Briefly Noted: ‘The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal’

John Yow has followed up The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds (Feb, 2012) with another handy bird book written in an anecdotal style called The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal: the Secret Lives of Birds of the Southeastern Shore (The University of North Carolina Press, May 1, 2012) which is a true wonder for birders, authors and others who want to know more about specific birds and their habits than the encyclopedic bird guidebooks present.

Yow writes with a lot of humor and insight. In the Anhinga entry, for example he starts off by saying, “Thought it’s seldom the most riveting aspect of bird study, I think in this case we better start with nomenclature. Nobody seems very happy with the name ‘anhinga.'”

He’s right about that. In Florida, we preferred calling them Snake Birds because they swam (or walked) under water with nothing but their long necks above the surface, looking like snakes with bills. Others called them Water Turkeys, though I have to agree with Yow in saying they look very little like turkeys.

In this book, we’re not talking mockingbirds and meadow larks. Think about what you saw on your last trip to a Southern beach or swamp: Black-Necked Stilts, Reddish Egrets, Wilson’s Plovers, Browm  Pelicans, Forster’s Terns and Black Skimmers. Illustrated with black and white drawings, this book is not for the vacationer with a short-term “what’s that” curiosity. The well-known photo-illustrated guidebooks will do for that. Yow writes for the reader who has time to sit a spell and watch and listen.

Author Janet Lembke is spot on when she writes,  “Infusing stories, observations, and musings, Yow makes it easy to learn about these fascinating birds. This book might well lead ‘armchair birders’ to become active birders, and eventually, conservationists.” There’s so much more to a bird than simply knowing what it is, and this book delivers the secrets that it usually takes a while to discover on your own.

Malcolm

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