Fred T H Smith

To: Ian May <>
Subject: Fred T H Smith
From: Ian May <>
Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2013 20:58:49 +1000
In my previous note, reference to the mouth of Kororoit Creek should have read "mouth of Skeleton Creek"

Ian May
St Helens, Tasmania 7216

Ian May wrote:

It was the Spring of 1962 and I was still a school kid of 13, when I first met Fred Smith at Cheery Swamp, Altona. I was out looking for birds eggs and Fred was photographing a Black-fronted Dotterel near its nest and he explained to me the damage that could be caused by collecting eggs of rare birds and suggested instead that I have a look through his Zeiss 10x50 binoculars at some migrating waders that had just arrived in Australia from their breeding grounds in Siberia. It was my first ever look through binoculars and I was amazed when he showed me Curlew Sandpipers while describing that they have a white rump and down curved bill that can be separated from Sharp-tailed Sandpipers that have a straight bill and chestnut crown with a dark centerline through their rump. He told me that the eggs of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper had never been found.. And later he pointed out some Pink-eared Ducks that were not considered common visitors to that area then. After an hour or two of this I decided observing waders was more fun than collecting eggs and for the next three or four years I was fortunate to have the opportunity to watch waders with Fred nearly every weekend when we would regularly walk from Altona Railway station via Cherry swamp, Dairy Farm swamp, golf Links swamp, the Explosive Reserve, the Point Cook Salt works to Spectacle ponds to Point Cook and return along the beach across mouth of Kororoit Creek and return to the railway station and occasionally to Werribee. And I remember also the many days of howling gales and storms at Cape Schank with Fred and Mike Carter watching seabirds, crouching behind anything that would offer shelter from the souwesterlies while attempting to hold still 10 x 50 binoculars and watching a moving spot out at sea. I used to revel in listening to Fred and Mike discussing points of bird identification. These were the days before adequate field guides, digital cameras and the internet not that Fred and Mike ever needed any of that. And our bush trips to Hattah and to Canopus. All great memories

I remember wishing that my school teachers should have Fred's remarkable ability to teach. He was patient, considerate and respectful and it was his influence that encouraged me to work harder at school and pusue an outdoor career in Forestry and later in National Park management.

In 1966 I moved to South Australia and after that we lost touch but in about 1990 while working at Innaminka I drove across a sandhill near Coongie Lake and came across a bird watcher with binoculars. As I approached I recognised him and said gday Fred, how are you going? He said, Good, how are you going Ian?" there is a small group of Eyrean Grasswrens in those canegrass clumps.. We spent a few hours together and thats the last time I saw him

He will be sadly missed.

Mike Carter wrote:

Fred was world famous for his observations on waders (which we now call shorebirds) when I moved to Victoria from the UK with my family in 1964. Within days of arriving I gained employment in Kew where Fred lived so immediately took advantage of that proximity to call on him at home. And so started an enduring friendship. Fred was his own, and rather a private man, so it was difficult to get close. He had no car and couldn't drive (never learnt) and so relied on others for transport. In those early days I would pick him up and he would show me around the swamps around the mouth of the Yarra and then west of Melbourne further afield to the Werribee Sewage Farm and the salt-works at Altona and around Geelong. We made several camping trips to northern Victoria and into NSW. He also introduced me to the swamps SE of Melbourne where I still conduct regular surveys. His renowned expertise was with waders, being instrumental in finding and publishing several firsts for Australia and Victoria. Without checking, those that come to mind include Lesser Yellowlegs, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope and Grey Phalarope. I was with Fred and others at Lake Murdeduke in the Western District of Victoria when a Ruff was found. At the time we thought that it too was a first but we later learned that one was seen a week previously on a wetland along the Murray. We co-authored that observation. In my case, I think I learned more from Fred about crakes and rails than any other group of birds. As my interests turned to centre more on seabirds and so to the Mornington Peninsula, eastern Victoria and south-eastern NSW our physical association faded but we still shared our experiences via the telephone.

Thanks Fred, I'll miss you!

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mount Eliza  VIC 3930
Tel  (03) 9787 7136

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