Spotlight: Bernard Maddox

When Bernard Maddox leaves his home, he has more on his mind than running errands. A lifelong birder, he now contributes scores of data to Celebrate Urban Birds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Wherever Maddox goes, he’s birding and sending his observations to the Lab.

As a child, he was fascinated by birds. “It’s an attractive procedure,” Maddox says, “helping birds and staying active.” Birding can be a group activity, but can be just as fun and interesting as an individual. Through grade school, high school, and college, Maddox maintained interest and involvement in nature. His goals have always aligned with helping people; he studied psychology and child development with a focus on education, and has worked as a tutor for the blind at his local community college.

In keeping with his calling to help others, he received basic and advanced medical training with the United States military. However, Maddox cites his 9-month deployment in combat during the Korean War as a major challenge in his life.

The state bird of Maryland is the Baltimore Oriole. (Photo © The Nature Nook)
After completing his service in the military, he trained with the Maryland state and county police as well as the FBI and worked for the State of Maryland as a field investigator. The job was, at times, dangerous, and Maddox remembers being told to take time off because his own personal safety was at risk. Nevertheless, he has always held the wellbeing of his community in the highest regard. While serving as a state employee, he continued to pursue his calling as a naturalist on the side. He took classes at the Howard County Conservancy and the Irvine Nature Center, and received a degree there.

Upon retirement from governmental public service, Maddox had even more time to allot to conservation and education. He spent 20 years as a naturalist at the Irvine Nature Center and 5 years as an educator and guide for the Maryland Zoo, and has also been a naturalist for the Howard County Conservancy for 5 years. He has been a member of the Lab of Ornithology since 1989!

Settling into retirement was another challenge for Maddox, who had always been well-integrated into his naturalist and educational communities. But when medical problems forced him to retire from his community work, he continued to stay involved with the Lab of Ornithology. Although medical complications create limitations for this avid birder, he refuses to let them hold him back.

“I try to stay active without overdoing it,” he chuckles. “I’m independent,” he continues, “I can go when and where I want.” As always, one of the most important parts of birding is safety. Maddox realizes that he must be careful when out making observations. We encourage birders everywhere to be safe and responsible, no matter where they live.

For the past five years, when Maddox has gone out for a ride or does his shopping, he has sent in observations to Celebrate Urban Birds. You can spot him all over town, helping birds while staying active. The data that Maddox provides is extremely valuable to the Lab, and we encourage others to model his technique: visit various parts of your neighborhood or town, and notice differences and similarities in the environment and your observations!

His advice for you? Stick with it! Stay active in your community as a citizen scientist, whether you enjoy birding alone or with friends, and remember that you can help birds, find purpose and perspective in nature, and inspire the world around you.


~Brigid Lucey

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