10 books on bird watchers, conservation, wood ducks and more

A male Wood Duck on Horn Pond in Woburn, Massachusetts. Photo by Michael Rossacci

The November / December 2020 issue of BirdWatching features reviews of the following 10 books, including personal stories from bird watchers. Conservation stories of wood ducks, puffins, and more; an identification guide; and a book for aspiring naturalists.

Field notes from an accidental bird watcher, by Julie Zarankin, Douglas & McIntyre, 2020, Paperback, 256 pages, $ 18.95.

The list of authors who can say theirs first book The praise from bird watching legends Kenn Kaufman and Scott Weidensaul must be extremely brief. One member of such a club is, so to speak, Julia Zarankin, a Toronto-based writer whose work has appeared in newspapers, literary journals, and magazines (including) watching birds). Kaufman praised Zarankin’s new book, calling it a “sparkling memory” that tells “a deeply personal story that manages to shed light on universal subjects”. And Weidensaul wrote: “Alternately hilarious and moving, it traces Julia’s journey – almost against her will – into the world of birds and birds, where it is ultimately reflected in the feathered migrants, of whom she is enthusiastic.”

Zarankin fell into the avian world in his mid-30s. She writes well about her first outings as a new bird watcher with a group of experienced bird watchers and how intimidating they were. People shouted names of ducks that Zarankin did not recognize, and she felt emptied. But on the way back to her cars she saw a male, red-winged blackbird – “almost blinded by the unexpected vermilion spots on the blackbird’s shoulder boards” – and was immediately enthusiastic.

Zarankin takes readers on their birding trip – a birdathon at Point Pelee, volunteering with bands, and other experiences. Along the way, she tells stories about the joys and sorrows in life, from her family’s emigration from Russia to the failure of her first marriage to her discomfort with hair salons. It reminds us that our personal life and bird watching activities are woven together to make us who we are.

Learn more about field notes from an accidental bird watcher on Amazon!

Saving the American Amazon: The Threat to America's Most Species-Rich River System, by Ben Raines, NewSouth Books,Saving America’s Amazon: The Threat to America’s Most Species-Rich River System, by Ben Raines, NewSouth Books, 2020, Fabric, 200 Pages, $ 29.95.

I was surprised to learn from this book by Ben Raines, environmental journalist and filmmaker, that Alabama’s Mobile Tensaw Delta has the most biodiverse forests and aquatic ecosystems in North America. The species of fish, crabs, salamanders, clams, snails and turtles are more numerous than those from other places on the continent, but they are still little known and under siege. In his richly illustrated book, Raines argues convincingly that the state is running out of time to save its magnificent natural heritage.

Learn More About Saving the American Amazon: The Threat to America’s Most Species-Rich River System on Amazon!

Journal of a Young Naturalist, by Dara McAnulty, Little Toller BooksDiary of a young naturalist, by Dara McAnulty, Little Toller Books, 2020, hardcover, 228 pages, £ 16 (about $ 20).

In September 2020, 16-year-old Dara McAnulty from Northern Ireland received the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Natural Writing – one of the highest literary awards in Great Britain – for his debut book. And in 2019 he received the RSPB Medal for Conservation for Crusades against the persecution of birds of prey and the loss of biodiversity. The autistic Dara writes about his connection to nature and the animal world beyond his years. The book recounts a year of his nature watching in his home country, as well as his perspective as a teenager juggling exams, friendships and a life of campaigns.

Find out more about the diary of a young naturalist on Amazon!

Bird is the Word: A Historical Perspective on the Names of North American Birds, by Gary H. Meiter, McDonald, and WoodwardBird is the Word: A Historical Perspective on the Names of North American Birds, by Gary H. Meiter, McDonald, and Woodward, 2020, Paperback, 448 pages, $ 39.95.

This book covers the names of approximately 800 species of birds and explains who named them and why they chose the names that made them. It is “a record of the rich nomenclature of bird names along with the past 500 years Insights into the contributions that numerous naturalists have made to North American ornithology. “Author Gary Meiter also features many sidebars, including a dialogue exchange about crows and blackbirds in the movie The birds and the words feather hunters, used for herons more than a century ago.

Learn more about Bird Is the Word: A Historical Perspective on North American Bird Names on Amazon!

Birds of Paradise and Deciduous: A Guide to Identification by Phil Gregory, Illustrated by Richard Allen, Princeton University PressBirds of Paradise and Deciduous Birds: A Guide to Identification, by Phil Gregory, Illustrated by Richard Allen, Princeton University Press, 2019, Hardcover, 416 pages, $ 45.

