Since our beginning in 1965, staff at camp have chosen “bird names” for themselves. This tradition comes from our original name, Camp Cherith, which is a reference to the story of Elijah being fed by ravens in 1 Kings:
Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
Many of our past and current staff have stories about and reasons for their bird names. Here are a few of them!
Bird Name: Tukki
When I was about eight (after I went to camp for a week), there was a puppet-type show at our church. They had a bird that made a noise, “braaaaaak, tukki” . . . I tucked that into the back of my head, knowing that I wanted to be a counselor one day. That day came, and I had a page full of possible names. I narrowed it down to a few – that puppet bird from church brought to the forefront of my brain and also Tukki is short for Toucan. And then I went to be a missionary in Belize and the national bird is a toucan . . . pretty cool!
Bird Name: Tuffy
My bird name “Tuffy” was given to me by Wally, June, and Cory when I graduated from CILT II. I was not sure what bird name suited me, and they all agreed that I looked similar to the original Tuffy bird. Then it really became a bird name that suited my personality. I may be small and caring, but I do have a tough side to me. Tuffy was and is a bird name that I wear and use with pride.
Bird Name: Kestral
I chose “Kestral” partly because the American Kestral is a beautiful bird, but also because, despite their small size (about that of a bluejay), they are actually a type of hawk and are pretty tough little birds! I’ve always struggled with the idea of meekness: I always wanted to possess a certain amount of power or authority, but struggled with keeping it well-contained once it was given to me. Prioritizing attributes like grace, compassion, and mercy above everything else was not necessarily an easy lesson for me to learn. The Kestrel has the power of a hawk, but keeps it under wraps in an approachable, non-threatening package, and reminds me that meekness is not weakness, but power well contained.
Bird Name: Tuffy
I am tall and never felt graceful. I chose Tuffy for the Tufted Titmouse. It was a small crested bird in blue-grays with a little rosy color on its breast. I think my swimming students thought I chose it because I wanted a tough reputation.
Bird Name: Kit
My bird name is Kit, after the Kittlitz’s Murrelet. I liked it because it reminded me of A League of Their Own. I can’t relate to the bird; it lives in arctic regions and I hate being cold. Of course, all my campers thought it was after the American Girl Doll.
Bird Name: Ronnie
I chose my name in 1973 as a new high school grad. My first bird name (which I used a junior guide in Pioneer Girls) was Magpie, but I decided it was too close to my real personality. So at CILT graduation, I chose Ronnie for the Great Blue HeRON . . . and also after Ronnie Michelli, the first boy who ever kissed me. That Ronnie is a successful chiropractor married to my kindergarten friend Mary Natoli . . I told Ronnie about my birdname at our 25th high school reunion. He laughed and, I’m sure, forgot the story as quickly as he forgot the kiss. When the moms of my Little Pioneer Girls seem a bit perplexed, I have to say I picked the name only two years after that kiss. And, come to think of it, no one else had kissed me yet.
Bird Name: Whirley
When I was a CILT II and my friends and I used to feel stressed, we would go down to the volleyball court at night and look up at the stars and spin around until we were dizzy and laughing. Apparently I was pretty good at “whirling” around so . . . they started calling me Whirley. So “Whirley Bird” became my name. My close friend, Maggie Henry Rittler, was a hoot and she was going to use the name Whoopie! For Whooping Crane, but we had too many negative associations with that . . . “Mom & Dad! I had Whoopie at camp last week!” So then WC but that also stood for water closet so she didn’t want that… so then she flipped it to CW.
Bird Name: Dunlin
At the end of CIT [now CILT] II, we had to choose our bird names, because they were used in our graduation ceremony. I had a few criteria: had never heard it used before; not embarrassing to be called in public; a water bird because my CIT majors were Swimming and Small Craft (Canoeing, Sailing, Rowing). After going through many bird resources, I found an old, antique-looking set of bird cards in the Nature Nook. I found a card for “Dunlin” (also known as the red-backed sandpiper) in this set. “Dunlin” fit my criteria, but I was not quite sure about the name. I asked my Division Director what she thought, and she loved it and thought it was totally me. Her opinion was especially significant because we, as Explorers, did not particularly like her when she was first introduced as our DD during my second year as an Explorer. During our first year as Explorers, we had a young “cool” DD from California (a big deal in 1969). In 1970, “Flicker” was not so young and did not appear so cool, in our 16-year-old opinions. Through a series of incidents and discussions, we gradually got to know the real Flicker and ended up loving her as our DD. It was her second summer as our DD when I graduated from CIT. Because of my love and respect for her, after a difficult beginning, her opinion was highly valued. I credit Flicker and that set of bird cards with my choice of “Dunlin” as a bird name, a decision I have no regrets about, 48 years later.
Bird Name: Scooter
Many can attest to this: when I was an Explorer, I made a joke that my bird name would be Screech, ’cause I am pretty loud. When it finally came to CILT II, I freaked out ’cause I didn’t actually want people “screeching” my name across the volleyball court. Also, Kiska informed me that I needed to have a water bird because I was a lifeguard. So I looked around and saw the Scoter bird, and thought, “I don’t really know that is pronounced so I’ll make it easier for kids and add an O to it. And Scooter doesn’t have as many weird nicknames as Screech.” I was so so wrong about that last part. But I love being Scooter.