In a few days, I'm heading to Rockport, my favorite town on the Texas coast. So, it's only fitting that I write about Connie Hagar, an amateur ornithologist who turned the birding world on it feathered tail. Connie was a woman and birder after my own heart. She and her husband, Jack, moved to the small fishing village in the mid 40s simply so she could enjoy and study the birdlife. They purchased a small motor court and Jack started a fishing business. In no time, Connie had earned a reputation in the birding world that had professional ornithologist "flocking," (sorry about the pun) to the coast to accompany her in the field. Many arrived skeptical that this self-educated woman knew as much about the avian world as she claimed and questioned her published reports and field journals.
One such skeptic, Ludlow Griscom, employed by the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology and known as the dean of American birdwatchers, came from Boston to scrutinize her findings.
While studying Connie's notes in her living room, he said, "Surely, Mrs. Hagar, you don't mean that Wied's crested (brown-crested) flycatchers are present this far in Texas. Are you sure?"
Connie responded, "Mr. Griscom, if you will move your chair back a bit and look out the window, you will see a pair building their nest."
Impressed but not convinced, he then questioned her sighting of buff-breasted sandpipers. She brought him to a nearby location and showed him more buff-breated sandpipers then he had ever before seen.
Soon the Hagars had a steady stream of birders and ornithologists staying at the Hagar's Motor Courts to go birding with Connie. Audubon presidents, John Baker and Carl Buchheister, Charlie Brookfield, Allan and Helen Cruickshank, Guy Emerson, J. Frank Dobie, and Roger Tory Peterson were regular visitors.
To learn more about the life of Connie Hagar, read Karen Harden McCracken's biography, The Life History of a Texas Birdwatch: Connie Hagar of Rockport, published by Texas A&M University Press in 1986. http://www.amazon.com/Life-History-Texas-Birdwatcher-Rockport/dp/1585441643
Next week: The Mockingbird