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Birds of a Feather
by Tom Thomson

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It always made my day - in the words of Clint Eastwood - when I encountered Audrey Claugus in the field. One reason I liked Audrey so much was that he didn't put on airs. He was unpretentious - and he was friendly.

That's important in my book. It's what separates men from - well, you fill in the missing words.

Another reason I liked Audrey so much was that he was a naturalist's naturalist. He was good at birds and he was good at plants. And he knew a lot of other stuff, too. For instance, he knew that the Wheaton Club met on alternate Wednesdays and he was almost always there.

Audrey lived to a ripe old age. Ernie Limes and I worried about him because he continued to drive his car down from Carey, Ohio where he lived, to the Clear Creek Valley at least once each year, usually in June for the Wheaton Club Hegira. What was so worrisome about this was that he hugged the berm and poked along at about fifteen or twenty miles an hour, even when he was on the freeway. Every trip he would get stopped two or three times by the Highway Patrol. They'd give him tickets for driving too slow. But after writing him up, they'd let him continue on his way.

Audrey encountered a lot of monumental personal problems during his lifetime, but his love of nature was always his salvation. When he was chasing birds, he'd was always able to reduce the mountains to molehills. During his lifetime, he found a lot of rare birds. The ones that stand out in my mind the most were the Fulvous Whistling-Ducks he found in a marsh a few miles north of Carey.

For many years, Audrey worked on a manuscript of the nesting birds of Ohio that was intended to supplement and up-date Lawrence E. Hicks' "Distribution of the Breeding Birds of Ohio." As far as I know, it was never published. It probably needed some editing, but it's too bad it never saw the light of day.

In a lot of ways Audrey reminded me of some of those early American naturalists who wandered through the wilderness. Men like Alexander Wilson, John Burroughs, and William Bartram. Class acts. That's the kind of guy Audrey was. One other thing. Audrey Claugus had a finely tuned analytical mind. He turned out many a scientific treatise that sent office-bound bureaucrats running for their reference books. That's about all I have to say about Audrey. Anything else would be pure adulation.

Audrey died February 27, 1997.


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