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Dear Friends:

Welcome to my newly refurbished and updated website, the first revision since 2013. Once again, my trusty web designer Josh Southern has worked his magic on the design to create a fresh new look. A lot has happened in the past seven years, some good, some bad, and this letter is a quick overview. I am writing this at the end of 2020, a year that has been a struggle for all of us, but there is at least some good news.

The most significant event, and one reason this revision was so long in coming, was the diagnosis in January 2015 that I had Burkitt's lymphoma, a fast-moving and aggressive cancer that was already at Stage 4. I might well have been dead within a few months, but through the wonders of modern medicine and an excellent medical team led by Dr. Jeremiah Boles at the UNC cancer center, the support of dozens of friends, and particularly the help of my faithful partner Rod Hester, I am here today to tell about it. I underwent several months of chemotherapy (where you are poisoned in the hope that the cancer will die before you do) and, amazingly, I emerged in complete remission. As of August 2020, I have been cancer-free for five years, and have "graduated" from the cancer clinic.

Chemotherapy is no stroll in the park, and it is one of those things that isn't over when it's over. It was two years before I was back to anything like my previous level of work, and I still feel the lingering effects. My battle with cancer was a major setback, and I may never return to the level of productivity I had in the past. Father Time and Mother Nature are also not helping. But I'm alive and reclaiming my life. Here are some of the latest milestones:

1) New book plan with new coauthor: Phil Bruner, my good friend and coauthor on the 1987 Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific, could not participate in the new version (see Next Book), so I am very fortunate that Dr. Eric VanderWerf has agreed to become my new coauthor. He has vast experience in the region and is a widely respected ornithologist, birder, and conservationist, not to mention a longtime friend. He is younger than I and so will be able to keep this book, which has become the standard bird reference for the region, updated well into the future. We have a new contract with Princeton University Press, now that it looks like I will live to finish what will likely be my last major project. Look for publication some time in 2023.

2) The "Guam Triptych":  The first major piece of artwork I attempted after chemo was a commission from Frank Farrell, a San Francisco physician who grew up on Guam. He had waited patiently for a decade for me to paint a commemoration of the lost native birds of Guam in one of the world's greatest ecological catastrophes. To paint the birds life size required three panels, hence the term "triptych". Dr. Farrell wanted these paintings to serve an educational purpose on the island, and so the Guam Museum had them reproduced as posters, titled "The Native Birds of Guam" (for details, see Private Commissions). I had a bit of a struggle at first, but after the first few birds, I knew I was back. My illustration skills had survived cancer, and I think the results are some of my best work. Excerpts decorate this new website.

3) Ornithology:  I have remained active in ornithology, and even during chemotherapy was able to finish two major coauthored papers, one on the birds of Samoa with John Mittermeier and another on the avifauna of Kosrae in Micronesia, with Floyd Hayes and Carlos Ciancini (see My Bibliography). These were the first of several papers that will contribute to the New Book. Others are recently, or about to be, published. I also serve on Bird Records Committees for Hawaii and Palau and remain active in professional organizations. I particicpated in the North American Ornithological Conference in Washington DC (2016), the International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver, BC, Canada (2018), and the virtual NAOC in 2020.

4) ABA Bird of the Year:  In September 2017 I was deeply honored to be chosen to paint the American Birding Association's Bird of the Year for 2018. It was the Iiwi, an iconic Hawaiian honeycreeper, in commemoration of the addition of Hawaii to the ABA Area, a change that I had advocated and campaigned for over decades. I had to scramble to finish the painting by year's end, but I am pleased with the result, which made a beautiful cover for Birding magazine.

5) Music:  I am also back in another aspect of my life. One of the perks of winning the contest is performing in a Winners' Showcase the next year. Unfortunately, the 2020 festival had to be postponed at least until 2021, but they put together a virtual one that included a virtual showcase.  For my contribution to it, see the Music section. In 2019, I once again (last time was in 2006) won the International Autoharp Championship at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS. I have also begun to perform semiprofessionally at various music festivals including the Northwest Autoharp Gathering (NWAG) in Oregon, the Mountain Laurel autoharp Gathering (MLAG) in Pennsylvania, and the Lagniappe Dulcimer Fete in Port Allen, Louisiana.

Well, I think that is all. There is a lot to do here, so take your time and enjoy your exploration. Please let me know if you think of ways to improve this website.

Doug Pratt
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