One morning in downtown Chicago, standing near Calder’s Flamingo sculpture waiting for the post office to open, a gray-haired woman strode up to me holding out one of her gently clenched fists. Thinking I was a bird monitor (I was carrying a bag and wearing a backpack, but had no net), she offered me the bird she held, and I replied, “That’s a Black-and-White Warbler, but I’m not a bird monitor.” We chatted for a moment and she walked away toward the lake to release the bird. I posted my package and headed toward my office. En route I found a grounded warbler, still alive, by one of the buildings. I put it in my cloth shopping bag and decided to also go to the park to release the bird. As I headed east, lo and behold, another living (oven)bird lying stunned in the middle of the sunny sidewalk. I added that one to the bag and soon released them under some trees in the relative quiet of morning.
I thought it was too early for birds to be passing through, but I knew the Loop, with its walls of glass and lights everywhere was a trap for many migratory birds. I knew the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) group existed and that I should have contacted them at their hotline number, 773-988-1867. At Wild Things, I used to walk by their table, peering sidelong with interest; I would see volunteers in the streetlight shadows as I left my train and walked to my office. I had thought I didn’t have time to be involved, but now I was seeing birds everywhere and I decided to do something.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
Many botanists and birders in the Chicago region have seen Margo Milde in the field. She was generous in sharing her knowledge of natural areas with others. Margo was particularly gifted in recognizing bird song and sounds, a skill she attributed to the many years of arduous classical piano lessons she was forced to endure as a child. Musical training gave her ability to appreciate the subtle nuances of tone, pitch, timbre, and rhythm, just as important in identifying bird songs as they are in appreciating and performing classical works of music.
In addition to the study of piano, Margo dedicated herself to studying the plant and bird life of the Chicago region, and its interrelated human history as well. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Northeastern Illinois University (Chicago) in Biology-Environmental Studies in 1993.
In 1994 she had obtained her first professional survey contract for an updated plant inventory of Pistakee Bog Nature Preserve (Ingleside, IL). In an article she authored of her bog adventures for the Friends of Volo Bog, Bog Log in 1995, she wrote that her small stature—being less likely to sink in treacherous areas of the bog, and affording her ease of crawling through thick brush—as well as owning a functional washer and drier at home were essential attributes to her success in bog field surveys. Her work at Pistakee Bog led to numerous other botanical and bird surveys professionally for both various governmental and private agencies until her move to Pennsylvania in 2014. Continue reading Remembering Margo Milde