What can I say except that I am entirely heartbroken about the recent death of my father. He was a healthy, vibrant, 70 year old man who fell while hiking and died soon after sustaining fatal injuries. We are still in shock but feel such tremendous sadness it's almost unbearable.
My Dad was an active birder/naturalist in Southern California and active on most of the birding message boards. Yesterday I took the time to read some of the wonderful posts people had written about him on CalBirds. I decided to write one myself. I wanted to have a copy of it for myself so I decided to post it here now. Here is what I wrote:
I've been reading the posts on my father, Mike San Miguel, and am
overwhelmed by all of your kind words. I thank each and every one of
you for taking the time to post your memories of Dad. They mean so much
The birding bug never bit me but I joke that I "bird through osmosis".
Let's just say I had an unfortunate run in with a gang of quail that
scared me half to death, at the age of 3, and I never fully recovered.
Still, I was included (or should I say dragged along?) on many birding
expeditions. However, my fondest and most vivid birding memory is
seeing three California Condors flying in the wild back in the 70's.
Even at that young age I knew it was a big deal and I remember those
glorious condors gliding through the air as if it were yesterday. It
was a beautiful sight and it was the moment I understood why Dad spent
so much time chasing and banding birds. I was in awe.
Because of those excursions I can't tell you how many times I've
startled myself with my accidental birding knowledge. I recall once
hearing a Red Tailed Hawk misidentified on NPR and saying out loud, with
disgust "That's not a Bald Eagle. That's a Red-Tailed Hawk!" I later
told Dad about it explaining, "I couldn't help it, it just slipped
out." Dad loved it.
Dad didn't know much about movies, or celebrities or pop culture in
general and I think he had it right. The world would be a better place
if we all just did as Daddy did and gave our attention to the natural
world. Daddy taught me so many more things than I can list but more
than anything he taught me to stop and take time to notice the beauty of
nature. He marveled at the smallest things and would always take the
time to share them with me. I recall sitting with him at our back yard
table and watching as he gently weighed, measured and banded God knows
how many birds. I'll miss that.
While birding was Dad's most time consuming passion, for the past couple
of decades, it was really all things in nature that he adored. He knew
all about Southern Californian native plants, reptiles and, more
recently, butterflies. I remember walking by the living room one day
and noticed daddy sitting very quietly in his chair, with a crossword
puzzle in his lap, no sports on the tv, gazing out the window. I walked
by much later to find him still sitting in his chair mesmerized by
something. As you know Dad didn't sit still much so I finally asked
what he was doing. He silently pointed out the window. I looked out
and didn't see much. He said "Look up. The butterflies are migrating.
I've been watching them for hours. They're incredible." I sat down
beside him and watched for a long, long time as an amazing jet stream of
butterflies fluttered, almost single file, over the oak tree, down into
the back yard then up over the house. He was right it was amazing.
It's something I never would have noticed on my own. I will never
forget the look of tranquility on Dad's face that day.
We rarely disagreed but I do remember what was possibly our most epic
argument. I was wrapping up my degree at Cal State Long Beach when, one
morning, Dad asked me to take a bird to Dr. Collins at the university.
Turns out he wanted me to carry a frozen Cooper's Hawk in my back pack
down to Charlie. I refused. He simply could not understand why I
wouldn't do it. I'll bet some of you can't either, but I can tell you a
20-year-old young woman is NOT interested in being a mule for defrosting
bird of prey. Dad quickly forgave me and I spent the next 20 years
teasing him about it. Much later he admitted that is was pretty gross.
I now sit with his wedding ring on a chain around my neck. As far as I
know Mom put the ring on his finger in 1964 and it didn't come off until
a few terrible days ago. I will miss my sweet, wonderful Dad for the
rest of my life. I will never get over this loss. It sometimes sucks
the breath right out of me. The only good news is that because Dad was
such a wonderful family man, Mom, Michael and I are left with no
regrets. We all know how much we love each other. We also all agree
that Dad would have never survived losing one of us. He had many great
strengths but losing one of us would have just about killed him. Now
Daddy will never know what this kind of loss feels like and for that I
My Mom, Dad and now Michael's family are the great loves of my life. I
consider that to be a great testament to the remarkable family I have
been blessed with. I have a lifetime of memories to carry me through
this and there are more to come. That is where I try to stay focused.
That is what will carry me through.
In closing, I ask one favor of Dad's dear birding friends; next time you
chase a great bird, get it in your sights and get a good look, take a
moment to think of Dad. That way I'll know he's still out there birding
I'll love you forever and ever, Daddy. Happy birding.