I look forward to meeting participants and signing copies of Nature's Ambassador at Mass Audubon's 2017 Birders Meeting this weekend on the UMass Boston campus!
Although Thornton Burgess was best known as the children's author of 70 books and a daily newspaper column, his contributions to the 20th century study and appreciation of birds were impressive. In the 1920s he used his WBZ radio program, one of the first in the country, to help scientists collect field information from his listeners. In those rural times, Americans were accustomed to observing wildlife as a daily habit. As a result, Burgess was able to gather and pass on invaluable information about mocking birds, snowy owls and other birds. At Burgess' request, for example, his listeners provided several thousand specimens of ruffed grouse for ornithologist Dr. Alfred Gross's study on avian parasites.
Thornton Burgess assisted Dr. Gross in his annual count of the dwindling heath hen population on Martha's Vineyard. When only one bird remained, Burgess and Gross captured, banded, and released it. US Fish and Wildlife historian Mark Madison has said that to his knowledge this is the only instance of such documentation of the last individual bird of an extinct species.
Nature's Ambassador: The Legacy of Thornton W. Burgess is the first complete biography of this remarkable naturalist. In addition to fascinating little-known details of the author's work, this biography contains excerpts from first-person interviews with Wayne Petersen, Betty Anderson, Dr. Tom French, Mark Wilson, and others well known to Audubon members and bird lovers.
Hope to see you this weekend!