The Birdwatchers by Theo Wolf
I’m a bird lover in that I like to watch the birds in my yard. I don’t let my cats eat them though, which tends to make me unpopular at times. I can live with that. I enjoy following the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and their various bird cams. Once I even signed on as member of a local bird watching group, but was too shy to go. In my old age, when I’m in a chair in the home, I’ll be the first one at the birdfeeder window unless there’s a resident therapy cat. I’ll have dibs on him above all else
A while back I posted another list of bird books. With the release of a fun, new birding memoir I decided the list needed a full sequel. Here’s the new list then.
Neil Hayward’s new book is fun and funny romp thru bird watching with a side story of romance. A Brit with degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, he is at a crossroads in life and decides to take the one less traveled. Until it becomes more traveled. Nearly trampled, in fact, with birders! Accidentally Neil breaks the record for the “Big Year”–seeing the most species of birds in a year. This is a fun read and birders will enjoy it. Lost Among the Birds by Neil Hayward.
I kept hearing great things about H is for Hawk. Finally, last month, I got around to reading it–well, listening to the audio of it. It was amazing! The descriptions of the birds, of training them–an exhaustive process for both the person and the bird was truly unbelievable. The horrible abuse suffered by author T.H. White (The Once and Future King) was a direct contrast to the author’s happy childhood in which her desire to own and work a goshawk was accepted and lovingly indulged to the point that she was allowed to spend a day out alone with aristocratic birds of prey handlers.
Like getting to step into upstairs world of an Edwardian Country House would be for me, this day immersed in the language, manners and rituals of the men was a life-altering experience for Helen in a good way. It was this part of the book that captured my attention–that and when she finds, at a precocious age indeed, White’s book The Goshawk and gets to buy and read it. I loved that her parents trusted her to read a grown up book the way mine always did. This book and the experience with the men handling their birds of prey, let Helen into the magic world of her dreams and helped her make it all real.
There is so much in this book that is marvelous, but I know many people who read here are conservative. I will warn you that White’s childhood left him with the desire to inflict pain and revel in it. This penchant, as well as his private lifestyle choice (I don’t want a bunch of spam so try to follow those euphemisms) are both discussed frankly. That a child of, say 9 or 10, could be entranced by the descriptions of the birds and their flight and training makes “most” of this book suitable for a family read-aloud. I think, though, that nearly any family would want to pre-read it and mark the more adult passages either to skip or to briefly and matter-of-fact-ly explain as they see fit. Each family is different, but I feel many, many families would be fascinated by the birds lives and their training.
To read more in the Telegraph’s story on Helen and Mabel, click here.
If everything you know about American bird-watching and birds in general is tied up in words John James Audubon, then this is the book for you. This book provides a very readable look at the development of bird-protection, bird-identification and birding culture in general here in America
Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding by Scott Weidensaul
Fiction and Picture Books
Owls in the Family by Farley Mowatt is a family read-aloud not to be missed. Canada’s premier nature writer spins the tale that will delight bird lovers and Harry Potter fans alike. Who wouldn’t want a pet owl? Well, after reading and enjoying this story you’ll know!
Flora and the Flamingo, Flora and the Peacock, Flora and the Penguin all by Molly Idle. Delightful books for bedtime reading that you will all enjoy over and over again. If the craze at your house this summer is for everything flamingo, then click here to see my flamingo fashions post!