Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Remembering Ted Parker (& Paul Schwartz)

Gregg Gorton has just posted his reflections on Ted Parker on the ABA blog. This short article is well worth reading because of the care with which the author is preparing his biography of the legendary birder and ornithologist. Gregg's earlier work has included an excellent article on another pioneering bird recordist, Paul Schwartz*, product of some very diligent research interviewing a couple of dozen people in the US and Venezuela who knew him. This article is a spin-off of the Parker biography (Parker dedicated his Voices of the Peruvian Rainforest cassette to Schwartz).

Ted Parker, with signature Nagra recorder and Dan Gibson parabolic microphone, Explorer's Inn, 1978 (photo: Paul Donahue, from Gregg Gorton's ABA blog)
Looking at the sources for the new biography, it is clear that Gregg has been just as methodical in his search for first hand information from those who knew Ted Parker - the names mentioned in the blog article read like a roll call of Neotropical ornithology. He has talked to an enormous number of individuals and unearthed a wealth of fascinating new information. Several of the photographs, including Paul Donahue's image of Parker at a 1978 Explorer's Inn (which looked almost the same a decade later), are new to me.

Last year Gregg kindly offered to write an article on The early years of bird sound recording in the Neotropics for Neotropical Birding magazine, something we very much look forward to publishing. 

*Almost forgotten today, Schwartz amassed what remains the second largest collection of recordings of Neotropical birds, most of which were made in Venezuela and archived at the Rancho Grande Biological Station (the original Nagra reels are now housed at the EBRG Museum in El Limón, with copies at the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library). He was also a pioneering bird photographer (and movie-maker). Careful observation led him to produce a key paper demonstrating that Northern Waterthrushes winter at the same Neotropical puddle year after year, while his knowledge of bird sounds gave rise to a series of papers suggesting that vocalisations could be used to separate visually similar species such as Tinamous, Forest-falcons and Nightjars. He is honoured by the naming of Chamaeza turdina "Schwartz's Antthrush". 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for spreading the "good word," Chris! -- much appreciated. And, if I may take the liberty of asking here: please, anyone who knew or was influenced by Ted and who wishes to reach me in order to contribute your memories/thoughts to the biography project I am engaged in, please do so at homoaves AT gmail.com . Thank you!