In Honor of Jan Hamber

This year’s Eyes In The Sky open house also held a festive brunch at which Santa Barbara Audubon honored Jan Hamber, a founding member of SBAS and a long time advocate of the California Condor. Several speeches highlighting Jan’s many contributions preceded the special showing of Jeff McLoughlin’s video segment from “The Condor’s Shadow”. You can view the video by clicking the photo below.


After the viewing of The Condor’s Shadow, Jan got up and a gave wonderful speech, the text of which is below.

Thank you so very much for this honor. It is very gratifying to know that the work I love doing has been important to my community.

This event has been much more emotional than I thought it would be. Perhaps it is the result of looking back over more than 55 years of my life and seeing how it unfolded bit by bit. In any case, I need to read what I’ve written over the past 4 days so I can tell the story the way I want and not get caught up in dangling participles or run-on sentences.

I feel a little embarrassed to garner all this praise, when any success I’ve had has come from being part of a team of individuals who were willing to work hard for a common goal, so I need to share this honor with them.

There have been thousands of individuals who have given a large or small part of their lives to saving the California Condor. Any success I’ve had has been built upon their work as well.

A very few of them, both from the 1980s effort to save the Condor from extinction and the newer group dedicated to restoring the species are here in the audience and I’d like them to be recognized as well: First of all, Joan Easton Lentz, representing her father and grandfather who began to save the Condor back in the 1930s, long before I’d even seen a California Condor; Jesse Grantham, Dave Clendenen, Chris Cogan, and Anthony Prieto, from the 1980s Condor Research Center and beyond. In the 1990s to now – Jeff McLoughlin, Nancy Sandburg, Jeff Kuyper, Steve Ferry, Vince Gerwe, Martin Fletcher and Rich Block. Thank you all for your work and support.

Then there was the small group of birders who saw the need to expand the Museum’s Bird Study Group into a more active branch of the National Audubon Society. All of them are gone now, but I’d like to mention their names: Nelson Metcalf, Charles Richardson, Leslie Cook, Joy Parkinson, Hobie and Ruth Holbrook and others now forgotten. I’m simply a stand-in for all those who help found the SBAS.

The past few days have taken me on a trip down Memory Lane. In order to fully understand how my career progressed from museum volunteer to helping found SBAS and the work on the California Condor, I went back to the letters I had written home during that period. Everything began at this museum.

In the Fall of 1959 I wrote home:

“A week after Bobby entered kindergarten, I went up to the SBMNH and offered my services as a volunteer, or SLAVE as they were called then. I was given a choice of departments and opted to worked in “Accessories”. That is right up my alley, sort of combination lab and handicraft job. Our part is to make the artificial backgrounds used in the habitat groups being installed in the remodeled Botany Hall. For instance, that day I spent 2 hours painting the bud scales that surround the fascicles of pine needles a dull buff color. The tree was a real one that had been dried and then sprayed with plastic to preserve it. The drying out process dulled the colors so green paint was sprayed on the needles and then the bud scales needed touching up. So I stood there with a little brush and oil paint and played Mother Nature. I enjoyed myself so much I told them I would work every Tuesday. The minute I walked up the stairs to the lab area and smelled the faint aroma of formaldehyde, I felt at home. The Lab is on the top floor of the Museum and is filled with all sorts of stuffed birds and animals in all stages of preparation, dozens of branches of trees draped on wires on the ceiling and multitudes of plaster casts of fish lay around. As I continue to work here, I’ll be taught all sorts of different jobs, so it should be interesting. I’ve finally found my home.”

Since this is a SBAS event, I’ll turn to how this museum was the incubator for becoming a branch of NAS. I first mentioned the Museum’s Bird Study Group on June 1959: “There is a Bird Study group at the museum here that is affiliated with Audubon but is not a branch of the National Society.” By June of 1960, I was thinking about joining the Sierra Club as they do conservation work. “The Bird Group devotes most of its time to the study of birds and does very little active conservation work.”

By1962, there was a growing group of newer, more activist members, interested in becoming a branch of NAS. We knew that the birds we loved seeing would not survive if their habitat was destroyed

In January 1963, several large developments on great bird habitat were being planned for the SB area. Pacific Bridge had received an option on Goleta Slough to develop a 2,000 slip marina, but claimed a marina was unfeasible and suggested an industrial park and apartment complex. There are plans for marinas at Devereux and Carpinteria Sloughs as well. These large development plans seemed to galvanize the Bird Study Group into understanding that we must become a force to save these areas and that being a branch of NAS carried more weight. On January 25, at the Bird Group meeting, we voted 25 to 4 to become a branch of NAS. I was appointed chairman of the committee to write up our constitution, which was approved at the Feb. meeting. March brought the election of a 9-member Board of Directors. I was one of those 9 and later became secretary, head of the Rare Bird Alert and editor of the SBAS Bulletin. “The museum used to do the whole bulletin job for the Bird Study Group but now that we were almost a full-fledged branch we have taken over the responsibility. I gather all the material and arrange it in order and type the stencils. The museum runs the stencils on their mimeograph machine; Joy types the addresses and Velma and I assemble and mail the copies. In June 1963, we became an official branch of NAS with 72 members.”

During the 1960s our conservation work consisted of letters and appearances at local government groups, and aligning the society with other local environmental organizations to protect important bird habitats. Among the biggest challenges and successes were preventing the development of Goleta, Devereux and Carpinteria Sloughs; enhancing and keeping the Andree Clark Bird Refuge as a place for wild native birds; we succeeded in the effort to make the San Rafael Wild Area the very first Wilderness Area created under the 1965 Wilderness Act; we fought the FS plan to open and pave the Sierra Madre Ridge Rd. to bring more people into the forest. This road was too close to the San Rafael Wilderness and Condor nesting/roosting habitat; and, of course, we were totally engaged in the infamous Platform A Oil Spill in 1969.

How very proud I am to have been one of the founders of SBAS. Thank you, Dolores, for this updated information on our activities. Now we are 1100 members strong, engaged in countless conservation issues.

A current one of interest is the threatened building of a fire road and wall near the Seep, a birding hotspot at the end of Coronado Drive in Goleta.  Also, we are looking for a volunteer to monitor work by the City of Santa Barbara on their new plans to restore the Bird Refuge.  For more than a year we’ve been working to prevent development of the Shelby property near Glen Annie Golf Course.

Our members continue to volunteer as docents, helping monitor and protect the nesting Snowy Plovers at Coal Oil Point.

Santa Barbara Audubon has built and maintains 20 nest boxes between Coal Oil Point and Lake Los Carneros.  They are built primarily with Tree Swallows in mind but Bluebirds also use them.  Those are just a few highlights of our work to help and preserve this beautiful Santa Barbara land.

And behind everything devoted to SBAS and my work has stood the constant support and encouragement of SBMNH. Once again, thank you all.