The Life History of a Texas Birdwatcher
Connie Hagar of Rockport
Natural History - Ornithology
6 x 9, 336 pp.
12 b&w photos., 2 maps.
Pub Date: 05/01/2001
  cloth
Price:        $29.95 s

978-1-58544-144-0
  paper
Price:        $17.95

978-1-58544-164-8

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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The Life History of a Texas Birdwatcher

Connie Hagar of Rockport

By Karen Harden McCracken
Foreword by Roger Tory Peterson

In any other context, saying that someone was “for the birds” would hardly be polite. But applied to Connie Hagar, it would be high praise. The diminutive birdwatcher nicknamed Connie was reared as Martha Conger Neblett in early twentieth-century Texas, where she led a genteel life of tea parties and music lessons. But at middle age she became fascinated with birds and resolved to learn everything she could about them. In 1935, she and her husband, Jack, moved to Rockport, on the Coastal Bend of Texas, to be at the center of one of the most abundant areas of bird life in the country. Her diligence in observation soon had her setting elite East Coast ornithologists on their ears, as she sighted more and more species the experts claimed she could not possibly have seen. (Repeatedly she proved them wrong.) She ultimately earned the respect and love of birders from the shores of New Jersey to the islands of the Pacific. Life Magazine pictured her in a tribute to the country’s premier amateur naturalists, and she received many awards from nature and birding societies.

Connie Hagar’s life history is more than just a bird book. Hers is a story of dedication to nature and the role she could play in promoting it to others, despite recurring threats of blindness and other health problems. The hundreds of species of birds that visited Rockport each year brought thousands of other birders, and Connie patiently hosted and assisted both the greenest beginners and the most magisterial experts. It was she, more than any other person, who made coastal Texas—and especially Rockport—a mecca for all serious birders.

Karen Harden McCracken and Connie Hagar’s Boswellian-Johnsonian relationship in the 1960s, Connie’s own “Nature Calendars” containing thirty-five years of observations, and interviews with those who knew the “birdwoman of Rockport” provide the basis for this simple but exhilarating narrative.

The late Karen Harden McCracken, who herself learned birding from Connie Hagar, travelled throughout North and Central America and Africa in search of birds. She worked as a newspaper reporter, teacher, and freelance writer in Rockport and Corpus Christi.

What Readers Are Saying:

“. . . provides a portrait of a time and place in American birding now long gone.” --Winging It

“This book is a good biography and would be of most interest to the birdwatching public.” --Review of Texas Books

“. . . for many Texas birders, this book will be very nostalgic. For new birders, aided by the addition of photographs, this book will give insight into the early days of birding in Texas and bring to life one of its pioneers, Connie Hagar of Rockport. . . . grand compendium of knowledge. There is no better person to attempt to pull together everything that is known about the Panhandle’s avifauna than Ken Seyffert, who has actively birded this region since the early 1960s.” --Texas Birds

“. . . avid birders will find here a marvelous tale of a woman with an absolute love of nature. . . . One focus is on the ‘experts’ who doubted bird records Connie reported and how she proved herself correct time after time. This aspect may seem overdone, but in the end readers will have no doubt why Peterson considered her to be the wonder woman of Texas birders.” --Choice

“Karen Harden McCracken shares Connie’s inspiring story. . . .” --Port Arthur News

“. . . for those in the growing battalions of bird-watching this is a lovely, moving story of an altogether remarkable little woman, and the birds that she recorded—to the world’s amazement—in her Journal.” --Corpus Christi Caller-Times

“McCracken’s account of Hagar in the field and the number of species she observed will captivate any birder worthy of the Title.” --Publishers Weekly

“Based on interviews conducted by McCracken in the 1960’s, Hagar’s ‘nature calendars’ covering 35 years’ worth of observations, and interviews with many who knew her, this readable, journalistic account brings the “birdwoman of Rockport” alive Again.” --The North San Antonio Times

“. . . chronicles the life of this marvelous person. It should prove interesting to all bird watchers and to everyone who finds delight in nature. Kay McCracken has done an excellent job of distilling the myriad facts and stories of Hagar’s rich life into a fluid, readable book. An endless stream of the famous names in Texas and worldwide bird-watching circles flows through the pages. Each adds his personality to the book; each contributes to the Story.” --Houston Chronicle

“ . . . a unique and richly described view of one of the most important people in the story of Texas Wildlife.” --Houston Post

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