Special Tribute to Sherri Leigh Smith

By: Susan W. Smith

Volume 17, Issue 10, October 2022

In early September, I received a phone call from a voice I recognized as Gerry Smith, one of our TI Life authors, and my personal friend. I learned that illness had curtailed the writing, but more important was the question I was asked: would I be able to change all of the Gerry Smith articles to Sherri Leigh Smith? Of course I could and would be pleased to do so. You see, I recognized how much this would mean to this exceptional individual, who has done so much towards helping our environment.

Then, a few weeks later, I learned that Sherri died in hospital. I, like many of her friends, was so sorry that not only was I unable to say goodbye, but more importantly, unable to thank her for all that she gave to us – literally spending her lifetime helping us to understand our flying friends and, as importantly, to find ways to keep their habitats intact or improving them.

When I was a trustee for the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT), I witnessed how Sherri's recommendations made a difference in conservation planning. I stood beside her on TILT Treks, where she showed me ways to identify that little speck in the sky. Also, many of us attending the annual TILT Picnic at Zenda Farm visited with Sherri, sitting on a stool telling stories.

Her great friend and photographer, Julie Covey, shared her beautiful bird photographs for almost all of Sherri's articles. Also, Bill Munro and several others provided photos to help Sherri illustrate a point. What a team she had!

Please join me in thanking Sherri Leigh Smith the next time you see an eagle, osprey, a barn swallow – the list is long – 29 articles long, in fact. Heck, she even got me to appreciate cormorants!

Tribute from Bud Andress:

In 1979 I had been asked by the Chief Warden at Thousand Islands National Park to participate in a meeting with Gerry Smith and others about the apparent decline in successful common tern nesting in our region and throughout the Great Lakes. My first impression of Gerry was that he was very knowledgeable about avifauna and our then topic of concern, the apparent declining common tern population. One of several problems facing the tern was the expanding ring-billed population which threatened to usurp the terns from their preferred nesting sites.  Gerry was very animated about ways to deal with the gulls; I knew there was a role I could play in tempering some of his management suggestions, while collectively working with Gerry and others within our newly formed St. Lawrence Common Tern Working Group.  And so, Gerry’s Group was formed, and ran several years, eventually being absorbed into an even larger working group on colonial birds for the entire Great Lakes area.
Gerry also initiated another important international working group which I had the pleasure to serve on for many years. Members of the St. Lawrence Bald Eagle Working Group from Canada and the United States worked together to monitor and manage the comeback of the bald eagle to the Thousand Islands following the reproductive decline from past DDT use in the Great Lakes basin and other areas of North America.
Gerry’s heart, which may have failed him physically in the end, was always in the right place when it came to the love and protection of birds. He was an expert at hawk identification and a skilled writer of articles on birds, many of which have appeared in issues of “thousandislandslife.”
Gerry’s steadfast determination for the betterment of birds will be something I will always remember.

Bud Andress, BSc, Hill Island

TILT's Tribute

Thousand Islands Land Trust Facebook page, September 14, 2022. 
We are saddened by the loss of a dear friend, long-time member and volunteer, and our favorite, "Bird Nerd" Sherri (Gerry) Smith.
Sherri was a renowned ornithologist in the North Country and dedicated much of her time to helping the community care about and understand the importance of birds in our landscape. She had a real passion for grassland birds and was always excited to share this passion during our Zenda Community Picnic. Her work also contributed to numerous grassland and songbird inventories on TILT Preserves.

TILT's tribute concluded with something that brings a smile to all of us, for they wrote, "Sherri will be missed but much like her birds, we know she is Rising Above It All."

You see, Sherri signed each and every article and email with her own tribute to the birds she loved – Birds rise above it all.

By Susan W. Smith, Editor. susansmith@thousandislandslife.com

See the full obituary here: https://www.coffeyfuneralhome.com/obituary/Gerald-A-Smith

View all of Sherry's TI Life articles here, and here:

Posted in: Volume 17, Issue 10, October 2022, People

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