Introducing our January 2009
Birders of the Month:

JOYCE & DON VARNER
of Welling, OK
HOME
A.

     We live in the Eastern part of the state near Tahlequah where Don was a Professor of Reading and Joyce a Librarian.  We're both retired now. 

     Don and Joyce were both born and grew up in Quincy, Illinois.  Don started birding about age 16 by taking part in a Louisiana State University study in which he volunteered to look at the full moon through a telescope and count migrating birds flying by--no kidding!  (That was before radar.)  Don became a protégé of
T.E. Musselman, who was well known for his pioneering work in bird-banding and erecting bluebird boxes.  Our Friday evening dates in the spring included checking the over 300 boxes placed on county roads in Adams County, Illinois, and banding the young in those boxes.  That's how Joyce got interested in birds.  Anyway, our love for birds and for each other grew out of those dates---and maybe a few dances and movies.

     After graduating from Quincy College, Don taught in elementary schools in Illinois and eventually earned a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.  He continued his banding studies and we moved to Oklahoma in 1975.  He was active in the Inland Bird Banding Association including a term as president.

     Joyce served as chair of the Library Committee for OOS for many years.  The Library was housed at NSU until it was disbanded and auctioned when information became easy to acquire by electronic means.

     We're really not pleasure birders--rather, we bird for a purpose most of the time.  Currently, we're conducting two bird-banding sessions, called MAPS--Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship.  That's just recording changes in how many young are produced and how long birds are living.  Some birds, such as Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens,  and Carolina Chickadees are increasing, while many others decline.

     This year, with the help of our daughter, Nadine Varner, we took cloacial samples from 150 birds and sent them to UCLA where they will be tested for disease.

     We have taken part in breeding bird surveys for 40 years so far and, of course, took part in the just-completed Oklahoma Bird Atlas Project with 3 different plots surveyed each year.  We've done Christmas bird counts for well over 40 years now.

     Don keeps a list of birds seen or heard each day--just a mini-study of  "Where the birds are," and together we take a five-minute census of birds observed in our yard each evening to document changes that occurred over  time--such as the appearance and gradual population growth of the
Fish Crow [call].   Joyce is Vice President of the local Audubon Society and we are the only couple to have been "president" of the OOS as a couple.  In addition, we made presentations to many school and civic groups.

     Don has been blessed with unusual hearing and does almost all his birding by ear.

     We have to say that our favorite bird is the
Eastern Bluebird [song]-- it did bring us together 50 years ago!

Q. How long have you been birding?
FIELD NOTES
TULSA BIRDS
OKIE-BIRDERS
EOER

...at least, that's how we usually start our OKie-Birder interviews.  But Joyce and Don submitted their story in essay form and we decided to leave it that way.

     So we're pleased to introduce you to Joyce and Don Varner.