I saw the silver SUV crawling ahead of me the other day as I did a quick birding check of Berlin Pond and right away, I knew it contained my birding friends, Fred and Chris Pratt who I’d last seen two months ago in the Southern Rio Grande Valley. Sure enough, as I pulled closer to them, I saw the distinctive green license plate, Pipit, which is sort of famous in birding circles.
We talked briefly, we all had other tasks that morning, but as they moved ahead, Chris driving, Fred scanning (Chris has great skills as well), I knew that they’d probably see about half again as many birds as I did.
They are retired school teachers who live in Duxbury, Vermont and winter in McCallen, Texas. Wherever they are, they are avid eBird posters and are usually in the top five or ten of the particular county.(They are #8 in Hidalgo County, Texas this year.) When in Texas, I always am seeing Fred’s name reporting some unusual bird — and the two describe rarer species with the kind of detail that reviewers love.
In Vermont, birders who identify 150 species or more in a county are inducted into a prestigious “150 Club“. Even in counties with higher avian diversity, a birder must be dedicated and in the field during all four seasons to join this club. Fred and Chris Pratt pulled it off for four counties in 2013, a remarkable effort.
I’m always running into them on the back roads of Vermont and at times, in Texas. They are avid birders but also very sharing of their finds. This year, they are focussing on Grand Isle and Franklin counties in Northwest Vermont. It will be fun to watch their accomplishments.