It took a little bit of help from his friends, but Bob Sundell’s book is hitting the Amazon bookshelves.
Sundell was a well-known member of the Jamestown community and a local ornithologist. He was born in Frewsburg and lived in the Jamestown area most of his life, besides a bit of time in the Army and getting his master’s degree in Michigan, along with a few other teaching jobs. He became a biology professor at SUNY Jamestown Community College, and was active in the community.
Before Sundell died in 2017, he had been working on a manuscript detailing his record keeping of local birds in both the county and across Western New York and Pennsylvania. The manuscript was recently been finished and published by people who knew Sundell well.
The book, “Birds of Chautauqua County and Nearby Areas” was edited and published by John Rappole and James Berry.
Berry, another Jamestown native, said the book is a historical record of the different types of birds found in Chautauqua County.
“Bob’s interest in bird life came out in him as a young boy,” Berry said. “He was a great admirer of Roger Tory Peterson. Bob would study birds with a scholarly or scientific approach to it. This manifest is of his record keeping and includes dates, where the bird was seen, who saw it, and the habitat and behavior of the bird. He began to accumulate a vast amount on avian life in Chautauqua County, Western New York and Pennsylvania, and he took that information and began to assemble it in book form.”
Berry said the book is not a field guide like the one written by Roger Tory Peterson, and instead is a historical record of bird sightings in the county. Roughly 347 birds are detailed in the book.
Berry himself was a friend of Sundell’s since he moved to the area in 1995. The two would spend time together observing in the field or meeting and talking about birds. Berry said he and many of Sundell’s friends were aware of the manuscript while he was working on it. Another of Sundell’s friends, William Seleen, helped Sundell get the book set into electronic form. Berry said he, Seleen and Rappole all talked at Sundell’s funeral and came up with the idea to get the manuscript put together in a book form and publish it.
“Bob passed away in 2017 at the age of 84,” Berry said, “so, it took about six years but then William reminded John and I about our conversation and we took the manuscript, organized it, got it up to date and published it.”
Berry said the book is for anyone with an interest in natural history or nature, plants, animals or birds in Chautauqua County. He added that the book has a lot of introductory information about geology, climate, weather, the living world and migratory bird corridors. The book also includes names of many different people in the county from the late 1950s to 2000s.
“There are literally hundreds of people who might be someone’s friend or fellow bird watcher that are mentioned in the book,” Berry said. “People might find the name of someone they know. People would call Bob with sightings all the time. You can ask Pat, his widow, and she will tell you this was an almost daily activity in their house, with Bob on the phone with someone calling about a sighting.”
The book itself is also unique in that there is no other recorded history of bird sightings in Chautauqua County, Berry said. He said in more populated areas of the United States, these types of books are probably not unusual.
“You won’t find this information anywhere else,” Berry said.
For Berry, being part of the publication of the book means a lot to him and is a way to show the respect he still has for Sundell.
“I have tremendous love and respect for Bob,” Berry said. “He was my mentor and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I couldn’t even dream of saying no.”
“Birds of Chautauqua County and Nearby Areas” by Robert Sundall is available through Amazon. It is self-published through Amazon’s self-publishing services so it is only available on Amazon, in both Kindle and paperback form, for 99 cents and $10 respectively.
All proceeds from the book go toward the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, which currently has plans to rename one of its preserves after Sundell.