Tom Parsons, a friend and birding fixture at Cape May, NJ passed away this week. Everyone who knew Tom will recall him as the ultimate note taker, list keeper, and journal logger. He walked “the Point” every day jotting down every bird he saw. In fall, he would sit at the hawk watch every day after his morning walk and chat about birds and life. I truly enjoyed his company! He was an astute observer and a bit skeptical of my identifications, but grew to trust me, eventually telling me that he “had learned a great deal from me”. Coming from a man who had been birding his whole life, this was a great compliment. Tom loved to play devil’s advocate, but with a sensibility and respect so that any possible confrontation would never turn sour.
Tom was always a careful observer when it came to rare birds, taking detailed notes and precisely describing the particular patch a bird inhabited. He never drove or got a driver’s liscense…and only a few times did I see him hitch a ride to go see a rare bird. Tom mentions the 3,200 Great Blue herons I counted one day as his most memorable flight of birds ever at Cape May! For me, that is thrilling since Tom has seen thousands of impressive daily flights of birds.
He and his wife Peg had me over for dinner after each hawk watch season, and it was nice to get to know Tom away from birding where he was very open and comfortable in his own home. He spoke about teaching Zoology at the University of Toronto, and of being a fellow grad student with E.O Wilson. He also mentioned that his freshman advisor was Ludlow Griscom. Tom will be missed by all his friends and future birders at Cape May.
Photo above: Fred Mears (left), Tom Parsons (middle), and Bill Glaser (right)
Labels: Cape May, raptors, Tom Parsons