, the
time when I saw him at his most glorious self was when Dick Erickson and I
drove down from Humboldt County in the fall of 1980 to meet his newborn
daughter, Willow. Rich glowed with excitement. Many years later, I heard
that same excitement in his voice when I spoke with him on the phone and he
told me about his new grandchild.
About two years ago, I wrote Rich a long letter describing how much of a
positive influence he had on my life. His reply was "this is great stuff".
I am so grateful that he read that letter.
Peace be with you my friend and mentor
26 Palm Ave
Woodland, CA 95695
www.sterlingbirds.com (photos, classes, tours, county birding)
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