Roger Tory Peterson
” . . . the man who made America
a nation of birdwatchers.”
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
Field Guide, 1996
The Roger Peterson Institute of Natural History
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