A Celebration of Birds with Roger Tory Peterson

Blue Earth Films (2008) www.birdfilms.com

A Celebration of Birds with Roger Tory Peterson (1908-1996) is an HD, digitally remastered CD of Michael Male and Judy Fieth's 1991 film of the same name for the PBS series Nature. It costs $20.00, is available at www.birdfilms.com, and is an enjoyable visual summary of Mr. Peterson's life and birding career. It is 53 minutes long, and is divided into 10 chapters: Florida, Delaware Bay, New York City, Book Signing, Central Park Birders, World Series of Birding, Osprey, Plovers and Terns, Maine, and Cape May in Fall. Each of these shows Peterson watching and photographing birds and interacting with people. It also serves as a platform for Peterson, the Father of Modern Birding, to discuss his views of birds, birding, and the environment.

In the Florida section, Peterson explains his early attraction to birding, including his experience with a "dead" flicker that suddenly came to life, shows him photographing at a heronry, and gives his thoughts on issues such as over population. In the Delaware Bay section, Peterson discusses the relationship between the Red Knot and the Horseshoe Crab, and extinction. This section is particularly poignant for me as the footage shows the masses of Red Knots that were present along the Delaware Bay decades ago. In the New York City section, Peterson discusses his choice between studying biology or art, the significance of his choosing the latter, and his ideas for his field guide series. The last point is continued in the Book Signing section in which it is also noted that his first field guide sold out in two weeks (during the Great Depression!), and his wife Virginia's role in creating the range maps for the more recent editions. The Central Park section shows notes Peterson's early days birding in Central Park, and modern birders birding there.

The World Series of Birding section explores how this event raises money and discusses why so many birders become conservationists. The Osprey section discusses the role of DDT in decimating various avian predators and why it was banned. The Plovers and Terns section explores the problems of beach nesting birds such as the Piping Plover and the Least Tern. The Maine section shows old film footage of Peterson on an island off the Maine coast and discusses reintroduction efforts of previously extirpated birds. The Cape May in Fall section explores the phenomenon that is Cape May in the fall, and traces the change from hawk shooting to hawk watching.

On a scale of 0 (truly worthless) to 10 (beyond the limit of human ability), I rate A Celebration of Birds with Roger Tory Peterson 9, and recommend it to everyone with even a marginal interest in birds or natural history.

Michael R. Hannisian