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Birds of a Feather
by Tom Thomson

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The parabola man

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I got to know Don Borror when I was fifteen years old, after making my way up to his office in the old Botany and Zoology Building at Ohio State, within a week of succumbing to the lure of bird study. He was a professor of Zoology and taught Ornithology.

Because of his nurturing attitude, my interest in birds continued to grow. Over the next few years, while I was still in high school, I was invited to go on a number of field trips with his class. I'll never forget that kindness.

In the years after World War II, Don Borror became famous for the research he did in recording bird songs. This work was initially started in collaboration with Dr. Carl R. Reese, and later continued alone. It is said that he built up the second largest collection of bird and animal sounds in the world, and probably the best collection of North American bird songs. I remember many times seeing Doc in the field, all kinds of equipment on his back and a good-sized parabola in his hands intent on recording some bird or another.

Throughout the years, Dr. Borror also maintained an interest in entomology, wrote numerous scientific papers on the subject, and was the senior author of An Introduction to the Study of Insects, with Dwight Delong and, in more recent editions, Charles Triplehorn. He also is senior author with Richard E. White as junior author of A Field Guide to the Insects in the Peterson series, published by Houghton-Mifflin.

The following story, told by his son Arthur C. Borror and Ernie Limes, demonstrates that the paths of naturalists are sometimes strewn with booby-traps. At a meeting of the Wheaton Club, Don showed a slide that looked like a mushroom growing out of the grass. According to Limes, "there was a lively discussion among the members of just what genus it represented until Ed Thomas in his deep, authoritative voice said, 'Well, that's obviously a Boletus. See those striations on the stipe and the pattern on top.' After a little more of this give and take, Doc Borror said: 'Fellows, I hate to tell you this, but one day at Audubon Camp we had some pancakes left over from breakfast and my son Arthur draped one over a piece of broken broomstick, jammed it into the lawn, and I photographed it."

Doc Borror died at the age of eighty in April, 1988.

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