Read: The Thing With Feathers

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You might remember my post about Noah Strycker from earlier this year. Strycker is one of the most recognized birders in the world. In fact, he once set the single-year “Big Year” record and documented the experience in Birding Without Borders. I find his writing to be entirely consumable and his knowledge of birds is, of course, beyond what most of us will ever know.

The Thing With Feathers covers a range of species and what makes those individual birds so unique. From pigeons and their incredible homing ability to the surreal artistry of the bowerbird to the astonishing life of the albatross. These species are forcing humans to rethink learning and are also shining a light on birds in ways not seen before. I found the chapter on hummingbirds to be especially poignant as my life in Wyoming was fraught with epic aerial battles that would force us off our front porch. Wearing red was a guaranteed visit from Mr. Rufous who took offense at any slight to his/her territory.

The truth is, humans are destroying the planet and everything on it. There is far too much evidence to sway me to think otherwise. Bird species are dropping at alarming rates, so if you have an interest in our feathered friends now is the time to get involved, whatever that means to you. Simple observation, list building, eBird participation, bird count participation, sketching birds, or maybe even ponying up for a shotgun and blasting them from the sky. In the infamous words of my mother who was teaching me to hunt “If it flies, it dies.” (I’m not recommending the shotgun part, and I haven’t hunted birds in thirty years.)

I for one feel fortunate to have found birding. I know it seems a bit dorky, and yes, most people could care less, but there is something about paying attention. What is here and why? What was here? Things like migration, time of year, range, and the rest feel like a secret language I’m just beginning to learn. Get it, read it.

Comments 4

  1. I still don’t class myself as a birder or wildlife photographer in any sense but for the past few weeks I’ve been wandering the local riverbank photographing birds – herons, egrets, kingfisher, kites, as well as beavers, and the one-off otter. It’s amazing what’s so close to home if you really take the time to look.

    None of the photos I’ve taken are any good but the process of taking it very slowly, quietly, and needing to pay very close attention to the environment is very enjoyable.

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  2. I recently finished “Eye of the Albatross” by Carl Safina. I learned a lot, though I’m guessing a few things have changed, since it was written over 20 years ago. Still, I think you’d enjoy. A lot of it is about man’s inhumanity to birds.

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