The Bird Archive offers 239 files of the associated calls and songs of bird species inhabiting Amherst and the larger Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts from C19 to C21.
Searching the Bird Archive
Searches. You can use the Bird Archive Key Word Search to locate species by their common names. For more advanced navigation, see the Search Menu on the left.
Seasons. For the purposes of this project seasons are defined in the following way: winter=Dec.-Jan.-Feb.; spring=March-Apr.-May; summer=June-July-Aug.; autumn=Sept.-Oct.-Nov.
Nineteenth-century data on the birds’ occurrence, arrival, and departure dates is drawn principally from H. L. Clark’s The Birds of Amherst &Vicinity, including nearly the whole of Hampshire County (1887), originally published in Amherst, Mass., by J. E. Williams and now available via the HathiTrust . In cases where data is not available in Clark, two additional sources—Ebenezer Emmons’s Birds of Massachusetts (1833), originally published in Dr. Edward Hitchcock’s “Report on the Geology, Minerology, Botany and Zoology of Massachusetts”, pp. 528-51, and J. A. Allen’s “Catalogue of the Birds Found at Springfield, Mass., with Notes on their Migrations, Habits, & c., together with a list of those birds found in the State not yet observed at Springfield”, originally published in the Proceedings of the Essex Institute at Salem, Vol. IV, No. 2, September 1864 (HathiTrust) have helped us to partly fill in the record .
Together these lists mark the boundaries of the formal 19th-century knowledge of Western Massachusetts's birds. Now cultural artifacts as much scientific records, they also bear witness to the habits of mind of the witnesses who made them in an era when nature was still the Book of Nature and when birds were signifiers of immanant divinity. The lure of their observations is intricately linked to the subjectivity they convey. In Clark's often telegraphic notes marking the first sightings of a bird in spring—“Bobolink. 4 April. Miss Morse”—and the last glimpses of it in autumn leaving for its wintering range—“Passes south in November”—are archives of feeling.
Twentieth-century data on the birds’ occurrence, arrival, and departure dates has been drawn from Aaron Clark Bagg and Samuel Atkins Eliot Jr.’s magisterial Birds of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts (1937), originally published in Northampton, Mass., by The Hampshire Bookshop and available through the HathiTrust. A later and more local source, Peter Westover's Birds and Their Habitats in Amherst, Massachusetts with Complete Annotated List of Amherst Birds(Amherst: Hitchcock Center for the Environment, 1977) has also supplied information about the birds' arrival, presence, and departure dates.
By the 20thc, ornithology had evolved as a scientific discipline, a development reflected in the increasing breadth and depth of available data as well as in changes in the way data was gathered and reported. While many resources were now available to us, we sifted 20thc data from Aaron Clark Bagg and Samuel Atkins Eliot Jr.’s 1937 Birds of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts. Unfolding over 800 pages and including entries on 268 species, this work offers comprehensive field notes on the descendants of Dickinson’s birds. A scientific study addressed, as the authors write in their dedication, “less to those who read only for their amusement than to those who read only to discover errors”, Birds of the Connecticut Valley is also a deep ornithological history of the region composed via the collation of more than a hundred years of observations recorded by earlier natural historians. To this paratactic, sometimes incantatory presentation of names and dates and sites in which a bird was observed, they add their own, inscribing themselves into the record of a world still (almost) as transcendental as it was empirical: “Jan. 16, 1931, [a snowy owl] was sighted at sundown flying from Hadley Bridge southward: a huge, white bird flapping silently and low over the still white glistening fields against the purple of Mt. Holyoke in the fast-falling winter twilight” (314). First printed when the Passenger Pigeon Clark had called “common near Amherst” in the spring of 1888 had been extinct for almost a quarter century but also a full quarter century before the wide-spread cultural imagination of a silent spring would take hold, this major work is also a transitional work between two centuries that now seem lightyears apart.
The diachronic record of Dickinson’s birds and their descendants reveals a history of both incremental but also at times irreversible losses . These losses are strikingly revealed by the new technologies (and accompanying methodologies) for collecting data . In place of the small, rare epiphanies that were the typical rewards of thousands of hours of solitary fieldwork by 19th- and early 20th-century ornithologists, come vast datasets collected by radar networks scanning otherwise invisible birds in their night migrations or by autonomous recording devices parsing their sounds. Today, the influx of data on a scale unimaginable before this century grants us access to the intricate ecological interconnections and reveals to us a new and urgent need to count and care for the least of things, for birds, for sparrow-data.
Data on the global conservation status of Dickinson’s birds in our century is readily available. Our primary source for this information is the IUCN Red List. In future, we plan to include regional conservation information. For the specific environmental threats to birds occurring in North America, The American Bird Conservancy site is an excellent resource.
Data regarding the conservation status of Dickinson’s birds in the twentieth century is partly recoverable through the documentation provided in the Christmas Bird Censuses, first begun in 1900 by ornithologist Frank M. Chapman and then carried on throughout the century.
The conservation status of Dickinson’s birds in the 19th-century is often unreported or simply unknown. One long-term aim of Dickinson’s Birds is to begin to fill in this important but largely blank record.