My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Roger Tory Peterson

Roger Tory Peterson
Born: 28 August 1908 Birthplace: Jamestown, New York

” . . . the man who made America
a nation of birdwatchers.”

William Zinsser
Writer and Critic

Your dashes are arrows
in A Field Guide to the Birds, the green-bound “Peterson”
tucked into belts, pushed into pockets, stuffed into backpacks

Arrows that lead eyes of millions,
squinting through binoculars,
to the red-brown cap and black “stick-pin”
identifying the passerine in snowy branches.
“That’s it,” the new birder exclaims,
pulls out list, checks off the “Winter Chippy,”
American Tree Sparrow

Arrows that glide to crest and black necklace of Blue Jay,
“golden slippers” of Snowy Egret,
yellow “spectacles,” black sideburns, of Kentucky Warbler,
purple throat, green crown, decurved bill of Lucifer Hummingbird,
white tail tip of Eastern Kingbird.
The Bald Eagle with white head and tail is “all field mark.”

In the salt marsh in May, the birder thinks “Life Bird?”
Focuses on shorebird
prodding mud flat with Short-billed Dowitchers,
Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones. Greater Yellowlegs,
Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers,
Semi-palmated and Black-bellied Plovers.
She has identified all with the dried, wrinkled pages of her “Peterson.”

She studies what she knows to be a plover,
concentrates glasses on this bird feeding
by greening shoots of Spartina grass.
Again, she stares at your art,
your arrow guide slanting to the back.
She rereads your description:
“spangled with golden spots above.”

Suddenly, her freckled face is a loud smile,
her whisper a bursting
“Golden Plover!”

Field Guide, 1996
The Roger Peterson Institute of Natural History

By Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr. ©

RSS feed Subscribe to Mon@rch Poem Publish with Authors Permission

15 responses

  1. A man whose passion changed so much for those of us who love nature and the birds. Happy, happy birthday Mr. Peterson. :c)

    28 August 2008 at 6:55 am

  2. I recently picked up a copy of his 1934 edition of The Field Guide to the Birds at a used bookstore. This was the guide my grandmother always used. Looking through it brings back memories of her love for birding.

    28 August 2008 at 7:38 am

  3. Happy Birthday Roger! You have done so much for wildlife. My first bird book was the Peterson guide.

    28 August 2008 at 10:23 am

  4. Bo

    I believe the gentleman died in about 1996. I still use wildflower books and medicinal plant guides illustrated by this great naturalist. Would have loved to known him.

    28 August 2008 at 1:51 pm

  5. A definite hero of mine. This was great!

    28 August 2008 at 2:43 pm

  6. What a great tribute to a remarkable man. He had a way of describing and illustrating nature that few people possess. My favorite birding mentor.

    28 August 2008 at 9:34 pm

  7. Is this a Mr. Tom post or is his co-author still in?

    29 August 2008 at 11:34 am

  8. RTP was and still is awesome and a hero for bird conservationists world wide.

    29 August 2008 at 2:56 pm

  9. I have an autographed copy of “Birds of the Eastern United States” it is my favorite field guide.
    Thanks for the tribute.

    29 August 2008 at 11:40 pm

  10. Marg

    Wonderful tribute to a wonderful man!

    1 September 2008 at 8:35 am

  11. Just found your site by accident today. Very nice. I used to be very involved with wildlife education (mostly to school children) I wish I would have known about blogs and also that they were available back then. What a great resource. Thanks for the images and words you use on yours.

    2 September 2008 at 2:36 pm

  12. While primarily known for his bird guide,let us not forget that he helped devise the system for identifying plants and animals(birds,insects,mammals ,etc) by using arrows to point out key characters. In addition,we have him to thank for spawning a whole series of field guides that cover a lot more than birds.

    As a boy worker at the Audubon camp in Maine ,many,many years ago, I still remember watching him paint some of the lilies on page 207 of his wildflower guide when he was collecting plants and writing that guide. A remarkable and facinating person.

    3 September 2008 at 7:02 am

  13. Great tribute to a great man, Tom.

    8 September 2008 at 9:53 pm

  14. Sarah

    Tom quit being a slacker. Post something!

    13 September 2008 at 11:55 am

  15. His field guide was the one that really helped further my interest in birding.-He lived here in CT at Old Lyme during his later years and his influence can still be seen in that area as The great Island Preserve is dedicated to him.

    16 September 2008 at 2:40 pm

Leave a Reply to jayne Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s