We are sad to learn of the passing of Brookline Bird Club member Dennis Oliver on April 7. Dennis played a big part in the club, serving on the board from 1984 to 2006. The club honored Dennis in 2010 with the following article:
Dennis Oliver is a respected and admired long-time Brookline Bird Club member. He has been influential as an officer, director and longtime trip leader. Dennis has inspired many birders to join the Brookline Bird Club and some to become trip leaders. Dennis Oliver was a member of the Brookline Bird Club board of directors from 1984 to 2006.He was Recording Secretary from 1987 to 2004, and Corresponding Secretary from 2004 to 2006. In addition, he was a founding member of both the Conservation/Education and Ethics Committees and was a member of the 75th Anniversary Committee. When he retired in 2006, the board recognized his service by giving him a framed certificate of appreciation.
Dennis also coordinated and compiled the Ipswich River Breeding Bird Survey for over 15 years. For many years, he also was a participant in the TASL count, the Cape Cod Waterfowl Survey, and 3 Christmas Bird Counts including being the Waltham section leader for the Greater Boston Count.
There was unanimous enthusiastic support of such recognition from those board members and long term members who were inspired by Dennis. Dennis and his brother David began birding as children. See below for David’s comments. Thank you, Dennis, for your years of service to the Brookline Bird Club and the birding community!
At that time Dennis’ brother, David, wrote the following:
Dennis and I have always been interested in nature and animals since childhood. This interest was shared by our father, who encouraged it, but NOT by our mother. Our favorite trips were always to the zoo. Our menagerie of animals while growing up was extensive, much to the chagrin of our mother. In fact, we eventually built a room in the cellar to house our animals, which was off limits to our mother, by her choice.
Since Dennis and I spent almost all our time together, except at school where we were separated, we shared our birding right from the start. I can remember seeing a flock of waxwings feeding in a low tree on our walk to school. We had previously known blue jays and crows and robins and other common birds but these were something new and quite beautiful.
Years later, a Ross’s Gull was found in Newburyport in the winter of 1975. It made headlines in the newspaper and on television stations. People were coming from across the country to see this bird. We were amazed that there were people so obsessed that they would make such a journey to see a bird. Well, that sounded like fun to us. We never did go up to see that Ross’s Gull, but that summer, we bought binoculars and started to write down the birds we saw and identified. This was great fun! We knew nothing about bird clubs or other organizations except Mass Audubon and their birding hotline. We would call and hear about some wonderful birds being seen in many places around the state. Our first “birding trip” was to Broadmoor Sanctuary in South Natick. July isn’t the best time to visit there, but almost everything was new to us! That July also brought us to Plum Island and we saw where that Ross’s Gull had been seen in Newburyport.
We realized that Plum Island was special and we made a few excursions there, as often as we could. In November of 1977 Dennis and I were birding at Plum and found a flock of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks at Hellcat. By then, we knew that these birds shouldn’t be in Massachusetts, and we searched for someone to tell. We did find a birder, who’s name now escapes me, but we told him and off we went to bird more of the island. We returned to Hellcat to see if the ducks were still there, and they were, along with many birders. This was our first encounter with a group of birders and it was the Brookline Bird Club trip, being led by the Judge and Gerry. Nancy Clayton was along on the trip and was delightful, warm, and embracing. She gave us our first blue book and from there we went on as many BBC trips as we could. We wished we could attend every one.
We met Bill Drummond at the Steller’s Eider sighting in Scituate. Soon Bill was a friend and mentor. Bill took us along with him on many a fantastic trip, not only in Massachusetts, but across the continent. Soon he asked us to lead trips for the BBC. Over the years, we most often did them together, but Dennis was more of a fanatic, and still is I fear. But I will always remember and cherish the many birders who came on our trips, just because we were leading them.. I must give Dennis most of that credit as he always loved showing birds to people and to lead trips to out of the way places that he liked to bird. Dennis enjoyed doing “counts”, whether it be a Christmas count or birdathon or census.