Phillips B. Street

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Long before the days of atlasing and cyberbirding, some Pennsylvanians called themselves “birdwatchers” and pursued the gentlemanly hobby with their friends. A few wrote books or journal articles when inspired. Some reported on their rare finds. And some championed the sport of birding and the conservation of bird habitat in places others ignored or took for granted. They were the real pioneers of birding and bird conservation.

The PSO honored one of those pioneers this year by recognizing the contributions of Phillips B. Street, the Dean of Poconos birding. Phil was a long-time member of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC) and several national ornithological societies. His father was J. Fletcher Street whose passion for birds rubbed off on him. Phil earned a bachelor’s degree in Ornithology from Cornell University in 1935. With few job openings and meager funds, Phil did not go to graduate school but pursued a career in investment banking. He used his professional skills to provide sound advise to the endowment funds of ornithological societies to their great benefit.

Phil made his greatest mark on Pennsylvania ornithology with a series of publications on the birds of the Poconos. These began in 1954 with the “Birds of the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania” that was published in DVOC’s journal, Cassinia. This extended article, essentially an annotated checklist, was later published as a book in 1956. Phil updated this milestone three times, the last two publications collaborated with Rick Wiltraut of Nazareth. The sweep of these publications chronicle the changes in the avifauna of the Pocono Mountains as well as the growth of birding. Phil documented the growing threats of development to bird habitats throughout the region, including the birth of the Long Pond raceway as a threat to the unique ecosystems of the High Poconos.

Phil had a deep and abiding interest in bird conservation. Much of his work went unnoticed behind the scenes. He was a leader in the movement to provide legal protection to hawks migrating along the state’s famous ridges. Phil also promoted bird habitat conservation around Pocono Lake Preserve and Long Pond.

The competitive juices flowed in Phil until the very end. He was very displeased at missing any of his regulars during each spring birding round-up trip, and he left no doubt about how he felt about it. His personal warmth and willingness to share his knowledge also did not diminish with age. I remember that last time I saw Phil at the edge of a hay field at Long Pond eagerly showing new birders their first Bobolinks that were only a few feet from our roadside post. While watching the Bobolinks singing in flight with legs dangling, his unbridled joy at observing one of his favorite birds was infectious.

Unfortunately for us and for Phil, he died at his beloved Pocono Lake on 5 August 2000. At the 2002 PSO meeting at East Stroudsburg University, the Poole award was presented to his personal friend, Bud Cook, of the Nature Conservancy. In a private ceremony at Pocono Lake, Bud and I will present the Poole award to members of Phil’s family who are very appreciative of the honor.

We are very grateful for the many contributions of Phil Street and all the other recipients of the Earl Poole award. Phil’s spirited life inspire all of us to go a little further in our efforts to promote bird study and conservation in Pennsylvania.