Saturday, April 10, 2010

Found Object: Note by Robert E. Tucker (illustrator, ornithologist, and forester) with chart of Birds common to Savannah, Georgia

Somehow I misplaced an old field guide and so replaced it with a 1980 edition of Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies. Folded in the back cover I found a note from Robert E. Tucker to Dorothy. In it, he describes this book, which appears to be a Christmas gift, as "the guide for learning birds. Most bird students cut their 'birding teeth' on it. I did - over forty years ago."

Robert Tucker was the illustrator of Louisiana Birds by George Hines Lowery (Louisiana Wild Life and Fisheries Commission by Louisiana State University Press, 1960). Lowery says that Tucker's "ably executed" illustrations are not for "mere" decoration, but "designed to facilitate species recognition" for the field observer. The Wilson Library Bulletin (1960) refers “to the superb drawings and water-colors”.

Tucker supplies a one and a half page chart of "those that will most probably occur in [Dorothy's] yard.... The list consists of those that seem to prefer living in the proximity of people and accept the hospitality of the feeding tray. Not included are such aerial species as Chimney Swifts and Nighthawks or Gulls, Hawks, and Owls."

Click on the picture to view it in full.

Tucker lists 45 species for Dorothy, noting whether they would be found in summer or winter, and on which page they can be found in Peterson. He also lists the photo number in an edition of "Bull & Ferrand" - which would be John Bull and John Farrand's National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region (1977). In his note, Tucker makes clear that he feels illustrations are preferred to photos because "photographs are fine when they are good, but a poor illustration in many cases because of shadows, color shift in the film or development or position which fails to show key field marks."

According to a web search, Tucker is mentioned in Excelsior: memoir of a forester. by Laurence C. Walker (College of Forestry, Stephen F. Austin State University, 1995.)

He is also mentioned as manager of forest resources and manager of woodlands for the Southland Paper corporation in the 1960s.

This seems to be a nice little piece from a little known naturalist, and useful as historical data for its list of common species as identified by a naturalist in 1984. Of course, I would be happy to return the original to any relative that might want it.