In Memory of Beloved PWA Member Andy LaCasse (1942-2022)
by Len Nelson, Research Chair
Without the inspiration, insights and education I absorbed from Andy Lacasse, I would not be doing the research and bird monitoring work that absorbs and enriches my life (and wetland bird life) today. I owe him a great deal; the knowledge and
experience that he shared with me and many others enables us to better understand
and support our birds and wildlife.
Andy Lacasse built and installed ten tree swallow houses at Shollenberger Park in Petaluma in the early spring of 2004. He was amazed that tree swallows and bluebirds began competing for these structures as soon as he had installed one and had hardly stepped away to install another! Such is the plight of these cavity nesting birds in an environment that is practically devoid of natural cavities in old, limb-lost trees that are now mostly cut down. Since then, the number or tree swallow/bluebird houses has expanded to 60, located at Shollenberger, Ellis Creek, and Tolay Regional Park, most of which were built by Andy, and then some by me.
Each fall, Andy and I would visit each of his tree swallow houses to clean them out in preparation for the next year’s swallow nesting season. As we did so, we’d find that some had unhatched eggs and others dead chicks of various ages, and as we went about this work, I wondered how many eggs had actually been laid and how many chicks had hatched and how many of those had been fortunate enough
In the fall of 2006, Melissa Pitkin of Point Blue (then PRBO) asked us to monitor the nests, using the protocol of the Golondrinas de las Americas project. It involved a lot of notetaking at each nest and input to Excel spreadsheets. Learning this, Andy exclaimed, “That sure isn’t me!” But I responded, “That sure is me!” We were a perfect team, with Andy’s joy of discovery and motivation, and my interest in tracking the data for better understanding.
Andy continued to participate in twice-monthly bird counts and to guide bird walks for the public until the last few months before he passed, on May 22, 2022.
He will be greatly missed, and with friendship and appreciation, PWA will honor his work by installing and dedicating a bench to him among the birds and lands he so loved.
(Andy Lacasse, the knowledgeable naturalist whom so many of us
also knew as a dear friend, passed away at home on May 23, 2022.)
Above: Andy Lacasse cleaning nest box (2006) Courtesy of Len Nelson; Andy with PWA friends, Andy leading student exploration
Rest in Peace