Sunday, March 26, 2017

Judy Toups Trail News and Views

March 27,2017: The Least Terns that didn’t drown need to be left alone by humans, experts urge: "It started with local birder Judith Toups," Pacyna said. "We’re really building on her legacy.”

March 27,2017: A Year With Judy Toups: 52 of Judy's Sun Herald columns curated by her many friends in the birding community.

March 25,2017: Skimming the surface of a fascinating Coast bird: "Coast research into skimmers will always bring up the name of the late Judith A. Toups, the respected birder whose books, newspaper columns and community classes educated several generations of locals about our feathered friends. Judy’s greatest legacy is preservation of several protected least tern and skimmer nesting sites on the beach. A portion of Beach Boulevard in Gulfport bears her name."

November 30, 2012: Judy's 82 birthday is today.

Some new signs have been installed at the Nest In Peace area on the beach by Anniston Avenue in Gulfport. Great work from MCAS, Pascagoula River Audubon Center and American Bird Conservancy!

January 7, 2012:

Sun Herald article by : A little bird, rare to this state, causing a big stir

"I was thinking I must have been channeling Judith Toups for it to come to me what it was I was actually seeing," said Nancy Madden, "to see it and to know what it was."

Video by Jonathan Gottsche.

November 30, 2011:
The Birds
We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator game them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life.The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds—from the smallest to the largest—we send our joyful greetings and thanks. Now our minds are one.

Excerpt from Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address: Now our minds are one - Translated Mohawk Version

November 13, 2011:A spectacular video that Judy would have loved to see. Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

November 6, 2011:Judy loved Mary Chapin Carpenter's music. Especially the ballads. This one's really special, and the video is lovely. Enjoy.

June 18, 2011:

Grandchildren and great grandchildren in front of Mom's sign on Highway 90. Cool!

February 21, 2010:
This week will mark 3 years since Judith Toups headed out for her last big adventure. The world has changed a lot since. We're preoccupied with an economic downturn almost nobody has the guts to call a depression. We're still waging war to create peace in two other countries. We're still printing money that isn't backed by anything. We're still bailing out too many leaky financial boats.

The Washington money handlers say we're headed for a soft landing at the bottom, but it still feels like a macabre, slo-mo-time-lapse free fall to me, with the bottom nowhere in sight. She would probably concur. But she would have kept her head down, firmly focused on her duties and causes, chin up, happily, chirpily, enjoying life and the little things (like time with her friends, or backyard birding fueled by plenty of instant coffee and cigarettes) that made the ordinary special along the way. When it came to making the most of every moment good or bad and every human and animal interaction, happy or sad, she was able to put the "real" world in perspective and ignore it when it was time.
November 30, 2009:

Of course we're all thinking about you today Mom. Our thought are made all the more wistful knowing that your nephew Gene was put to rest in Ipswich today.

Thanks for all you did for me and other people in life, and what your memory continually inspires even with the passing of years.

Judith Toups

October 10, 2009: Two New Stories
"A Highway for Judy" written by Ronnie Blackwell
"Toups Pond" written by Pete Dunne

July 20, 2009: The Signs Are Up

photo: Sharon Milligan

It is truly gratifying to see the signs up and in place. Now people will know who protected what. Of course, signs like these cause people to wonder, then hopefully they'll stop and see what my mom actually protected.

June 19, 2009: Highway Dedication Ceremony

Three of Judith Toups’ six children, from left, Christine Toups of Gulfport, Jeff Pimental of Huntsville, Ala., and Patrice Schultz of Gulfport unveil the sign for the Judith Toups Least Tern Highway during a dedication ceremony Friday at U.S. 90 and Cowan Road in Gulfport.

Sun Herald covers the story.

May 30, 2009:
Sun Herald article announcing Judith Toups Least Tern Highway dedication and ceremony

May 19, 2009:
Received word from Brian Carriere, Gulfport City Councilman, that the Mississippi Dept. of Transportation has completed the highway signs honoring Judy. A morning ceremony is being planned for the morning of June 19th on the beach in Gulfport. Look for the green and white highway signs on the right of way for U.S. 90 that read: Judith Toups Least Tern Highway
March 5, 2009:

