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Commemorative note posted on web's "MassBird" on April 15, 2001:

I'm sad to report the passing of a noted birder, David Lloyd Garrison, 94, of Lincoln. Dave had long experience in birding and many memories. I remember how startled I was when he told me that his mentor had been C. J. Maynard. Maynard is a legendary name as the discoverer in 1868 (!) of the "Ipswich" Sparrow. Now, that is reaching back in birding history. Prior to World War Two, David was curator of birds at the Boston (New England) Museum of Natural History and the editor of the Bulletin of New England Bird Life. He published a number of papers on birds. He kept throughout much of his life a journal, in which he recorded, for example, his various trips with Ludlow Griscom (e.g., to the west coast) and his experiences with a young, pre-field-guide, Roger Tory Peterson. He was persuaded to write up some of the latter entries, which I was privileged to read for him at the Peterson commemorative meeting of the Nuttall Club, which David joined in 1936. If you are interested, I have posted the short text [below].

He was a kind, generous, and alert man, who maintained his interest throughout his life. He is credited with having persuaded Lincoln to become the first town in the area to give up using DDT for mosquito control--after reading Rachel Carson's Silent Spring he gave a speech at town meeting that helped change history. In recent years, as his sight and hearing failed, I would report to him each spring when the Bobolinks and Meadowlarks had returned to Flint's Field, across from his house. He sent a message seven years ago to a Nuttall Ornithological Club meeting about his love of birding:

"I can't see 'em and I can't hear 'em but when someone says 'Let's go birding,' I rear up like a firehorse leaving the barn."

His remark was greeted by a general cheer from all present.

Steve Ells
<steveells<at>earthlink.net>
For a web site about Thoreau's Estabrook Woods,
see <http://home.earthlink.net/~steveells>. Enjoy.


Roger Tory Peterson: Early Recollections

by David L. Garrison

(Read in part at Roger Tory Peterson Commemorative Meeting,
Nuttall Ornithological Club, Cambridge, December 2, 1996.)

Foreword

This short piece about birding with Roger in our early days is colloquial rather than literary. It is mainly from journals in which I was talking to "myself" about good times. Anyhow, I am glad to have it, and to think again about a friend who greatly enriched my life.

Roger had an endearing characteristic: he was always himself. In 1934, when his first book was published and achieved universal acclaim, the National Audubon Society practically "shanghaied" him. I seldom saw him after that; but when we met, we started off again right where we had left off. He was a reliable good friend.

Lincoln, Massachusetts November-December 1996
(Read in part at Peterson Commemorative Meeting,
Nuttall Ornithological Club, Cambridge, December 2, 1996.)

Roger Tory Peterson

Clarence Allen was the Science teacher at Country Day School during my eight years there as a student, and was a friend from that time on. One of his interests was birds, and he encouraged me in that field. It was through Mr. Allen's kindness that I met Roger Peterson.{Note 1}

One day in Boston I was walking up State Street and by chance met Mr. Allen walking down. We exchanged a few words, including: "Garrison, I've just found a second Audubon." Allen had attended a meeting of the Linnaean Society in New York and met Roger Peterson there.

Not long afterwards our trails crossed again, and Mr. Allen said, "Garrison, you remember that second Audubon I told you about? I've got him at the school now. You have a car; why don't you take him on a trip?" I didn't have a car, but could sometimes borrow my family's car, so a trip was arranged.

Mr. Allen was headmaster of the Rivers School in Chestnut Hill, and had a summer camp for boys in Wiscasset (Camp Chewonki). He had signed Peterson up promptly, a move beneficial to both Roger and himself. Roger was housed upstairs in what looked like an old, empty warehouse. He customarily worked late into the night on his book, rose about noon for "breakfast" with the boys who were eating lunch, taught any classes that were scheduled for him, and retired again after supper to continue working on his book.

I went on some memorable birding trips with Roger, to Cape Cod, to Essex County, and to Martha's Vineyard. They lifted me from a backyard status to a "higher realm," where you planned ahead. Roger had in mind the most interesting birds you might find, considering the season and the weather, and headed us to their likely habitats. My old Journals report some of these trips. The first is described as follows:{Note 2}

October 28-30, 1932:

"This weekend was the leading expedition of my days afield. I went with Roger Peterson, a really crack field man (and painter) that Mr. Allen had introduced me to. It was a new degree, new order of expertness for me, this boy's complete knowledge of bird habits and his confident precision in identifying them. Furthermore, he introduced a new factor that I had never heard used: he thought in terms of places where the regular counted-on birds could be raised, and where the rare and extraordinary wanderers might also be found.

We went first to a marsh back of Humarock, where Yellow Rails had been reported present. The colors, by a rich sunset through the woodlands around Scituate, were a joy to the heart, but it was late and low tide when we reached Humarock, and without a dog we raised no rails. We continued on, and took rooms at Chatham for the night.

Before turning in, we walked to the lighthouse, and looked eastward and southeast under a clear sky. There was an amazing number of lights across the horizon: six vessels in the right-hand quadrant before us (Pollock Rip to Monomoy) and one more to the left. In addition there were lesser lights of fishermen nearer shore.

Continuing, Saturday, October 29.

"This was one of the days when you put your hat on before your boots, dressing speedily and summarily in the cool of dawn. Jupiter and Venus were still hanging like lanterns in the east as we began our count.

