birding by book

okay lets try this…
z.sibley.birding.basics When I started trying to figure out what was IN the wildlife sanctuary in Methuen , I went looking for all my old Audubon nature guides and found that I had apparently donated them away ages ago.

I had also been trolling for local birders to pester. The first thing I asked was which book was ‘THE’ book these days.   Sibley is the HOT author in the field right now. So I picked up his Birds of Eastern North Americaas well as this little number Birding Basics which I highly recommend, as it has stopped me from asking a bunch of newbie questions and even answered some I hadn’t thought to ask.   I still wanted a pocket guide to have in my pocket for those occasions when I’m sitting in a boat staring at a damn little brown bird that is sitting in front of me clear as day and I still can’t blood well figure out what it is….so I picked up Birds of Massachusetts.

Nice, but there’s no armchair reading in that pile except for this little goodie   Good Birders Don’t Wear White: 50 Tips From North America’s Top Birders.

To enjoy an activity vicariously you need to read personal accounts of people who REALLY make it a large part of their life.  You can’t swing a dead pigeon in birding without hitting a book by an obsessive birder and most of them are highly readable. I taste tested these from the library electing to buy and only two of them so far.

I am happily reading  A supremely bad idea : three mad birders and their quest to see it all by Luke Dempsey who has been compared to Patrick McManus and Bill Bryson. I always go for the funny in anything if I can find it.

Birding like any hobby can be highly competitive. Who am I kidding, it IS competitive, it can’t NOT be. Even if you are only competing with yourself and mother nature. One of the formal competitions is the North American Big Year which is as you would expect to see how many species you can see inside of one year. (in case you are wondering 745 is the record.)
Kingbird highway : the story of a natural obsession that got a little out of hand by Kenn Kaufman, documents his own personal big year in 1973.


The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik, tells the stories of the three top contenders in the 1998 American Big Year.

Birder Phoebe Snetsinger famously saw 8,400 species between the day in her 40s when she was diagnosed with 1 year to live and 18 years later when she was killed in a bus accident birding in Madagascar. Her biography is quite fascinating Life List: A Woman’s Quest for the World’s Most Amazing Birds by Olivia Gentile

The other book I bought is The grail bird : the rediscovery of the Ivory-billed woodpecker by Tim Gallagher.

Indeed there are other books on the search for the Ivory Bill such as Ivorybill hunters : the search for proof in a flooded wilderness by Geoffrey E. Hill and In Search of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker by Jerome A. Jackson

I found Gallagher’s wider reaching, it’s not just about hunting for evidence of the Ivory-Bill but about the history of hunting for the bird and this entire obsession of hunting for this ghost bird. Anyway I found I couldn’t put it down once I started it.

Speaking of ghost birds, In Hope is the thing with feathers : a personal chronicle of vanished birds, Christopher Cokinos covers an entire range of ghost birds and what we are doing to completely destroy all hope of their existence.

Well that’s what’s in my birding book pile.  Once I start the annual dust off I may uncover a pile of books from my past worth mentioning.

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