Super Senior: Fred Pratt

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 6:06 PM EST
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ADDISON, Vt. (WCAX) - Fred Pratt’s life is for the birds.

Pratt is being chauffeured as he looks out for his flying friends. “I’d love to pick up a peregrine falcon or a cooper’s hawk or something like that,” he said. Pretty much every day, Pratt drives himself on backroads past farms and fields -- an Addison County avian adventure.

Our first stop on this day -- the shores of Lake Champlain in Bridport. “Oh here’s a bird right here,” Pratt pointed out. “Right here in the water, we’ve got a bird.” It’s a black scoter sea duck. Not a rare bird, but unexpected, according to Pratt.

“These guys bring me peace of mind,” Pratt said. “Without birds, I would not be alive.” They’ve lifted him up through some trying times. Pratt has written a book called “My Big Year: A Search for Birds and Peace of Mind.” It’s not a bird guide but more of a travel log with personal moments of his life and reflections of life with his wife of 60 years, Chris.

Reporter Joe Carroll: What was Chris like?

Fred Pratt: Oh she was adorable, what am I going to say? And she was a damn good birder.

In 2012 they had a goal to see 150 bird species in each of Vermont’s counties. Sadly, Chris would not make the final journey. “It was in early December, I guess, that I found her collapsed on the bathroom floor. Doctors took out a baseball-sized tumor, but the colon cancer had spread.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Did she live longer than four months?

Fred Pratt: No, she lived three.

Reporter Joe Carroll: How much of your personal grief is in this book?

Fred Pratt: It permeates it. It’s implicit throughout.

The book is also uplifting. A fellow birder joined him in Arizona for a journey back to Vermont. “There are some very interesting birds we encountered, or people we encountered,” Pratt said.

He did complete the quest to see 150 bird species in each county. He says Chris would be proud. “We were called ‘Team Pipit,’” Pratt said. The namesake of an American songbird that nests in both Arctic tundra and alpine meadows. “‘He often bobs his tail as if to show he’s content with what he has,’” Pratt said, reading from his book. “‘He’s not loud and obvious, he certainly doesn’t seek attention.’ So, we chose to call ourselves Team Pipit.”

Back on the road, the day’s coming to a close. “This is part of birding. Like I said, timing is everything,” Pratt said. And with that, a flock of Canadian geese comes into the picture. “We got some geese.”

Reporter Joe Carroll: This keeps you going, huh?

Fred Pratt: It keeps me going.

Tomorrow, Pratt will be back out on road, minus his wingman.

Reporter Joe Carroll: We got to see our birds.

Fred Pratt: Well, we got to see something at least.