Date: 3/2/17 4:27 am
From: Jan Pierson <jpierson...>
Subject: [Maine-birds] Peter Vickery, 1949-2017
Dear all:

Peter Vickery died early Tuesday morning, at his home in Richmond and with his wife, Barbara, at his side. Although diagnosed with esophageal cancer in September 2015, Peter was able to manage his illness remarkably well, and with a spirit and optimism that have both inspired and sustained those who loved him. As recently as last week, he was making plans to visit Matinicus Rock in June.

Readers of this listserv are familiar with Peter from his many posts here over the years, and hundreds of you know him personally—as birding acquaintances, field trip participants, co-leaders, CBC counters, colleagues, co-authors, and close friends. I can hear Peter's voice in my ear as I write this, and so I want to share a few thoughts.

My wife, Liz, and I met Peter in the late 1970s while birding on Monhegan. We were complete newbies, full of energy and ignorance, while Peter was already an accomplished and experienced birder. He was leading a group, and our interactions were brief. He was seeing some pretty cool stuff, and we didn't have much to offer in return. You can imagine our amazement when he pulled the head of a freshly dead Sora from his pocket! He’d watched the bird fall prey to a cat, and in Peter's hands its remains were now a teaching tool.

Over the next 10 years or so, we would run into Peter intermittently at Scarborough Marsh, Popham, the Kennebunk Plains, Biddeford Pool, or elsewhere our birding paths crossed. For the most part, though, Peter on the one hand and Liz and I on the other existed in separate orbits, in large part because we lived in different parts of the state. Liz and I learned much about birds in Maine and elsewhere in that period, but little about Peter.

In 1981 Liz (mostly) and I co-authored A Birder's Guide to the Coast of Maine—limited to the coast because, well, there was still a big chunk of the state with which we had little experience. The book was carried by a lot of birders for many years, but I imagine Peter (though he never expressed it to us) might have been thinking we'd written from a relative paucity of experience and limited data points. He would've been right.

The 1990s arrived, the little coastal Birder's Guide was getting long in the tooth, and Liz and I began to ponder an update, one that would cover the whole state. We put feelers out to birders around Maine for preliminary information and suggestions, including Peter. One day out of the blue Peter called and asked if he could come over. He appeared carrying a box, and he offered its contents for our use, no strings attached. “It's all yours," he said. Inside were several hundred typed pages of detailed and nearly complete descriptions for dozens of birding sites around the state, clearly compiled from a continuing effort on his part that had spanned a decade, if not two. It was a remarkable gesture, representing months of fieldwork and research we wouldn’t have to do.

That gesture on Peter's part opened the door to our relationship, ensuring success of our nascent book project, which the three of us published in 1996 as A Birder's Guide to Maine. It was a revelation of a generosity of spirit on Peter's part that Liz and I would see again and again over the next 25 years, from birding to work to family interactions with him and Barbara and their sons, Gabe and Simon.

Peter loved birds, and they were woven, inseparably and on a daily basis, into his life and his soul. I hold the joy of reminiscing over innumerable early mornings and long days with Peter in search of avian delights and discoveries: around the Ice Pond on Monhegan, on countless Maine Audubon fall pelagics, while scanning through peeps at Popham, when standing calf-deep in water at Scarborough Marsh, floating downwind of a waft of guano off Matinicus Rock or Eastern Egg, doing our dawn-to-dusk Maine Audubon Big Days, admiring the wash on the breast of a wispy-tailed Roseate Tern, freezing our tails off scanning for Dovekies from Cape Small (sharing some homemade eggnog as the reward), and walking the shore at his and Barbara's beloved Seawall Beach.

This love of Peter's never waned, even if it required, in the past year, a brief nap on the deck when we were out on the Friendship V or the Hardy III, or a snooze beside me in the car on a long drive. For many years now, Peter has always come to mind when a raptor's silhouette has passed overhead along I-95—he would never have missed it—or when passing an exit we've taken or a birding site we have visited many times together. These and many other fond memories will remain with me always—indelible, invaluable gifts from Peter.
Jan Pierson


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