The Turkey Social

March 1, 2009:
Just over two years since Judy lit out for the eternal hereafter leaving all who loved her and respected her work behind. It was a good time for her to bow out: since she passed on the entire world has taken a definite turn for the worse. I'm sure she would have felt terrible about all that has happened and which continues to unfold with the global economy, the environment, our grotesque national debt, and probably most important: the rapidly declining state of wild birds.
With people and governments worldwide focused on the economic nightmare, the rest of the world's creatures and the environment are paying the heaviest price. And the real story of humanity's perilous dance with destiny becomes ever more clear: We aren't going to "turn this ship around" or get a second chance to undo the damage we collectively have inflicted on the planet and all living things. We seem hell bent on blowing our anthropogenic advantage by doing what no other creature does: shit in its own nest.
Judy was unswervingly optimistic. She didn't let life's vicissitudes get her down and always looked on the bright side. Even when things were dark, she'd find a way to be chipper. I wonder what she'd have to say about our situation today.
Back in the 80s and 90s when the "little things" people did to hurt or help the environment actually mattered, I often chastised her for driving hither and yon to watch birds and encouraging others to do the same thing. She appreciated my concerns but always disagreed, noting that she and other people learned more about birds and their habitats by actually visiting these places. "But at what price this learning, Mom?", I pleaded. Her response was one I'll never forget. "We're all good little hypocrites, aren't we?"
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October 10, 2008:

"Thinking of Judy" painted by Alison Henry takes first place in Coast art show. Here's the show gallery.

October 7, 2008:

The stories just keep coming in. Here's the latest story about memorable encounters with Judy from Marybeth Lima.

October 6, 2008:

Mississippi Kite has just published an edition dedicated to Judy. I'd love to get a copy.

June 24, 2008:

Well, it's not Judy news but last Thursday I had a heart attack outside a restaurant in Darby, and it nearly killed me! But not quite...after some patrons in the restaurant noticed that I was in distress, they started hollering, then the chef ran out of the kitchen, dragged me out of my car and started CPR and mouth-to-mouth. This chef is a big dude, and his mojo worked and he kept me oxygenated until the town marshal arrived with a defibrillator and zapped my truculent ticker into a semblance of a heartbeat. Then I was transported via ambulance to the nearest hospital 20 miles north, then life-flighted to St. Patrick's Hospital in Missoula, where the cardiologists inserted a stent in my collapsed artery. Only 5 days later, I'm home and recuperating.

What led to this cardiac attack? Two things: a lifetime of tobacco abuse, and not drinking enough H20 for long enough to turn my blood to something resembling syrup.

What did I do once I returned home? I started drinking plenty of fluids. And it wasn't 4 hours before I sneaked a drag or two on my father's old pipe.

I'm a hopeless tobacco addict, just like my mother. At the juncture of a critical decision in my life. Do I continue doing anything for a tobacco fix or find it in me to move beyond an addiction far more insidious and deadly than heroin?

I know what my mother did, and it wound up killing her. Nobody who knew and loved her had the guts or presence of mind or spine to confront her, hold her feet to the fire and get her to face her addiction. As if it would have made a difference. She was incorrigible. It was her decision.

As it is mine. All the love and concern of the people around me won't make a bit of difference if I do not confront this demon and banish it forever.

Wish me luck, and better health!


June 8, 2008:

Least Tern population falls to a few hundred (Sun Herald front page article)

Judy would be spitting mad about this declining state of avian affairs, as no doubt are the active birders on the Gulf Coast. God Bless Jan Dubuisson and the other birders who are doing all they can to preserve the nesting habitat and keep the remaining Least Tern chicks safe.

It is sadly ironic to name a highway after my mother and these poor birds. Soon, it appears, the Least Tern will no longer nest on the beach front. The signs (when they are eventually posted) should read "Judith Toups Least Tern Memorial Highway" to signify that once there was a viable population of over 6,000 breeding pairs on the beach.

People who blithely traipse through these nesting areas full of eggs, chicks and worried Least Tern parents should be taken to the nearest jail.


June 1, 2008: Pileated woodpecker, Darby, Montana

I crept behind some pine trees to within 15 feet of this lovely bird this morning. He was scaring up breakfast grub(s). I was having fun being a bird sleuth, even if it was in my own backyard.

Just moments ago I was in the woodshed and heard an unusual bird song. I stepped outside the door and there it was in a tree. I raced inside for my camera but when I got back to the same spot it was gone.

It wasn't long before I heard its raucous call once again from about 100 feet and got close enough to get the photo.

How is this news about Judy? Well it isn't, exactly. It's just a new post to announce that I am entering the active phase of manuscript development for her biography. It's June 1, time to get cracking.

