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Birdchick Blog: Harrison Bud Tordoff

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Harrison Bud Tordoff

Bud Tordoff, peregrine falcon guru has died.

This is how I will always remember him. He loved peregrine falcons, he loved showing them to the public, he loved restoring our falcon population in Minnesota.

I'll never forget the first time I got to tag along to a peregrine nest with Bud and Mark Martell. Years ago when I was kid, reading my Wonder of Birds book or being sent articles by an uncle about reintroducing peregrine falcons in cities, I dreamed about what it would be like to be up on one of those buildings, watching a falcon nest.

When I started volunteering at the Raptor Center, my friend Amber and hoped to get out to the nests. We got to know Mark who went out banding with Bud and who managed to get us an invite. We were both nervous and excited. On the one hand we were going out to see a peregrine nests up close and learn about falcons. On the other, we were with one of the guys who not only worked with Dr. Pat Redig to reintroduce peregrine falcons in Minnesota, but was a past president of the American Ornithologists' Union and was a World War II Flying Ace. I just hoped I wouldn't come off as some Twinkie and not annoy either Mark or Bud too much. But we soon learned that with Bud, if you liked peregrine falcons, you were good company. We would listen to him recount the various histories of peregrine falcons not unlike the way one of my aunts would recount all the loves of Susan Lucci on All My Children. Even over the years, if one of us would find a banded peregrine and told Bud, he would ask if we could read the band number. If we could, he usually knew what nest it came from and when and where it was hatched.

The first time we went up into a building to a peregrine nest platform, it was a cloudy day in Minneapolis. Traffic was noisy and bustling on the street, but when we ascended the Multifoods Building and made it to the nesting corridor, it was silent except for the wind whipping through the screen. I remember walking down the dark corridor, feeling the wind and noticing pieces of pigeon wings, starling legs, grackle heads and other bird parts. With the wind blowing and the bird parts, it almost seemed like we were walking into some monster's lair. Bud spotted a peregrine perched on a building about two blocks away. As we aimed our binoculars, it dropped from its perch. Before I could get the sentence out, "Huh, I wonder where it went?" the falcon's dark form flashed right in front of us. We laughed at being startled and admired the bird's speed to defend its nest. I was so nervous that day, I foolishly didn't bring a camera. I'll never forget that day and it certainly is in my top five birding moments of all time.

Bud was kind and generous with his information. I've met so many people who would tell me of meeting a "nice old man who apparently knows a lot about peregrines." If you hung out at any of the nesting spots in the Twin Cities, the chances were good you might find him along side you watching the birds as well. No question was too stupid, he would answer them all and often ask bystanders about what they had seen, always wanting to know more about the falcon species he loved so much.

I'm just scratching the surface of all the wonderful avian projects Bud was involved in, I know others who knew him could add to it. He is going to be missed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now he'll really have a chance to fly......

7/25/2008 6:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like we could use more like him. We have Peregrine falcons in Indianapolis--also reintroduced, I believe. I almost got hit by a car the other day, thanks to them. See, I was looking up instead of looking out!

7/25/2008 10:03 AM  
Blogger Kodak the Eskie said...

A life well lived. Nice tribute, Sharon.

7/25/2008 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love peregrines. One of the highlights of my life (because my highlights do not involve my professional work, but the "real" stuff like animal and bird viewings and a good local tomato or strawberry) was having a business lunch on the 25th floor of a Detroit office building with a terrace. A big old peregrine (we have them reintroduced too) landed on the railing right in front of our lunch line window and I got a great look at its yellow feet, Lone Ranger eyes etc. Of course, general geek that I am, I'm the one bouncing up and down sputtering "OMG OMG its a peregrine falcon! OMG OMG look at those talons!!!!" and my colleagues are going "oh, that's a big bird" or "eew, that bird scares me" (AND IT SHOULD!) or "yes, we saw one once when we were having a deal closing here" (me? I'm all about the bird, f- the deal closing). But what an extremely cool view - even better than the first day I went looking for Michigan bald eagles and had the adult and juvenile fly right over my head, apparently conducting a flight and fish hunting lesson.

Neat man. Wish I had met him.

7/25/2008 12:14 PM  
Blogger RuthieJ said...

Oh Sharon, I hadn't heard that Bud Tordoff passed away. When I still worked at Mayo, he came down to do a banding program for the first peregrines hatched in Rochester (probably 20 years ago already). He was a neat man and you could really sense his admiration of the peregrines. (I also remember how loud those babies screeched in the presentation hall during the banding process.)

7/26/2008 4:05 PM  
Blogger Laura Erickson said...

Bud was one of the most kind-spirited people I've ever known. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I went to a joint meeting of the Cooper's and Wilson Ornithological Societies, and even presented a paper about the warbler migration along Lake Superior. He was SO nice, seeking me out to say hello (he knew me from when he started the first Peregrine releases along Lake Superior), and making a big fuss over my paper. I was so honored that someone as HUGE as he would do this.

He also wrote some really compelling testimony about the dangers of a high, lit cell phone tower on Moose Mountain, just up from Hawk Ridge, that helped a lot when I was fighting construction. He kept data about tower mortality at some towers in Kansas for many years, LONG before most people were recognizing the dangers to birds of these towers.

7/30/2008 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bud was my advisor when I was a grad at the U of MN (DNA work on peregrines). It was such a privilage to work with him and to catch some of his enthusiasm for life, birds, and science. He remains pivotal in my career and close in my memories. In fact, I named my pottery business FalconFire, based on some of my experiences with him and the peregrines of the upper Midwest.

8/07/2008 1:51 PM  

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