David Sterling's memoir Birds, Beasts and a Bike Under the Southern Cross (Agio 2008) recounts the adventures of two Canadian naturalist camping in New Zealand and Australian in the 1950s.

David Stirling was born in 1920 in Athabasca, Alberta. While growing up on a pioneer farm, he developed a keen interest in natural history: from butterflies and weather phenomena, to birds and botany. In World War II he served in the Canadian army in Canada and the UK, and graduated from the Royal Military College in Sandhurst, England, as a first lieutenant.

He married Ruth Carter in 1951. After working with the federal ministry of fisheries in Windsor and Winnipeg, they left on a two-and-a-half year journey around the world that included travelling by motorcycle, working at seasonal jobs and enjoying the natural world in New Zealand and Australia.

On his return to Canada, David Stirling worked for the federal forestry ministry. He later moved to British Columbia Parks where he helped establish a nature interpretation and research program that was recognized as a model for other Canadian provinces.

At this time he became involved in the research and organization of overseas nature and wildlife tours. He led nature tours to Turkey, the Yukon, East Africa, the Galapagos Islands and other locations. After his retirement from BC Parks, David Stirling devoted more time to nature tours and travelled to Antarctica, the Russian Far East, the North West Passage and China.

David Stirling served on the boards of the American Birding Association, the Canadian Nature Federation and the Pacific Northwest Bird and Mammal Society. He helped in the founding of the Federation of British Columbia Naturalists. He was a member of International Council for Bird Protection, and is a member of The East Africa Wildlife Society and the Ornithological Society of the Middle East. He taught bird identification courses at Victoria's community college, and toured Canada and the United States with the National Audubon Society's wildlife films and Jim Bowers' wildlife presentations.

David Stirling received the Victoria Natural History Society's distinguished service award in 1989 and was given an honorary life membership in recognition of his long involvement with the society. He received Parks Canada's Interpretation Award of Merit in 1985. He was presented with the Queen's Jubilee Visit Medal in 2002 and also honoured in 2006 for his work with BC Parks. In 2008 he received the BC Field Ornithologists Award for ornithology.

Ruth Stirling died in 2002. Daughter Patricia, husband Cyril and their two children, Siobhan and Rory, live in Duncan, BC. David Stirling lives in Victoria, BC, Canada.


Birds, Beasts and a Bike Under the Southern Cross (Agio 2008).