Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Taking Flight with Tim - Backyard Beauty

Hello from Tim. I sense that we're all working hard to keep our spirits up these days. It's not easy for me. I'm acutely aware of the pain caused by this virus, but I hear a lot of people talking about the stress reduction they get from even simple outdoor moments of relaxation. I'm finding that too, and I'm focused on books about birds to help me along. As a teacher, I got a masters degree in environmental education from UW-Stevens Point and spent a lot of time working with kids as they developed a love of nature and an understanding of ecology. There's something about open land and wooded areas that calmed me, even while I was supervising a lot of very active children. Today I'm retired from teaching, but I still have the joy of seeing and hearing birds with a wonderful four-year-old. And even if I'm only sitting and looking at the beautiful variety of Wisconsin birds pictured in these books, I feel a little better about the world. I wish everyone the best of health, and a bit of serenity every now and then.

Charles Hagner's new Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin is simple, informative, and beautifully photographed by Brian E Small. Having to cancel Boswell's event for this book with the author at Schlitz Audubon Center was one of the big disappointments of the pandemic fallout for me. There are other great Wisconsin bird books, but the extraordinary photos, the clear organization by species, and the compact and durable design make this guide perfect for use in the field or in a living room. I also like the brief introductory information about Wisconsin landscapes, the parts of a bird, the Wisconsin "birding year," and the American Birding Association's mission and code of ethics. They talk about keeping a respectful distance from the wildlife, and of course it's also important these days to keep that same distance from the other people out enjoying nature.

David Allen Sibley, of the world renowned Sibley Field Guides, has done a remarkable new book called What It's Like to be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing - What Birds Are Doing, and Why. Its large format highlights the more than 300 dramatic new illustrations by Sibley with a clear, appealing organization. A wealth of information on the physical makeup and behavior of a wide variety of birds is presented in a beautiful design. Each double page layout focuses on one species, often with a life-sized illustration, making it a visually exciting book for sharing between kids and adults. The visuals will grab children's attention, while the facts and details about why birds do what they do will fascinate adults. This is a book to savor in your lap as you take time to look out your window.

Taking Flight: A History of Birds and People in the Heart of America by Michael Edmonds. This book captivated me! Edmonds is a wonderful writer and a member of the Wisconsin Historical Society staff. He's done his homework here. The book combines beautiful color illustrations (Audubon Prints, Edward Curtis photos, George Catlin paintings, historic maps, and much more) with exceptionally deep research. He brings together 25 years of personal work to chronicle Midwestern birds and people. His Historical Society connections gave him access to high level expertise in the fields of archaeology, history, ornithology, and American Indian spiritual practices. Edmonds writes with the skill of a historian who loves a story; he's both a birder and an intellectual at heart.

Birds of Wisconsin by Owen J. Gromme - Wisconsin's Owen Gromme has been called "the Dean of U.S. wildlife artists." His spectacular original oil paintings have often been displayed in Milwaukee. Originally published in 1963, this coffee-table sized book has descriptions of species but is mostly just beautiful reproductions of his paintings along with the traditional ranges of each bird. It's wonderful to look at, and perhaps an opportunity to learn more about a man who dedicated his life in many ways to nature.

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