If you harbor any doubts about what may interest Eastwood High School s Matthew Jay Dierker, who graduates today, one look at his favorite senior photograph will settle any questions.
It pictures a bespectacled young man in a tan upland hunting outfit, blaze orange Pheasants Forever cap, a Remington 11-87 12-gauge in hand, and his 4-year-old yellow Lab, Shy-Ann, at his feet.
It is not your typical senior picture, but then, what do you expect from a young man who grew up as an outdoorsman and wants to become a wildlife biologist?
“I know he would like to work for the Ohio Division of Wildlife,” says his dad, Jay, of rural Luckey. He added that two wildlife division staff members, John Daugherty and Bill May, served as role models for Matt as he grew up. Daugherty is manager of Ohio Wildlife District 2, which covers 18 northwest counties and is based at Findlay. May is assistant administrator for wildlife management at Columbus headquarters.
To reach his career goal Matt intends to study a year at Owens Community College, then transfer to Ohio State University, which has a well-regarded School of Natural Resources that has turned out many fine wildlife professionals, including Steve Gray, current state wildlife chief.
For a graduation present, Matt asked his parents for a fly-in fishing trip in northern Ontario, to stay at a remote cabin and fish for walleye and northern pike. Talk about being true to form.
Three summers ago, Matt and Jay and two other father-son duos from Eastwood did the same trip. The others included Gary White, Sr., and his son, Gary, Jr., and Doug Zellner and son Ryan. They took more than 200 pike in a week and a boatload of walleye as well.
“I expected him to select a suit-and-tie or sweater photo, but when I saw this pose, the decision was easy to understand,” said Milly Dierker, of Pemberville, Matt s grandmother. “This is Matt.
“At an early age he began fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, rock collecting, and he had a general love of wildlife and nature.
“He was active in athletics during all his years in school, playing golf, basketball, and baseball. He was on the honor roll most of the time, too. During pheasant and rabbit season, deer season, and turkey season he would do whatever he could to persuade his coach to have practice times so he might also do some hunting.”
When he was 12, Matt bagged his first pheasant during the Wood/Lucas Pheasants Forever annual youth hunt. He was, incidentally, away at ball practice when the interviewer called.
Oh, and his grandmother assures that Matt also gave her a formal coat-and-tie mug-shot, just in case.
Make room in your birder s daypack for one more field guide, Birds of Ohio, by James McCormac and George Kennedy. It won t add to your burden for long.
That is because you may not need to carry another field guide, or at least as many, with Birds on board.
Recently released by Lone Pine Publishing, of Auburn, Wash., this 360-page illustrated field-book is an authoritative guide that will serve both the casual observer and dedicated naturalist.
It catalogs 295 species found in Ohio regularly, complete with well-done color illustrations and color-coded family groupings, the latter a very useful bonus. Plumages shown in illustrations were selected to reflect those most typically encountered in Ohio, given that plumages may vary according to breeding/nonbreeding, male/female, or juvenile/immature/mature status of an individual bird.
Species accounts include range maps, seasonal abundance graphs, and details on size, habitat, nesting, feeding, voice, similar species, and best viewing sites. The guide also includes a glossary of terms, a checklist of all 412 species confirmed to date in the state, and an illustrated appendix of 51 of the most regularly occurring rarities.
The guide also includes a map of the top 100 birding sites in Ohio, including descriptions of the top 20 sites.
“This is the first comprehensive set of maps depicting Ohio-specific ranges and seasons for regularly occurring species,” said McCormac. He noted that species accounts also include descriptions of interesting traits of character, life history and other facts.
Beyond that, Birds should prove a useful field aid well beyond Ohio, given that its range of species spans most of the Midwest.
That Birds should be so thorough and helpful comes as no surprise when you understand who the authors are. McCormac, professionally a botanist for the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, has been actively birding since age 10 and has an Ohio life-list that stands at 344 species.
He has served as secretary of the Ohio Record Birds Committee and has published numerous papers and articles on birds. McCormac also is the inaugural president of the Ohio Ornithological Society. He has birded in almost every state and Canadian province.
“I just want people to be interested in these birds,” said McCormac, explaining that he included some old-fashioned anedotal information to go along with deeply researched facts on various species.
Kennedy is a well-published natural history author and has produced film and television pieces on environmental issues and indigenous concerns in southeast Asia, New Guinea, South America, Central America, and the high arctic.
Birds of Ohio comes with a sturdy, waterproof, cloth-reinforced cover and rounded page-corners that should hold up well on repeated field trips. It retails for $19.95 and is to be distributed through local booksellers. Or contact Lone Pine s national order desk toll-free at 1-800-518-3541.
Blue Weekend, a nature festival of wild things that are blue, continues today at Kitty Todd Preserve, 10420 Old State Line Rd., Swanton.
Sponsored by the Oak Openings Region Preservation Alliance, the festival features nature hikes, seminars, workshops, and family activities recognizing big bluestem grass, Karner blue butterflies, and blue-spotted salamanders, among other natural things blue.
For other details, call The Nature Conservancy at 419-867-1521.