Judy knew what thinking like a birder meant. Nature and nurture gave her a rare drive to get up early and excel as a field birder and share this remarkable gift with others. She made being gregarious look easy, and people always felt comfortable under her scrupulous tutelage, even when salted with as many "Judyisms" as it took to get her points across.

I must now live up to the challenge of describing what made her so utterly lovable, spontaneous and unique.

Time to think like a birder, whatever that means, if there's to be any hope.

March 25, 2008:

The Judith Toups Least Tern Memorial Highway bill has been passed by the Mississippi State Legislature! How cool is that for the old bird? Kudos to Desmond, and to the city of Gulfport, for recognizing a true crusader for birds and the natural environment.

2008 Regular Session
To: Highways and Transportation
By: Senator(s) Hewes, Gollott

Senate Bill 2617

SECTION 1. (1) That portion of U.S. Highway 90 within the City of Gulfport between Cowan Road and Debuys Road is designated and shall be known as the "Judith Toups Least Tern Highway."
(2) The Mississippi Department of Transportation shall erect and maintain appropriate signs along and approaching the segment of highway described in subsection (1) of this section.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

February 27, 2008:

One year ago Judy left her earthly cares and charges behind, to soar in eternal bliss and harmony as all good souls likely do in the beautiful backyard of the hereafter. She's probably having a great time and wishing she could do something to help each of us, like recommending "the perfect" color paint to put on your linen closet door or offering to cook you one of her can't miss meals.

Well she may be outta here, but she's also been a strong presence in our memory, as those who knew her have related many times over the past 12 months. I've felt her influence and unconditional love, and I've seen firsthand the extraordinary outpouring of love and admiration for my mother.

My hope is that her memory and legacy increases throughout 2008 as we who loved her and knew her best undertake the daunting task of writing her biography.

I'm sure she's rooting for us to "get it done", even though she'd probably deny it.

January 24, 2008:

All hands: Join the review and selection committee to choose the best of Judy's columns.

Who's aboard so far:

Alison Henry
Patrice Toups Schultz
JoRee Pease
Tish Galbraith

January 13, 2008:

Just received word from Marion Schiefer that the Mississippi Ornithological Society (MOS) plans to publish a special issue of the Mississippi Kite in Judy's memory.

January 5, 2008:

Patrice called me today to let me know about a new story about Judy written by Ronnie Blackwell, who is the new birding columnist at the Sun Herald. He has written a really nice tribute to Judy. And the front page has a memorable title!

Birding column:
Judy Toups' magic

It's a wonderful piece, hope you enjoy it. Patrice also mentioned there was recent television coverage of the exciting "The Judy Toups - Least Tern Memorial Highway" designation by the city of Gulfport! The state legislation is currently pending.

The old bird is soaring ever higher in the hearts and minds of those who loved her dearly.

December 11, 2007:

Have just received a draft contract from the Sun Herald to license Judy's columns for republishing in book form, with all net sales proceeds going to the Mississippi Coast Audubon Society! If you would like to help with research and selection of the columns used in the book, please let me know.

November 30, 2007:

Today is Judy's 77th birthday. Now she's ageless and timeless! I know she's having fun in heaven, looking down at all of us humans and hoping we're all doing okay. She did worry, you know.

Speaking of worry, this project is still waiting on a legal contract from the Sun Herald to get permission to begin researching their archives and hopefully republish the best of Judy's columns in a book. How fitting. Judy made her Sun Herald deadlines every week for decades, rain or shine.

September 5, 2007:

Working with the Sun Herald to gather up Judy's columns and begin the task of choosing the very best for inclusion in her biography. If you would like to help with this big task, please let me know, or contact Alison Henry.

July 29, 2007:

Many thanks to Cracker Boy for responding to my comment and then posting Judy's picture and a link here on his home page. Turns out he'd actually met the old bird a couple of times! He's a very good writer, with a wistful twist in his recollections of the Florida that used to be but is (mostly) no more.


Most intriguing question: why is Judy still listed as a Sun Herald columnist? I've written a letter to them asking for help in obtaining permission to republish her columns, and also asked this question. Does anyone reading this know if the Sun Herald publishes her columns in the print version? Please leave a comment, thanks.

Update 07-27-07:

The Sun Herald has removed Judy from the list of columnists.

Don McKee has penned several pages about his relationship with Judy and is in the process of transmitting or mailing them to me. I look forward to including all of it on the stories page. Thanks Don!

My sister Christina mentioned that Pete Dunne (he of Seymore Thanu fame) has written another beautiful piece about Judy but it's not available online. We're trying to track a copy down...

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