Skip to first unread message

Jared Clarke

Oct 19, 2022, 1:09:12 PM10/19/22
I am saddened to share this news I just received -- that our friend and fellow birder Dave Shepherd passed away last week following a short illness. Many of you will have met Dave and his partner Julie over the years, exploring around their Cape Race or their home communities of Portugal Cove South and Trepassey.

Dave and Julie moved to Newfoundland nearly 20 years ago, wanting to spend his retirement near beautiful Cape Race and it wonderful birding. Over the years, they found, reported and/or identified many exciting birds in that area and added richly to our understanding of the area from a birding perspective. They were also very involved in many aspects of the community, including the continued development of Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve. Prior to moving to Newfoundland, Dave was very well known and respected as a birder, bander and leader in Ontario's birding community - serving key roles in the development and growth of places like Thunder Cape and Long Point Bird Observatories and mentoring many birders and bird researchers along the way. A tribute from his lifelong friends and colleagues at Birds Canada is currently being prepared, and I will share that here when it is available.

I have many fond memories of Dave from my own early years as a birder, as he moved here not long after I began this journey. Often met him in the field, shared fun sightings with him, and learned from his vast experience and eagerness to share it. Dave and Julie's door was always open, and while I didn't visit as much in recent years as I should have I will always remember some of those hot coffees on cold days, stories told over the kitchen table, and hot tips relayed as I pulled into their driveway. Dave had a wonderful sense of humour, an unending curiosity about birds and their mysterious lives, and a zest for discovering those "megas". If there are birds in heaven, I have no doubt he is out there looking for the first record of this or that ;)

Dave will be missed in the birding community - both here and in the other places he spent time exploring and mentoring. I encourage you to share any memories you have here.


Alvan Buckley

Oct 19, 2022, 1:48:41 PM10/19/22
I fondly remember several visits to see Dave and Julie in PCS and Trepassey over the years. Dave always opened the door and welcomed visitors without hesitation - oftentimes immediately diving deep into discussion about a specific rarity of interest or speculation about the weather or movements of birds. It was always an insightful conversation.

One of my favourite memories involves a visit to see the Sooty Fox Sparrow. For me, this was one of the most unexpected vagrants on the Southern shore but for Dave it seemed like it was very much on his radar! He welcomed several visitors that week in 2016 and diligently updated about its presence.

Dave is a legend in the Ontario birding community for the reasons Jared mentioned. He was one of the founders of the Long Point Bird Observatory - truly the single best spot for birding in the country and a spot that continues to nurture dozens of talented young birders every year. Largely thank you the Dave's pioneering work. Having lived and birded in Ontario for 8 or more years now, it has always been impressive to hear from people sharing their fond memories of Dave and how they have learned from him. There are many tantalizing Canadian records attributed to Dave's observations over the decades.

May his memory be a blessing for our community!

Martin Berrigan

Oct 20, 2022, 1:20:00 PM10/20/22
When I started birding I became a fan of nf.birds immediatedly,it was a site that David always posted those rare birds such as the Long-eared owl,I loved the posts,I was always more of a fan enjoying very much when a post was made by him,then I started getting braver as David was a highly educated birder,I started visiting the front yard of his house in Portugal Cove South for a very small chit chat about what birds he may have seen,his first response to me was so inviting ,come in but I did not,I'd just do some small chat about birds and move on,this guy was way above this rookie and there was no way I could comprehend the great depth and insight and world wide connections regarding birds,but!I had great respect for him,the great humour expressed by David was authentically David,I loved the humour between David and Bruce two super class birder's with just great banter,Loving birds and enjoying humour while they shared a wealth of information,it's hard not to mention one without the other and thru the roof excited new birder's such as myself became very educated and the wealth of information and facts regarding birds was phenomenal.One day it would be Long eared owl,next day a discussion about birds in Europe,next day it stretched to Asia,his reach of information would be shared on nf.birds.Then I meet Julie and David driving about the shore and stopping for more small chit chat,he had a soft heart for birds and he cared about birds,he had a warm smile,really sorry to hear this news and for all his best buddies who enjoyed personal time with David and especially his wife Julie.A Legend no doubt about it!,thanks guys for this extra information regarding David,a World Class Birder.Gerard

Jeff Harrison

Oct 26, 2022, 9:59:03 AM10/26/22
I last saw Dave in early September just before we left to go back to Montreal. He was suffering from considerable back and leg pain and was having trouble breathing. In the last few weeks he was using a walker instead of a cane which made him largely house-bound.

I first met Dave when he and Julie moved to PCS in 2004. Perhaps the deal was sealed by an email I sent via John Wells to post on nf.birds with the results of my 2003 birding season. Dave contacted me right away. He wanted to know more about south shore birding and our experience buying a house. In 2003, fog for me was a big issue. I warned him about the Cove. When he and Julie came out in the fall of 2003 the best house they found was in the Cove so they bought it.

As everyone knows Dave was obsessed with birds and bird vagrancy. His interest was peaked in youth when he joined the school bird club and never wavered throughout his life. He graduated from Cambridge with a PhD in chemistry then worked for Shell for 11 years in Oman. His life-long passion eventually overcame his career and all other interests. His life-time great friend and birding buddy Dave Brewer had previously emigrated to Ontario. Dave took the plunge and joined him. He put his bird-banding skills to work at the Long Point Bird Observatory. Later, he was tasked with founding the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory. Over the years he made a lot of friends in the Ontario birding community. He also mentored and encouraged other British birders to come to Canada. He counted among his friends immensely talented British born and Ontario birder-naturalists, David Beadle and Paul Pryor.

Dave met and married Julie who was working at the time as an Interpreter at Guelph Lake. Tired of the noise, pollution and environmental degradation overtaking Ontario they decided to retire to a place where there were plenty of vagrants and the pace of life slower. Presumably at Long Point Dave met Bruce which likely factored into his decision to choose Newfoundland.

We birded together extensively over the first ten years or so, until his health issues restricted his ability to walk any distance. He encouraged locals to observe the birds and report their findings to him. Perhaps one of his greatest legacies was encouraging Cliff Doran to take up bird photography. Coffee and cake with Cliff at the vagrant magnet, Cape Race, is now an established tradition in the birding community.

Dave was an admirable companion, hugely knowledgeable about many aspects of bird ecology. He was full of stories of his birding adventures in Britain, Oman and Ontario. Many probably remember his many posts especially when he shared his rare bird finds. It would be hard to forget his sign-off handle “TB” for Tight Bins an illusion to keeping the line taunt while fly fishing at which I can attest he was equally proficient.

The Newfoundland birding community, full of interesting personalities, has lost one of its most colourful.

Jeff Harrison

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages