Thursday, April 06, 2006

"Bad" birdwatching

Have your eyes feasted on Simon Barnes' How to be a (Bad) Birdwatcher? I thoroughly enjoyed the advance reader's edition sent to the office last year and continually indulge in tidbits during the lunch hour.

In the book, Barnes shares his irreverent take on birding and serves dollops of salty humor, even amid salient points. The Brit often made me grin and chuckle.

For instance,
The most popular activity in the industrialized part of the world is going for a walk in the country, and it's about the best, too. Something deep inside propels us outside, to move about anywhere that's a bit green: city park, suburban open space, wilderness. And here's how you do it. You put one foot after another, and when you see a bird, you stop and put your binoculars to your eyes and say, "What the bloody hell's that?"
I already had a pair of binoculars, the ones I got for horse racing. They cost HK$100, or about ten quid; not a lot, even then. They were, in snobbish birdwatching terms, or even in ordinary optical terms, complete crap. But even the crappiest binoculars are great. My binoculars were utterly brilliant. They brought the birds closer, you see.
and finally
The only real skill involved in this perfect birdwatching moment was the willingness to look. It was not skill that gave me the sight; it was habit. I have developed the habit of looking: when I see a bird, I always look, wherever I am. It is no longer a conscious decision. I might be in the middle of a conversation of amazing importance about the Direction of Our Marriage, but my eye will flick out of the window at a hint of movement, caught in the tail of my eye, and I will register: bloody hell, sparrowhawk. I might say it aloud, too--not necessarily a wise decision.
Barnes' not-so-serious perspective echoes that of Pete Dunne in his recent article about the 20 biggest changes in birding in the last 20 or so years. In the March/April issue, Dunne finished the piece with
No matter how experienced we grow, no matter how sophisticated our avocation becomes, fun always should lie at the heart of birding. If you look at the very finest birders in North American, you will note that they embody this simple truth.
Do you know of a book or a birder who embodies this truth? Please share in the comments.


Blogger Eli said...

Don't see how you could do any better than Kenn Kaufmann'sKingbird Highway. Peter Cashwell's The Verb "To Bird" is also lots of fun.

April 06, 2006 10:24 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks for recommending Cashwell, Eli. I, too, enjoyed Kingbird Highway.

April 06, 2006 11:01 AM  
Blogger Endment said...

Based on this review, I just ordered the book... Am anxiously awaiting its arrival

April 11, 2006 7:17 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Please let me know what you think of it!

April 13, 2006 12:57 PM  

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