We ooh and aah over their colorful plumage. We adore their antics. We marvel at their ability to soar, turn, and plummet. But how often do we admire birds for their intelligence? Read The Genius of Birds, and you’ll realize that being called a “bird brain” can be quite a compliment.
From fascinating behaviors to the minutest details of neurophysiology, author Jennifer Ackerman takes us on an incredible adventure into how birds think. Meet Alex, the African Grey Parrot who had a vocabulary of hundreds of English words, and knew how to use them. What’s more, he understood the concept, not only of numbers, but of zero.
Continue reading “Birds Are Smarter than I Thought”
Today I was going to write a post about the birding excursion I had planned for the weekend. I expected to show colorful ducks, tricky-to-ID waders, and perhaps some cute little songbirds I saw skulking in the nearby bushes. However…
I sprained my ankle last week. I wish I had a good story to relate, but I simply thought the ground was where it wasn’t. (Happily, I landed between the two thorn bushes!) As you can see, the bump was pretty impressive but the x-rays proved nothing was broken; now it’s simply a matter of time and patience. I’m sitting around with my foot elevated, popping anti-inflamatories and catching up on Facebook. I have to get better soon—our kids and grandkids are coming for Thanksgiving!
Continue reading “15 Birdy Things to Do When You Can’t Go Birding”
Backyard chickens are pretty popular, and for good reason. What other pet delivers affection, entertainment, companionship, plus fertilizer and fresh, tasty eggs? If you’ve been smitten by the burb of a motherly hen—or if you’d like to know what it’s like to raise your own flock—have I got a treat for you!
Hasten thee to the library or bookstore and pick up a copy of Once Upon A Flock: Life With My Soulful Chickens, by Lauren Scheuer. (If that name sounds familiar, you might have read her delightful blog, Scratch and Peck.)
Continue reading “Love Chickens? Read This!”
Maybe birding results from having a “collection gene.” (At least a bird collection—aka a “life list”—doesn’t take up any space on a shelf, and as a bonus, it never needs dusting.) I don’t just collect birds, I seem to also accumulate books. Like many birders I have a shelf full of delightful books, each chronicling the nature experiences of an author. From a Victorian lady’s garden journal to the a thin volume exploring the seasons of the north woods, I can immerse myself in the great outdoors from the comfort of my favorite chair.
I have to admit, however, that many of these books work equally well as sleeping pills. Reading detailed descriptions of the weeds on someone’s farm just doesn’t generate the page-turning anticipation of a good adventure story.
Continue reading “The Bluebird Effect—Not Just Another Nature Book”
Do you really need another field guide to North American birds? Yes, you do. In fact, you need two of them—the sooner, the better. How many of your current field guides have entries for the Yellow-bellied Prairie Chicken, the Blunt-billed Woodpecker, or the Split Rail? None of them, I bet.
Do your current field guides explain how to correctly assemble the parts of a bird? I’m sure they don’t. Do you own a book explaining what to say to other birders while on a field trip? No? Well then…
Continue reading “Little-Known and Seldom-Seen”
Any birder with a child in their life is eager to pass along their love of birds and nature in general. Pete and I have been blessed with a granddaughter, and even though she’s only seven months old, I’m already on the lookout for ways to share my interests.
At this tender age, she isn’t quite ready for her own binos—she’d probably try to eat them. Plus, she lives halfway across the country, so I can’t take her outside with me nearly as much as I’d like. Still, you can bet that most of the gifts from grandma this Christmas will have something to do with nature.
Continue reading “Birding Books for Kids”
Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park, by Marie Winn
There are a number of books that tell stories about nature. They describe birds and their behavior in ways that are accurate, but sadly boring. The reader is left thinking, “I guess you had to have been there.”
This book is different. Author Marie Winn writes with a gentle charm, leaving the reader smiling and content, yet yearning for more.
Winn starts with a lengthy prologue that sets the scene. I admit that I’m not overly fond of New York City, and I’ve never been to Central Park. Yet, after reading this book, I find myself eager to go and see for myself. In particular, I’d like to explore that portion of the park known as the Ramble, where one may spot migrating warblers in the elms and oaks and feed the birds at the Azalea Pond.
Continue reading “I Loved “Red-Tails in Love””
“My zucchini plants produce flowers, but no squash. Why?”
“Every year my lettuce gets bitter, then blooms. How can I keep it from bolting?”
“I set out my broccoli two weeks before the last frost, when the books tell us to, but it never got big, and it only produced tiny one-inch heads. What did I do wrong?”
“I want to be a better veggie gardener. What book should I read?”
I’d just given a two hour talk on high altitude vegetable gardening, and a crowd of people surrounded me, anxious to ask questions.
Happily, I knew the answers to all those questions. That’s because I’ve read The Book of Garden Secrets. It’s the most helpful book on vegetable gardening I’ve ever read. Since I’ve read dozens of books on growing veggies, this is high praise indeed.
Continue reading “This Book Shouldn’t Be a Secret”
I recently read a book that I just have to recommend. A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, by Nicholas Drayson, is a delightful read about love and birding.
Combine un-confessed love, complicated by a long-standing rivalry, with detailed descriptions of life and politics in Kenya. Add a generous helping of Kenyan birds. Stir with charm. It’s the perfect recipe for a thoroughly enjoyable novel.
Mr. Malik is short, round, and brown. He has a classic comb-over. At 61, he has been widowed for 8 years. Burying himself in his family-owned manufacturing company only led to a heart attack. To relieve stress, he has taken on several other pursuits, including birdwatching. Although he has never let on, he is in love with…
Continue reading “A Delightful Read”