A trip to New Guinea and Australia in search of birds of paradise and deciduous birds may not be planned for many of us, but we can all pick up a copy of this richly illustrated and authoritative book to learn more about these incredible birds. In the book, 20 years in the making, Phil Gregory, an ornithologist, tour guide and author of Birds of New Guinea, covers 108 recognized taxa from the two groups and includes photos, route maps, and notes on taxonomy, identification, ecology, and more.

Learn More About Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds: A Guide to Identification on Amazon!

Ireland Through Birds: Journeys in Search of a Wild Nation, by Conor W. O'Brien, Merrion PressIreland through birds: traveling in search of a wild nation, by Conor W. O’Brien, Merrion Press, 2020, softcover, 200 pages, $ 25.

Bird watcher since childhood Conor O’Brien takes readers on a bird watching adventure in his homeland in this unique blend of natural history and travelogue. Each chapter tells its stories about 12 of Ireland’s rarest and most elusive birds: Partridge, Corncrake, Great Skua, Hen Harrier, Jack Snipe and others. Not only does he describe the birds and landscapes they call home, but he also explores Ireland’s rich history.

Learn More About Ireland Through Birds: Travel In Finding A Wild Nation On Amazon!

Draw Like an Artist: 100 Birds, Butterflies, and Other Insects, by Melissa Washburn, Quarry BooksDraw like an artist: 100 birds, butterflies and other insects, by Melissa Washburn, Quarry Books, 2020, Paperback, 112 pages, $ 19.99.

Here’s a wonderful new visual reference for students and budding artists, academic illustrators, and anyone looking to improve their artistic skills. With 600 sketches, the contemporary, step-by-step guide demonstrates basic art concepts such as proportions, anatomy, and spatial relationships as readers learn to draw a full range of winged creatures, all shown from different perspectives. Each set of illustrations takes the reader from the beginning of the sketch lines to the finished drawing.

Learn more about Draw like an artist: 100 birds, butterflies and other insects on Amazon!

Wing Outstretched: A Leap into the World of the Wood Duck, by Greg Hoch, University of Iowa PressWith outstretched wings: a leap into the world of the wood duck, by Greg Hoch, University of Iowa Press, 2020, Paperback, 190 pages, $ 35.

Greg Hoch, a Minnesota conservationist, introduces readers to the wood duck, a bird they likely recognize but may not know well. It illustrates the complexities of wildlife and habitat management for the species once believed to be critically endangered. He leads the reader through the life phases of the most beautiful duck in the world. Hoch connects historical literature on species with modern science, and also shows how our views on conservation have changed over the past century.

Learn more about With Wings Extended: A Leap into the World of the Wood Duck on Amazon!

The Puffin Plan by Stephen W. Kress and Derrick Z. Jackson, TumblehomeThe puffin plan, by Stephen W. Kress and Derrick Z. Jackson, Tumblehome, 2020, hardcover, 184 pages, $ 16.95.

We recommended the book five years ago Project puffin (also by Steve Kress and Derrick Jackson), the story of Kress’ work to restore puffins on islands in the Gulf of Maine. The puffin plan is a version of the story for children aged 12 and over. The book, illustrated with lots of photos and maps, describes the puffin restoration work – raising chicks in coffee pot nests, transporting them to Maine, and then waiting years to see if they would come back. Spoiler alert: you did it.

Jackson, an award-winning columnist who previously worked for the Boston Globe, took third place in our 2020 BirdWatching Photography Awards for his photo of a puffin that had “a healthy load of hake” on the bill.

Learn more about The Puffin Plan on Amazon!

Birder on Berry Lane, by Robert Tougias, CharlesbridgeBirder on Berry Lane, by Robert Tougias, Charlesbridge, 2020, hardcover, 224 pages, $ 19.99.

When a person with the finely tuned birdwatcher’s senses of nature and wildlife owns a three acre garden in a typical Connecticut suburb, they will see and hear things that typical homeowners will miss. And if that bird watcher is also a writer, then you get a nice book like Birder on Berry Lane. Robert Tougias, who previously published Birdwatching in western Massachusetts and a book about pumas that writes over a year in the life of his backyard and notes the presence of birds from January to December that feed, nest and stop in his forests, streams and meadows.

Find out more about Birder on Berry Lane on Amazon!

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