The Earl Poole Award for outstanding contributions to ornithology in Pennsylvania was presented to Jerry McWilliams of Erie County on May 15, 2010 at the PSO annual meeting in Erie.
Of Jerry’s many contributions to Pennsylvania ornithology, one of the most significant is the 2000 publication of The Birds of Pennsylvania which Jerry coauthored with Dan Brauning. The Birds of Pennsylvania is the definitive reference book on all the birds of Pennsylvania and makes an interesting connection with Earl Poole, who completed a comprehensive manuscript of similar content; but whose work was never published. Other publication credits for Jerry include co-author of the Birds of Erie County, Pennsylvania, co-author of the book Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, and co-author of the Checklist of Birds Recorded in Erie County, Pennsylvania, Including Presque Isle State Park. Jerry has also contributed to our magazine Pennsylvania Birds as a regional editor in addition to his many photographs and articles. And of course it is impossible to think of Presque Isle without thinking of Jerry, as we all read his postings on the PA birds list serve of the fall Waterbird Count and his frequent notices of Erie County rarities. Jerry has made countless contributions to bird conservation; he serves as the Coordinator for the Special Management Area Shorebird Survey on Gull Point at Presque Isle State Park and as the Bird Records Chairman for the Presque Isle Audubon Society. In addition since 1978 he has been a cooperator for the International Shorebird Survey. As a recent addition to his effort, in 2008 Jerry established a spring hawk watch site on the south shore of Lake Erie at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.
Jerry’s other life work included 33 years of service as a Fish Culturist with the PA Fish Commission. And as many of us know, his wide-eyed interest in nature goes well beyond birds and fish. His pictures of butterflies have been well published, including those in the Kaufman Focus Guide to the Butterflies of North America. Jerry is presently working to complete a book on a 2006 bike trip from Erie, Pennsylania, to Portal, Arizona. The tentative title for this wildlife survey adventure is Life and Carnage along U.S. Highways, a Wildlife Survey by Bicycle, which Jerry says will be self-published and will soon be available to the public.
Jerry’s complete resume as of May 2010 follows:
Senior author of the book, The Birds of Pennsylvania, published by Cornell University Press, co-author of the book Birds of Erie County, Pennsylvania, published by Allegheny Press, and co-author of the book Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, published by Seaway Trails Incorporated.
Co-author of the Checklist of Birds Recorded in Erie County, Pennsylvania Including Presque Isle State Park and author of the Checklist of the Butterflies recorded in Erie County, Pennsylvania Including Presque Isle State Park.
In the summer of 2006 I embarked on a solo cross-country bicycle trip from my home in Erie, Pennsylvania to Portal, Arizona to conduct a wildlife survey which included live animals as well as road-killed animals. I left Erie, Pa. on June 25 and arrived in Portal, Arizona on August 8. I am near completion on a book about my adventure including the survey results, which I will probably self publish and will be available to the public in the near future. My tentative title of the book is Life and Carnage along U.S. highways, a wildlife survey by bicycle.
Regional editor for the journal, Pennsylvania Birds and sub-regional editor for the journal, North American Birds.
Published bird photographs and articles in magazines such as Pennsylvania Birds and North American Birds.
Published butterfly photographs in the books: Butterflies of Arizona, The Connecticut Butterfly Atlas, Butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Kaufman Focus Guide to the Butterflies of North America.
Published contributor to the book: Species of Special Concern in Pennsylvania, pubished by the Carnegie Museum of Natural history.
Illustrated the books: Fishes of Pymatuning: Pennsylvania/Ohio, published by Allegheny Press, Fishes of Erie County Pennsylvania—Including Lake Erie and Presque Isle. Published by Allegheny Press
Other bird related activities:
Professional bird surveyor for the Erie International Airport in 2003 & 2004.
Bird guide to Costa Rica and Kenya for Expedition Travels Incorporated and Florida Museum of Natural History.
Teach annual bird field identification classes during bird migration on Presque Isle State Park.
Coordinator for the Special Management Area Shorebird Survey on Gull Point at Presque Isle State Park from 1992 to present.
Established the second hawk watch site on the south shore of Lake Erie at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center in the spring of 2008.
Bird Records Chairman for the Presque Isle Audubon Society from 1982 to present.
Cooperator for the International Shorebird Survey from 1978 to present.
Active participant in the first Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas Project.
Operated a breeding bird survey route for the USFWS from 1978 to 2006.
Past member of the Pennsylvania Ornithological Records Committee.
Presently assistant curator of the insect collection in the natural history museum at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.