14 December 1986


Dear Friends and Family,


Greetings! I hope that no one minds the "annual news letter" approach, which allows us to tell you a lot more about what we've been up to than we would be able to do otherwise.


Eileen and I are quite settled in here in Rochester. We have a very nice apartment about 10 minutes west of the city, and 20 minutes from Kodak. We're in a mixed residential / agricultural area which is quite pleasant. So far the weather really hasn't been too bad. It was somewhat humid this summer but rarely too hot. Fall was nice though a little more sunshine would be welcome. We still haven't had much snow, though the weather finally turned cold in November (Eileen has expected blizzards and subzero temperatures since August).


I love my job at Kodak. I am interacting with a number of very nice people and am doing research in a very interesting area. Without getting into too much detail, I am studying methods of predicting the optical properties of films, so that one could estimate the speed, sharpness, etc. of a film on a computer rather than have to actually make the film and measure these properties. I have spent a lot of time learning about general photographic science; this fall I have had 6 hours a week of a training course provided by Kodak, and I spent almost my whole first two months here reading and learning new lab techniques. It's really been stimulating and fun.


One very exciting aspect of working at Kodak has been learning to photograph, print, etc. There is a large camera club here with lots of equipment which can be borrowed, and a number of darkrooms. I had only taken a few pictures with an instamatic camera in my life before coming here, so I've had lots to learn. Eileen and I have put a lot of effort into learning to photograph, concentrating on birds, but also photographing quite a number of plants and taking scenic shots when we go interesting places. We've had a great time printing up our negatives and slides-it is impressive how much time it takes.


Eileen is going back to school for her masters degree in secondary education, which she needs to teach in NY, despite her 5 years teaching experience in Los Angeles. She is enjoying school, and hopes to start teaching again next fall with temporary certification (she would continue to take a night class each semester for a few more semesters to complete her degree).


Birding has been reasonably good here-very good for an inland locality I feel. There is a reasonable shorebird migration here, though habitat fluctuates from year to year. This fall I saw buff-breasted, purple, white-rumped (many), stilt (many), and Baird's sandpipers, Hudsonian godwit, red and red-necked phalaropes, many lesser golden-plovers, and a number of other commoner shorebirds. In late fall and early winter, the Niagara River has stupendous concentrations of gulls (hundreds of thousands); over the last two weekends I went I had 12 species of gulls, including Thayer's (adults), Iceland, glaucous, lesser black-backed (2), kittiwake, black-headed, little (lots), and Franklin's. Other miscellaneous birds I've seen here include red-necked grebe, the dark phase of the least bittern (formerly considered a separate species, "Cory's" least bittern), zillions of waterfowl including king eiders, oldsquaw, common goldeneye, all 3 mergansers, etc., several peregrine falcons, a jaeger, snowy owl, and far too many eastern landbirds to list, many of the latter in the hand at a local banding station. Some of the most exciting songbirds for me have been sedge wren, redpolls, snow buntings, sharp-tailed and tree sparrows, boreal chickadee and gray jay in the Adirondacks, the thrushes, and, of course, the warblers. The hawk flight in the spring is fantastic here (about 60,000, mostly accipiters), and the songbird migration is supposed to be excellent, so it seems like the birding overall will be quite good.


We're going home to Virginia and Texas for Christmas, which should be fun. We have not done much long-distance traveling since we got here, though we went to Boston over Thanksgiving and went on a lousy pelagic (razorbill best bird; lots of gannets and kittiwakes) and spent a day at the Harvard collection looking over jaegers and Thayer's gull, about which we learned a great deal. We've also gone to the Adirondacks several times, where we have seen superb fall color and many lovely boreal plants.


Eileen and I hope that you all have a joyful holiday season.