We reviewed field guides about oceanic birds, the birds of Massachusettes, the birds of Wisconsin, a biography on George Bird Grinnell, and more books in the “Bookshelf” section of our November/December 2019 issue.
This essential new guide to the birds of the oceans is both beautiful and practical. It includes more than 2,200 color photos of more than 270 bird species and is chock-full of field marks, range maps, tips on how to observe and identify birds at sea, and more. Most of all, it offers a sense of wonder about the world’s petrels, albatrosses, and other seabirds — creatures that live out their lives above the waves.
Who knows where conservation would be today if George Bird Grinnell had not come along. In his 30s, distressed by the loss of bird species, Grinnell founded the first Audubon Society, and during the early 1900s, in his late 50s, he advocated for the establishment of Glacier National Park. Later, he was a champion of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Thanks to author John Taliaferro, we have a thorough, engaging account of this environmental trailblazer.
This slim book, first published in France in 2018, is now available to North American readers. The authors, an ornithologist and a philosopher, suggest through a series of short essays that birds can teach people a lot about life, if we pay attention. For example, they consider whether art is something only humans create or whether birds’ nests and plumage are also forms of art. Elsewhere, they muse about the incredible navigational abilities of godwits and cuckoos — and Mongolian nomads, who can find their way in the desert without a GPS unit.
John R. Nelson is as talented a writer as you will find in the birding community today, so I was delighted to learn of this new book, a collection of 24 of his essays. Among them is “Whip-poor-will Synchronicity,” first published several years ago in this magazine. As the subtitle of Flight Calls says, Nelson explores Massachusetts through its birds, but you don’t have to be a Bay State birder to appreciate these essays. They convey a universal sense of wonder about birds, style, humor, and a smart mix of natural and cultural history and human foibles that anyone will enjoy.
While depictions of birds can be traced back 40,000 years, the author of this stunning book focuses on the last 400 years — the peak of bird art. As you would expect, the book features well-known artists like Catesby, Wilson, Audubon, Lear, Fuertes, Peterson, and our own David Sibley. Plus we meet equally talented creatives such as Lilian Marguerite Medland, Raymond Harris-Ching, Hilary Burn, and others who push the boundaries of birds in art.
Former BirdWatching editor and current head of Bird City Wisconsin Chuck Hagner has written the most recent addition to the series of state field guides from the ABA, and no surprise — it’s terrific. The book begins with an overview of the Badger State’s birds and landscapes as well as a month-by-month summary of birding in the state. The bulk of the book features species accounts for 262 regularly occurring species, 36 carefully chosen rare species (including Kirtland’s Warbler and Whooping Crane), and one casual species (Purple Sandpiper). The accounts describe where and when to look for the birds — essential info for any Wisconsin birder.