1/03/2010

Reading is for the Birds


For you, gentle reader, who is also a birder this will not be news.  But, for those of you who are thinking about becoming a birder, be forewarned. Being a birder means that you will also become a collector of all things birdish. Books. Artwork. Decoys. Sculptures. Carvings. CD's. DVD's. Binoculars. Tripods. Cameras. Bird Bags. Bird Magazines. Christmas Ornaments. Boxer Shorts. Socks.
There is no end to the collectibles that will likely become part of your birding life!
My personal favourite from the above (very personal) list however, is the bird books. Shorebird decoys are a close second, but books for now, reign supreme.
I have five different guides that I carry with me in the car...a Sibley's, a Stokes, a National Geographic, a Peterson's, and a Smithsonian. You just never know which one will help with the positive identification of that little brown bird with the red breast eating a worm in your garden!



The number of guides grows with every special birding trip I take, as I must also have a regional guide to the regional birds. The ring billed gull found on the east coast of Maryland must be verified as the same ring billed gull found at the Allumette Island garbage dump. Well, perhaps not exactly the same gull, but a cousin for shore sure.
I also love going to used bookstores, yard sales, and flea markets. It was at one of these that I found my favourite book:  a 1936 Birds of America, with colour plates by Louis Agassiz Fuertes and the pithiest commentary I've ever read by the likes of Edward Forbush, Herbert Job, William Finley, Nelson Nichols, George Gladden and J. Ellis Burdick!  (If ever there was a list of names that go with the job, this would be one of them!)  Back to the commentary...writing about the Scoter, Mr. Forbush states, " As food, Ducks of this genus are regarded as nourishing but not very appetizing. Some writers have gone so far as to stigmatize them as abominable; but the people of Cape Cod are able, by parboiling, etc., to make a dish of even the old birds, which, though it may "taste a little like old crow" to the uninitiated, serves as an agreeable variant to a diet of salt fish. A cultured Boston lady assures me that when she attempted to cook a Coot it drove everybody out of the house, and that she had to throw away the kettle that it was cooked in."
The entire volume is written in this manner, and I have spent many happy hours chuckling away on the couch with Forbush, Burdick , Gladden et al!



There are also lots of books about birders. The Big Year  by Mark Obmascik is a great read about people who become obsessed with their life lists. Then there's the Birder's Bedside Book of Birds, a collection of all things birdy,  Birdseed Cookies by Janis Jaquith, anything written by Pete Dunne is great, and the list goes on and on.


Old books. New books. Any books really, about birds, for birds, and by Bird.
Please consider yourself duly cautioned. And if you've read any good bird books lately, let me know!

7 comments:

Murr Brewster said...

I guess I just don't have enough books yet. Today I spotted a bird outside my window that is not among my normals (there being only four or five of those), so I fetched my Peterson's and had at it. Fifteen minutes later I don't even know if it was a wobbler, let alone a fall wobbler or an immature wobbler or a confused spring wobbler or a Brewster's wobbler (although I could make a case for that one). But I am not discouraged, nay, nay! I am heartened by the prospect of dispelling ignorance, which should keep me occupied for a very long time.

Susan said...

OMG Murr, YOU MADE ME SPURT TEA OUT MY NOSE...AGAIN!!I think you should write a bird book ...any birdledo...and I'll buy several!

Murr Brewster said...

Doing my part to rinse noses, all over the world.

robin andrea said...

What a fantastic collection of bird books you have. We lightened our load of books when we left Washington in 2008. I'm going to have to rebuild our collection when we finally settle down. I will definitely revisit this post to see what looks interesting. The only bird book we saved was our Sibleys.

Susan said...

Thanks Robin...the photos only show a few of them...it is my "latte factor"...meaning I can't resist, and who cares if I'll never be wealthy! But I DO love them, and with all the new technology, the kindle readers, and so on, I think they're even more worth collecting now!

Kelly said...

haha! had to laugh at Murr's comment! ...I have almost every book you've shown here except the Birds of Canada and a Bird Book for the Pocket (but I'd like to have that vintage book...). I even have the book/box underneath it. Mine has two books inside, one of which is a beautiful journal that I use for new backyard sightings...don't you just love that artwork!! I love my bird books too. They've taken over my office...

Janean said...

so warned.....but i keep hearing the chirps tantalizing me to at least peek into their world. :)