Dr. Edward D. Greaves, a physician and nature lover who was renowned as one of the top birdwatchers in North America, died July 21 of lymphoma, his family said. He was 82.
Dr. Greaves was a pediatrician for 37 years, starting in the Navy. He settled in the Sacramento area in 1972 and spent 22 years at Kaiser Permanente facilities on Morse Avenue and in Roseville.
His soft-spoken nature and patient way with children served him on long outings peering through binoculars at birds. Dr. Greaves compiled a lifetime list of spotting 824 North American species, ranking him among the top 20 birders ever recorded by the American Birding Association. (The organization counts a total of 980 species in North America, which is defined as Canada and the United States, excluding Hawaii, ABA President Jeffrey Gordon said.)
A Carmichael resident, Dr. Greaves was the first person in the Sacramento area to achieve list milestones of 700, 750 and 800 species, friend and birder Gil Ewing said. Dr. Greaves' totals included 559 species in California and more than 3,300 worldwide.
He went to great lengths to find birds, including trips to all seven continents. He traveled several times with another top Sacramento birder, Ed Harper, to Attu, the westernmost island in the Aleutian chain between Alaska and Siberia. The men melted snow for water and slept in abandoned huts in subfreezing weather while observing some of the most unusual birds on the continent.
"We don't go there for the comfort," Dr. Greaves said in 1999. "It's for the adventure of it all."
Edward Dale Greaves was born on April 15, 1931, to a machinist and homemaker in Greensburg, Pa. A top football player and track athlete, he graduated from Lafayette College and earned a medical degree from Temple University in Pennsylvania.
He married his wife, Lynne, and spent nine years in the Navy.
The couple were on a weekend leave in North Carolina in 1958 when he became fascinated with watching birds. "We were right in one of the biggest flyways of North American birds," Lynne Greaves said. "It blew him away, and he never looked back."
Dr. Greaves retired from the Navy as a lieutenant commander and worked in private practice in Illinois before moving to California. He devoted himself to birding after retiring from Kaiser in 1994.
He was a longtime member of the American Birding Association and former president of the Sacramento Audubon Society. An avid photographer, he documented many of his finds in slides that he shared with other birders including a widely circulated photo of two spoon-billed sandpipers, an Asian species near extinction, that he photographed on Attu in 1986.
"It was the highlight of all his years birding," said his son Mark.
Dr. Greaves' photo collection is being donated to the permanent archives of the National Audubon Society, his family said.
Besides his wife of 55 years, he is survived by his children, Paul of Granite Bay, Mark of Wheat Ridge, Colo., and Jean of San Diego; sister, Janet De Riseis of Marco Island, Fla.; brother, Bill of Marco Island, Fla.; and two grandchildren.
A celebration of life is set for 3 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento, 2425 Sierra Blvd., Sacramento. Memorial donations may be made to the Nature Conservancy.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.