The passing of Jim Armstrong (1931-2013) should not go unnoticed or unreflected on, especially not by birders fond of Cape May. Jim died on June 16 after a long illness.
I will forever remember Jim in the context of Belleplain State Forest, one place where he volunteered as a popular leader for New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory before, during, and after the time I worked for that organization. Jim also loved spending time on the Cape May hawk watch platform, where he was ever ready with a handshake, smile, and good conversation. He will be missed. His full obituary may be found here.
Fittingly, after the funeral service yesterday Beth and I made our way to Belleplain, where the 17-year cicadas were oddly silent after their din of recent weeks, and we found no Mississippi Kites. But other birds made up for that, singing in the cool of the evening, the sweet descending notes of the Yellow-throated Warblers from the treetops and the ethereal Wood Thrush fluting from the deep woods. The rattling trill of Worm-eating Warblers in several places, and the simple explosive notes of Acadian Flycatchers in a few. Yellow-billed Cuckoos cuck-cucking off in the distance. All music befitting a celebration or a funeral. A few of us Cape May birders spent time thinking and talking about our own mortality today, and about what we'd like done at our own funeral services. Remembrances shared by family and friends, as happened at Jim's service, certainly. Favored music and written passages, certainly. I just realized that a peaceful woods with birdsong for music would be a fine backdrop to a funeral, perhaps a gathering of friends in a favored forest of the lost companion, thinking and looking back and talking about times that were had. Add the breeze, trees swaying, the wisdom of a forest to ease the loss. It was a good place to remember Jim today.
Rest well, Jim, and peace to family and friends.