Blue­bird cham­pion dies at 94

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS - Vic­to­ria Vanier Ma­gog

Although a bird­watcher most of my life, I didn’t re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the amaz­ing abil­i­ties and charm­ing pe­cu­liar­i­ties of birds un­til I learnt about many of them from An­dré Dion, the or­nithol­o­gist, pro­lific au­thor, and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist who died on Sun­day at the age of 94. Once he had re­tired from his first ca­reer, he

wrote end­lessly on the sub­ject, au­thor­ing twenty-three books, some with his part­ner France Du­mas Dion, and he could talk end­lessly about the an­tics of the birds, there were hun­dreds of them, who found refuge on his small prop­erty, in Ma­gog. It was a plea­sure and a priv­i­lege to be on the lis­ten­ing end.

Mr. Dion’s love of na­ture and, in par­tic­u­lar, birds, be­gan with his early ed­u­ca­tion by priests. But it wasn’t un­til his re­tire­ment, af­ter in­vent­ing the im­por­tant ed­u­ca­tional game Auto-Cor­rect-Art with his wife France, that he be­gan ded­i­cat­ing his time to the study and preser­va­tion of birds, be­gin­ning with the threat­ened Eastern Blue­bird. He and France, his part­ner of the last 44 years, went on to found the So­ci­eté des Amis du Mer­lebleu de l’Est and with the help of its mem­bers, in­stalled more than 10,000 blue­bird bird­houses across Que­bec, lead­ing to the bird’s come­back.

An ad­ven­turer even in his se­nior years, while gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion for his book about the Bar­row’s Gold­en­eye, Mr. Dion trav­elled to Ice­land to meet with or­nithol­o­gist and Gold­en­eye ex­pert Arni Arneis­son. Af­ter the found­ing of the Fon­da­tion France et An­dré Dion, whose mis­sion is to pro­tect cav­ity-nest­ing ducks such as the Bar­row’s Gold­en­eye, the couple spear­headed the build­ing and in­stal­la­tion of five hun­dred nest­ing boxes in north­ern Que­bec. Mr. Dion re­ceived sev­eral awards for his work, in­clud­ing the Que­bec Na­tional Assem­bly Medal, the Queen El­iz­a­beth Di­a­mond Ju­bilee Medal, and he was named to France’s Or­dre de la Pleiade de la fran­co­phonie.

Through his ac­tions and his books, he has left a legacy of knowl­edge, caring and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for our feath­ered friends. Be­sides by his large fam­ily, his pas­sion, en­thu­si­asm and hu­mour will be sorely missed by count­less friends and ad­mir­ers. As Cana­dian Re­search Sci­en­tist Dr. Jean-Pierre Savard wrote in the pref­ace of An­dré Dion’s book L’Odyssée du Gar­rot d’Is­lande en Amerique, “An­dré Dion was as color­ful as the feath­ers on his birds.”

Do­na­tions in hon­our of Mr. Dion can be made to the Fon­da­tion France et An­dré Dion to help with the publi­ca­tion of his mem­oire.

photo pro­vided by France Dion

Or­nithol­o­gist and au­thor An­dré Dion, seen here in his gazebo, died on Sun­day at the age of 94.

Photo Archives

An­dré and France Du­mas Dion in their bird sanc­tu­ary gar­den in Ma­gog.

Paint­ing by An­thony Hobbs

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