Saturday, November 4, 2017

Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White Lisa A. White and Geffrey A. Gordon editors

Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White Lisa A. White and Geffrey A. Gordon editors. New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2017. 256pp ISBN: 978-0-544-87609-5

This collection of 37 short anecdotes is a follow up to the original Good Birders published several years ago. Any compilation of this many pieces will have several intentions and sentiments. This one could be viewed as having three broad themes.

This first is a grouping of articles that are essentially “feel good” and “please be nice” stories. What the authors are trying to inform the reader of is that we should enjoy birding at several or one level. We should impart what we’ve seen and know without taking an air of superiority. They tend towards the syrupy and with too much cliché. Nine of the articles have the word “love” with in the first three letters of the title.

This is not to say that revealing one’s passion is wrong or that reminding the reader that many species are imperiled or that they don’t make nature like they used to. It is all true but the presentations were pretty cloying.

Another theme is more technical. Several of the articles provide some “how to” along with reasons for why. Within this grouping are articles that are more appealing to my own interests. For those of us who cannot go to the Galapagos or Siberia we make do with what we can more locally. That means being less concerned with how many different species we can chart to our “Life Birds” and more about the behavior and habitat of the birds around us. Bird listing reminds me of collecting baseball cards. Becoming more knowledgeable of the birds around us is thrilling to me.

Finally there were a smattering of articles about the science of birds. This would include some anatomy, geography and evolutionary history for example. These also were more to my liking because they address some of interests described above. Knowing the geography for instance, provides an understanding of ecological niches which in turn allows the reader to not only locate certain birds but also to understand how they adapt.

Several of the writers are on the staff of Bird Watchers Digest and many others are regular contributors. This is obvious when reading the book. It is similar in style and structure to that nearly whimsical periodical.

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