Dave Hoag, a life-long resident of Grand Isle, is a man of few words but myriad natural history accomplishments. He’d rather talk about winged creatures than himself any day. No one has logged more time over the past half-century—or ever—identifying, counting, atlassing, photographing, and just plain discovering the wildlife of Grand Isle County. Awarding the 2013 Julie Nicholson Citizen Science Award to Dave was a ridiculously easy task. Retrieving information about Dave the person? Well, let’s just say he’s all about the birds, bees, butterflies, and biology.
Because Dave goes about his citizen science so unobtrusively, none of us at VCE realized the full extent of his contributions until we actually enumerated them. The term “prodigious” is one of many descriptors that apply to both the volume and quality of Dave’s recent efforts. Here is a synopsis:
- Second Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA) – Dave spent 343 hours in the field and many more as volunteer coordinator of Grand Isle County. He submitted 1,067 individual records to the BBA and was crowned “King of Clay-colored Sparrows” by BBA coordinator Roz Renfrew.
- Vermont Butterfly Survey (VBS) – Dave was one of four people to contribute over 2,000 records to VBS (2,470 to be exact). He also contributed historic data and was one of the few to document a Juniper Hairstreak butterfly in Vermont. Dave has now become an eButterfly devotee.
- Vernal Pool Mapping Project (VPMP) – Of our 125 dedicated VPMP volunteers, Dave visited the most pools (41), all of them in Grand Isle County, where he confirmed the presence of the elusive and rare Bluespotted/Jefferson salamander in 12 pools. Dave spent about 100 hours slogging through the early spring woods, and, as usual, his very detailed observations were complete with unique photomosaics of the pools he visited and species he encountered.
- Vermont Bumblebee Survey (VTBees) – during the past two field seasons, Dave submitted over 500 records, including several specimens of Bombus citrinus and B. rufocinctus, both uncommon species in Vermont.
- Vermont eBird – in 2003, Dave became the second person to join Vermont eBird. In each of the ten years since, he has logged more species of birds than anyone else in Grand Isle County. His county eBird list stands at a remarkable 271 species, including rarities such as Eared Grebe, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (first Vermont record), and Long-tailed Jaeger.
A multi-generational “islander,” Dave was raised on the family farm, where he remembers Vesper Sparrows and Loggerhead Shrikes. Reportedly, his first word was “bird,” and he built an avian library from an early age, receiving Frank Chapman field guides from both sets of grandparents. The feeders were always filled with suet and seed, and his grandfather built him a Purple Martin house, which was immediately colonized. Dave even recalls once seeing Barn Owls in the family’s South Hero barn. He survived 16 years “trapped in schools,” including UVM, where he majored in Animal Science. His professional experiences have run the gamut from farming to printing press operation. With typical self-deprecating humor, he states that his “most recent employment was map-making for Ted Murin’s and Bryan Pfeiffer’s Birdwatching in Vermont.” Outside of naturalizing, Dave is an avid biker and sails a 14 foot Hobie Cat.
Dave is one of those naturalists, rare nowadays, who prefers to sit quietly and watch one bird or butterfly, rather than dash around counting as many as possible. As he puts it, “I’d rather sit down while Avocets, or Purple Sandpipers, or a Red Phalarope feed at my feet; or have a catbird perch on my hand while feeding its young.” VCE congratulates and thanks Dave Hoag for his truly impressive legacy of wildlife discoveries and contributions to conservation—we never know what he’ll find next!