The first stop was a cattail swamp, on a pond near the corner of Town Landing Road and Barn Hill Road, West Chatham. We went right through this swamp and out to the beach; then back around the pond on the other side. We picked up the birds Roger was looking for: Marsh Wrens and Swamp Sparrows, and were lucky to see a Green Heron and two kinds of Rails. The score stood 36 at eight o'clock when we went back for breakfast. The rest of the morning we tramped on Monomoy. It was my first time out here, and I was overjoyed with the nature of the place. Middle rising tide was against us for birds, but we walked up the ocean beach and in through a patch of woods, and finally some miles across marshes and flats. The water a good deal of the day was washing around our ankles. On the whole it was one of the most uncomfortable days I've ever spent, yet in some of the most beautiful surroundings. The weather was perfect and the birds were good. Discomfort somehow did not seem important.

At about one o'clock we ate again, and went north by car along Pleasant Bay, looking for ducks. From there we headed toward Wellfleet and the Austin sanctuary. This place is thick with birds. We walked two or three times around a loop of paths, first on one side of the pond and then the other. Each time we found new species. We saw Coots, missed the Wood Ducks, and came upon a brush pile full of White-crowned Sparrows. There were other Sparrows in the sanctuary, Lincoln, Seaside and such. But it was getting late to see them well. As sunset spread across the sky, we hurried down to the bay-side marshes, and found sandpipers feeding and flying there, but the failing light hardly showed colors or even patterns.

Returning from the bay shore, we stumbled over a Bittern, overfed with fish, and caught him. Roger wanted to paint him, so we carried him along--though not without casualty. He got his head once close enough to Roger's face to strike at it and draw blood--from Roger's chin luckily, rather than an eye or other sensitive feature.

Before leaving the sanctuary, we had a good talk with Dr. Austin, senior. He showed us some beautiful illustrations in state bird books, especially Howell's 'Florida Bird Life.' For overnight we went home to Osterville, our family's place on Pagan Point.

Continuing, Sunday, October 30, 1932.

"Today we went out Sandy Neck, again in warm, gleaming blue. Birds were conspicuously less numerous than in the Chatham region, but we spotted some good ones, including Sharp-tailed Sparrows of two kinds, examined closely enough for even a tyro to tell apart.

Roger's field manner was extraordinary. He was eyes and ears, interpreted everything, and anticipated in an uncanny manner. He would say, 'Now at this season there ought to be . . . . It will have the following field marks; and don't confuse it with . . . which looks the same and would also be found here, but is distinguished by . . . etc.' Then both birds would turn up side by side, and exhibit their diagnostic patterns.

His conversation was exclusively birds. Any other subject would dry up; then a pause, and back again. He was remarkably interesting, however, never boring, always something apt and special.

He said Boston was a bird (and entomological) desert. New York, by comparison is an exceptionally good location. The three primary migration routes up the Atlantic Coast go through New York; one thence following the Hudson River, one swinging up the Connecticut Valley, and the third following the Coast. The Boston-New York comparison interested me, as being true for humans as well as birds.

Chatham is a good place for a different reason: Strays off their course or wanderers across country go until they bring up short. For instance, each year a few Arkansas Kingbirds come east (by mistake) and are found along the Atlantic coast (like the one sent to me years ago from Jack Daniel and Fred Bill's farm)." {3} [end of journal entry].

Roger grew up near Jamestown, New York. His family gave no support to his peculiar infatuation with birds, and I suppose that is why he gravitated to New York. In Bronxville there was a small group of enthusiasts, Bill Vogt, John Kuerzi [?], and 2 or 3 others, who called themselves the Bronx Bird Club. Peterson joined them, and my impression is that at first they pretty much supported him. When Clarence Allen met him and offered him a job (at school and camp) he accepted quickly.

His social life in the early years was very limited. He was lucky to go to Wiscasset in the summer in Mr. Allen's camp, as a counselor.

Roger and I were in our twenties, and the charm of girls crossed my mind occasionally. Not his, yet. A few years later, however, he met a girl in Wiscasset (near Camp Chewonki) that he couldn't resist. I was invited to the wedding, and in a way that was fortunate. It turned out that he had rented a tuxedo, for the event, but no suitable shirt or studs. By chance I had extras, and buttoned him into one of mine. (Dinner jackets in those days used stiff, "boiled" shirts that buttoned up the back.)

After the festivities several of us took a train back to Boston. The best man, escorting the maid of honor, sat up front in the Boston car. Mr. Allen and I sat impartially in the middle, while the bride and groom sat way back.{4}

* * * * *

A final entry:

May 4, 1934. I saw Roger Peterson tonight, and his new bird-book, which is a humdinger! It is just right. It carries barely the text (in easy style) to identify every Eastern bird; and the pictures (by himself) are superb! There is no book like it, and there was an aching need. Then he did this, so perfectly to the occasion that it looks like a stroke of genius to me. As we stood on the steps, talking with Mr. and Mrs. Allen, who stopped in, the calls of the warblers could be heard overhead, migrating.{5}



Footnotes:

1. [Peterson dedicated the first edition of the Field Guide to Clarence Allen and William Vogt.]

2. [DLG references 5:145-151 in his Journals for the following paragraphs.]

3. See Forbush Vol. II, page 334 (line 8) 1920 [DLG note].

4. [Manuscript page 14 was not included by DLG, I think for diplomatic reasons.]

5. [6:133, DLG journals.]