Bird books aren’t for birders alone

The Armchair BirderI’ve never been officially bird-watching. I do, however, keep binoculars on my desk and through them I’ve seen a Cooper’s Hawk on my backyard fence and a Great Blue Heron on my neighbor’s garage roof.  I’ve watched blue jays and finches perched on the telephone and cable wires beyond the window.

Such minor experience let alone interest in bird-watching doesn’t equal the number of bird books I’m accumulating.

Another odd aspect: I don’t read the books front-to-back. I snack on them. I read random sections, sometimes a paragraph or two, or maybe a chapter. I’ll look at the illustrations.  This happens while waiting for dinner to cook or for a few minutes before I start reading a novel. Something like that.

Here are two bird books, recently published, that have caught my snacking appetite. They’re written with the personal, inclusive touch of a bird-watching, bird-loving author.

The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds
by John Yow
The University of North Carolina Press.
35 essays recount the author’s backyard sightings. His observations provide easy-to-digest insights on the behavior of common birds. Illustrations are from Audubon’s The Birds of America. I’ve read about the Whip-Poor-Will, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, American Crow, Osprey and Pileated Woodpecker, plus other birds. Yow’s essays are interesting without overwhelming us with  technical details. 

Crow PlanetCrow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Little, Brown and Company
Haupt writes in a memoir-like style as she shares her insights on this black bird that’s as common as grass. She invitingly reveals its unique behaviors and, also, through its everywhere presence, our urban ignorance. She writes:  “This is a guarantee: Select a subject, obtain a proper field guide, study it well, and you will see more than you ever have of your chosen subject — and more than that besides.” This is a thoughtful book about our connection (or lack of it) to the natural world as we charge through busy city lives.

Another book by Haupt I’ve enjoyed is Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds, published by Sasquatch Books in 2001.