Frederick TH Smith

Subject: Frederick TH Smith
From: Chris and Rosemary Lester <>
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2013 07:30:10 +1000
Dear Birding-Ausers,

It seems to me that the Victorian and Australian birding community were very much Fred Smith's family. He was exceedingly generous with his time and his knowledge. He provided both to all he knew, as far as I observed, and I was lucky that he included me in his extended family. He was extremely patient and had tremendous stamina.

Fred was an excellent birder. He had an extraordinary knowledge of Australian birds. He studied the hard-to-identify groups much earlier than most Australian bird-watchers and provided insights into how to identify difficult groups, like raptors and seabirds. His passion was waders and he was one of the primary pioneers, if not THE primary pioneer, in identifying and studying waders in Victoria. That is why he has a personal list full of records of first sightings of waders in Victoria and in Australia.

He was also a great raconteur, telling myriad stories about his adventures, and those of others, about his and their bird-watching through the years.

To me, Fred was first and foremost a friend. From when I first met him soon after I started birding in the late 1980s, Fred was one of my two birding mentors. He adopted me and we went on numerous outings around Victoria and on birding trips around Australia. I learnt much from him when I first met him until even after he was forced to give up active bird-watching in the last year or so. He taught me the value of being able to identify bird by their calls. He showed me how to be thorough. Early on, I thought he was a bit mad as we used to spend a lot of time looking at, for example, Silver Gull flocks. Initially, I thought that, although they were quite attractive birds, spending an hour or two looking at hundreds of them might have been a bit excessive. Only after some time did I realise that we were actually looking for rare gulls that might be roosting among the common ones.

I suppose the one thing I hold against him is that he introduced me to waders. I spent a lot of time with him looking through wader flocks, again searching for vagrants. Despite my initial inclinations, they have become my favourite bird group as well. Even though my skills do not hold up very well against his, I have spent many enjoyable hours looking at them with Fred and others, appreciating the common ones and trying to find the possible rare one in the flock.

It is with sadness that I note Fred's passing.  I will miss him.

But, if you would like to contemplate someone living the life that he/she wanted for him/herself, you really can't go past Fred, who birded studiously and constantly for nearly the whole of his 90 years. I think a life well lived.

Vale Fred.

Chris Lester

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