Volume 89, Number 1
January-March 1972


Ed N. Harrison and Jack C. von Bloeker Jr.
Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology
1100 Glendon Avenue
Los Angeles, California

The passing of J. R. "Bill" Pemberton at a Tijunga, California, rest home on 1 July 1968 after a long, lingering illness, brought to a close one of the most colorful careers in the annals of western natural science. Born in Los Angeles, California, 22 September 1884, ...

His early boyhood years were spent in Los Angeles. The family home was situated at the corner of of Pico Boulevard and Berendo Street and he attended the nearby public elementary school. He and his father were close companions and from his father he learned the importance of close and careful field observations while participating in frequent natural history explorations in a once forested region that later became Westlake Park but today is known as MacArthur Park. In 1895, at the age of eleven, Bill took up the study of ornithology in all seriousness and from then on until the time he suffered a serious paralytic stroke in 1960 he collected bird skins, nests and eggs wherever he traveled.

Beginning in 1929, Bill used his yacht, the 'Petrel', and later the 'kinkajou', to conduct periodic explorations of the fauna of the islands off the eastern Pacific Coast from Point Conception, California south to latitude 18 degrees off the west coasat of Mexico, and also in the Gulf of California. On these expeditions he was accompanied by recognized scientists from a number of scientific institutions, including Alfred M. Bailey, William H. Burt, Stephen A. Glassell, Ed N. Harrison, H.N Lowe, George H. Lowery, Robert J. Niedrach, William J. Sheffler, Kenneth E. Stager, Adriaan J. van Rossem, George Willett, and others. Most of these men publishedd on their discoveries made on these cruises in a series of technical papers too numerous to enumerate here. Alfred M. Bailey's popular account of the Pemberton expedition of Spring 1941,titled "Cruise of the Kinkajou," appeared in the National Geographic magazine for September 1941.

For several consecutive years, particularly in the 1930s, he specialized in studying the California Condor, living with the great vultures in their native habitat, day and night on end. He squatted or half-sat for seemingly endless hours in foxholes, pits, and shallow trenches that he and his associates, Ed Harrison and Sidney B. Peyton, dug and covered over with canvass, brush, leaves, and dirt, with small apertures just above ground level in order to make motion pictures of the condors while they fed, drank, bathed courted their mates, and performed other behavioral antics. The pictures he prodcued were of such superior quality that in due time Bill became nationally recognized as an authority on the habits and behavior of these survivors of the Pleistocene Epoch.

1902. Notes from about San Francisco. Condor 4: 46.
1907. Nesting of the Pine Siskin in California. Condor 9: 18-19.
1908. Field notes from central California. Condor 10: 50.
1908. Some notes on the Great Blue Heron. Condor 10: 78-81.
1908. Junco hyemalis hyemalis. Condor 10: 92.
1908. Northern range of the Phainopepla. Condor 10: 238.
1908. Notes on the western Gnatcatcher. Condor 10: 239.
1909. Western Robin at Novato. Condor 11: 207.
1909. Wilson Phalarope near San Francisco. Condor 11: 207.
1910. Some bird notes from Ventura County, California. Condor 12: 123-125.
1910. Notes on the Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Condor 12: 123-125.
1915. A partial list of the summer resident land birds of Monterey County. Condor 17: 189-201.
1916. Nesting of the Western Bluebird at Ventura. Condor 18: 86.
1916. Variation in the broken wing stunt by a Roadrunner. Condor 18: 203.
1916. Nesting of the LeConte Thrasher. Condor 18: 219-221.
1916. Grammatical errors in vernacular names. Condor 18: 227-228.
1916. Snakes as nest robbers. Condor 18: 233.
1917. Notes on the western Grasshopper Sparrow. Condor 19: 24-25.
1922. A large Tern colony in Texas. Condor 24: 37-48.
1927. The American Gull-billed Tern breeding in California. Condor 29: 253-258.
1928. Additions to the known avifauna of the Santa Barbara Islands. Condor 30: 144-148.
1928. The nesting of Howard's Grouse. Condor 30: 347-348.
1929. Some new records for Santa Barbara Island. Condor 31:37.
1943. Black and White Warbler at Altadena, California. Condor 45:37.
1952. Vaux Swift on Santa Rosa Island, California. Condor 54:62.
1952. Inland record of the White-winged Scoter from California. Condor 54: 116.

Robert Jan 'Roy' van de Hoek
May 30, 2005
Biography and obituary combined together for a naturalist and scientist of southern California from an era of past history enlightens us all about the story of the fauna and flora of Los Angeles County and southern California.

Would any birder of today, in 2005, have recognized the grea explorations that occurred to the California Channel Islands.

It is fitting that Ed Harrison and Jack von Bloeker wrote about John Roy Pemberton as he has now since passed away, and so yet another great naturalist, vertebrate zoologist, and scientist has passed away. All the classical naturalists are dying off. Who will do natural history and descriptive ecology in the future?