Tuesday, March 16, 2010

OBT: Sad Day . . .

Today Kelly Bryan reported on the passing of one of sweetest, finest ladies i've ever met, Pansy Espy. I don't believe there will ever be another quite like her. Kelly did a wonderful job of eulogizing her on the birding list-servs today, so i'll let him tell the story:

Texas and world birders,

It is with deep regret and great sadness that I announce the passing of Pansy Espy of Fort Davis. She was 94 years young. She was introduced to birds by her aunt (Lou Evans) in the early 1960s in the Gila River area of New Mexico and she started birding in the Fort Davis area during this same time. She was the first person to bird Madera Canyon (since Harry Oberholser) and the upper elevations of the Davis Mts. on the U up and U down Ranch, now the Davis Mts. Preserve. Don McIvor, former owner of that ranch, was at one time her son-in-law. Although the late Frances Williams started the local Christmas Bird Count here in 1959, Pansy first participated on December 20, 1968 (along with Jody Miller and Ro Wauer among others) and seldom missed a count until 5 or 6 years ago. She and Jody Miller published the first bird checklist for the Davis Mountains in 1973. She always enjoyed taking birders out to see her birds whenever they asked. Pansy was a close personal friend for the past 20 years and will be missed. Fortunately, I have a copy of her bird records and would like to highlight a few of her entries.

She was exceptionally excited to see a Swallow-tailed Kite over Fort Davis on a daily basis from August 25 to September 4, 1966. No one would believe the Common Black-Hawks she reported from the Davis Mountains. After several years of claiming such, Frances Williams scheduled a trip down to see for herself, or in her words to see the Zone-tailed Hawks. Sure nuff they were black hawks. She first noted Mountain Plovers on her ranch (on the flats) south of Fort Davis in 1973, and after noting their behavior, was sure they were nesting then. The first actual nest located here was near the highway in May of 1979 and the young birds were banded by Tony Gallucci on June 11, 1979. She monitored them annually until the last successful nesting in June of 1993. I was with her and photographed the last known chicks from the area on that trip. She never stated such but I could see the sadness in her in subsequent years as the plover population eventually disappeared.

For those of you who have had the opportunity to bird in Madera Canyon and the Davis Mts. Preserve, the stream flowed year round until the early 1990s. On October 6, 1969 Pansy found American Dipper at the old Fisher Place just downstream from Hwy 118. She later told me she actually had 2 that day but thought no one would believe her if she reported them both in her notes! One of the most dynamic entries in her journal was the Black-capped Vireo. She was on the H. C. Espy Ranch off the Boy Scout Road on May 5, 1977 and it reads "I was creeping through the underbrush when I found this warbler-sized bird singing like mad. I yelled to Jody (Miller) - come help me identify a small bird with a black head, black face, strong eye-ring, yellow wing bars and white breast. Jody couldn't get there before I lost him but I had seen a Black-capped Vireo in the creek below Duncan Lake. What an excitement!" Pansy was responsible for the discovery of the White-eared Hummingbirds in upper Limpia Canyon. In June of 1993 she called me and said come go with me to the mountains. She took me to the cabin of Clyde and Ruth Ann Smith where I photographed two adult females and one sub-adult individual on June 20. That is less then 1/4 mile from my property. I was happy to show her several lifers, among them the adult male Cape May Warbler in Davis Mts. State Park one spring. But the one I will remember most was the Greater Pewee that wintered in Limpia Crossing a few years ago. She sat in the car over an hour as I was photographing that individual.

I would like to suggest donations to the TOS preserve fund in her honor, especially for those of you with a past association with her. If any of you would like to send a card to the family, email me and I will get a proper address for you. Be sure to mention that you are a birder. It would be nice if the birding populace responded in volume to show just how much we loved her.
Kelly B Bryan
Fort Davis, Texas

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