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Mike San Miguel (DAD)----Long

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  • Mike San Miguel
    All, My apologies for cross posting. I would like to personally thank each and every person for their kinds words about my father. He was an extraordinary man,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 17 12:00 PM

      My apologies for cross posting.

      I would like to personally thank each and every person for their kinds
      words about my father. He was an extraordinary man, father, Grandfather,
      husband, and friend.

      While attending Cal State Long Beach in 1990, I had a course in Marine
      Biology. One of the "labs" for the class was a field trip to Upper
      Newport Bay and Bolsa Chica. One portion of the "lab" was on coastal
      flora and fauna of southern California. It brought back memories as a
      child in the 1970's when my father and I ran around the state looking
      for birds. I remember calling up my Dad and suggested that we spend a
      day birding, just like we had done in the "old days". He was hooked all
      over again, and hooked with an enthusiasm and zeal that never waned for
      the next 21 years. He was an unstoppable presence in the birding
      community until his untimely death on Wednesday night.

      People have often asked me when I started birding. My answer has always
      been, "it is in my blood". For as long as I can remember, Dad had a pair
      of binoculars around my neck. Memories of being in our old VW van,
      heading to his banding stations at Buckhorn Campground, Morongo Valley,
      Fish Canyon, and Deep Springs College, as a child in the early 70's are
      forever chiseled into my memory. Trips to the far reaches of the state
      as a child will never be forgotten. The "Big Year" trip in 1975 may have
      been the most memorable. Sleeping under the stars at Furnace Creek or
      Mesquite Springs, Tombstone hopping at Fort Rosecrans, crossing the
      Whitewater River on his shoulders at the north end of the Salton Sea,
      are fond memories. I recall days where he contemplated pulling me out of
      school to take me down to San Diego to look for a Philadelphia Vireo and
      Blackburnian Warbler at Fort Rosecrans Cemetery. Or dragging me down to
      Malibu in 1974 to look for the King Eider. A classic "Mike" moment was
      when he left my mother and sister and a house full of guests on New
      Year's day with the Coppers and several other birders to chase a
      Trumpeter Swan at Legg Lake. As I grew into my high school years, my
      interest for birding faded and so did my fathers. In the 1980's he
      focused on his job and his family. His interest in birding and banding
      was slowly fading. He took up hobbies such as playing basketball,
      collecting baseball cards, collecting wine and building his rock walls
      in the backyard.

      One thing that never diminished was his constant battles for the
      environment and local conservation. His wars against the Army Core of
      Engineers in the late 60's and early 70's were epic. Confronting
      quarrelsome and arrogant representatives from various Construction
      firms, city managers, or just people he ran across butchering native
      habitats never ended. He was well respected because he always fought for
      what is right. He did this with such grace and poise, that rarely did
      make enemy's. His battles with conservation were also waged at home.
      The oak trees around the yard were never trimmed, despite years of
      pleading from both my mother, sister and myself. His "native grass
      garden" was never pleasing to the eye in the backyard and horrified my
      mother as it looked un-kept, and cluttered. But Dad never gave in.

      I suggested to him a few years ago that he set up more than two
      hummingbird feeders in the backyard, just to see what happens. Well,
      thousands of hummingbirds later, and gallons upon gallons of sugar water
      later, Dad had easily one of the greatest Hummingbird feeding stations
      west of Arizona. I recall the hours we spent during peak Hummingbird
      migration looking at those feeders, drinking wine, talking about the
      kids, the Dodgers, birds, whatever was on our minds. His "yard list" was
      nothing short of spectacular. I am not sure of the final number, but he
      amassed well over 225 species. Such rarities as Dickcissel, Bobolink,
      Broad-winged Hawk, Eastern Kingbird, Blackpoll Warbler, Summer Tanager,
      are just a few that come to mind. I remember his "best" bird of the yard
      was either a White-headed Woodpecker or the Yellow-belied Sapsucker that
      spent the winter in the backyard this past year. We would spend hours in
      early June scouring the skies above his house every year looking for
      Black Swifts, or Purple Martins. Memories of awaking to him hunched over
      the table on the back patio measuring and banding birds are a treasured
      remembrance. I recall years where he banded hundreds of Lazuli Buntings,
      Purple Finches, and Wilson's Warblers in the backyard. Recent memories
      of birding trips to SE Arizona, the Salton Sea, Death Valley, Galileo,
      the LA River, and the Big Days shared with Jon Feenstra, Todd McGrath,
      and Kimball Garrett are some of the fondest with my father.

      As I grew older and began the process of raising a family, my hours in
      the field have dropped significantly. Basically birding for me has been
      narrowed to local patches near my home in La Verne. I was always in
      constant contact with my father, who was updating me on what rarities
      were around or just to tell me about his frustration with the Dodgers. I
      was able to spend some time on the phone with him the day of his death.
      The conversation was the same as it always was, "What time is Jake's
      game on Saturday, how is Alex, are you guys coming over for dinner on
      Sunday, did you get the E-Bird list I shared with you from 1993?". I
      hung up the phone and that was it.................

      Birdwatching and conservation aside, I could not have asked for a better
      father. He was my best friend, an astonishing Grandfather, and an
      amazing husband to my mother. The loss of my father is inexpressible.
      However, I have a lifetime of memories to cherish, and the lessons in
      life he taught me will not go to waste on my two children.

      Rest well mi amigo!!!

      Michael J. San Miguel, Jr.

      La Verne, CA

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