Cover Image: When Birds Are Near

When Birds Are Near

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Member Reviews

Thank you to the author, Cornell University Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This collection of essays is a great read for anyone interested in birding, or who has a birder in their life - you will understand their passion much better after having read this book. I like being out in nature, and I don't mind tagging along with my SO, but now I "get it".  Of course, not all the essays appeal to the same degree, but all of them provide great insight into a pursuit that is often solitary and requires persistence - and can give great joy.
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I love bird watching, to  a degree! I also enjoy reading about other bird watchers impressions of birds they see in their neighborhoods, or travels. This book contains 26 accounts, by 26 different authors- enough that, even if an account wasn't all that appealing to me, there were others I could enjoy reading! If you enjoy birds and maybe little glimpses into the authors lives, you'll love this! I found quite a few chapters in this book worth note: Spotted Owls was interesting,  Problem with Pretty Birds, Red-headed Love Child, Wild Swans,'Guardians of the Garden. Even though these were my favorites, there are easily more that enjoyed nearly as much! Great read! make a fine gift for a birder, I think!
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A wonderfully written group of essays.A look at bird watching at the people who bird watch and their personal stories.Really interesting to learn about bird watchers a unique group of people,#netgalley#cornellpress
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When Birds are Near is a collection of twenty-six essays, not just about birds but also about the people who watch them, care about them and connect with them. At their best these essays capture the magic of being a bird watcher, finally seeing that elusive species that you’ve spent all day searching for, the frustration of seeing habitats destroyed and people who don’t care, the wonder of connecting with another living thing. I’m a birder myself, although my birding is of the relatively tame and local variety. And yet I recognised myself in several of these essays, felt seen in several others, and wished I’d been present in still others.

I didn’t enjoy all the essays equally. Some were better written than others; some I just naturally connected with because they so perfectly capture my own experiences. That’s to be expected in a volume with many authors. But there is something in here for everyone whatever level of birding they’ve experienced or wish to experience - even if just vicariously. An account of protecting nesting birds in the backyard mixes with a tale of a risky expedition through druglord controlled territory in Mexico in search of a possibly extinct woodpecker.

I wish the book had a more attractive and vibrant cover, not to mention at least one illustration per essay. I was lucky enough to read this as an eARC (thanks @netgalley and @cornelluniversitypress). Hopefully the final published version will come complete with illustrations and a more appealing cover. The essays deserve it.

If you are a birder I think you’ll enjoy this book. If you have a birder in your life this will make an ideal gift for them. But read it yourself as well - it’ll help you understand their passion.
“I love the sense of wonder I feel as I watch them live out their lives...I love the cyclical nature of their lives...But most of all I love them because they make me feel alive in a way nothing else can.”
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This absorbing collection of memories from a wide variety of writers in the Americas brings us bird observations and tells us a lot about life. Rob Nixon recalls the trip and the guide on the occasion that he saw Spotted Owls. Elizabeth Bradfield, poet, tells us how whale-watching got her interested in seabirds. Andrew Furman muses about the migrating painted buntings that interrupt a domestic discussion by enlivening the bird feeder. WHEN BIRDS ARE NEAR, somehow everything else stops.

The citizen naturalist: the unpaid, untrained observer, is becoming critical for observations. So we are told in this fact-filled, wry look at our possibly cheapest pastime, bird-watching. A rare bird came to New York and popped in for a bite to eat, drawing birdwatchers in the area to haunt a park in the hope of spotting this dainty tourist. Cranes grandly stalk a riverbank in Nebraska, seen by J. Drew Lanham who demonstrates that people of many kinds enjoy birds.  A snowy owl travels from the Arctic to Cape Cod, seen by beachcombers. Another beachcomber on the Falklands spots penguins.

Jenn Dean reflects upon the history of Bermuda, and an oil-rich nocturnal bird eaten by mariners and settlers until it vanished: the cahow or Bermuda petrel. Then he tells us about the couple of people who were determined to find this bird, if it still existed, and preserve it despite the utter removal of all wilderness on Bermuda. And the best part is, you can now go to YouTube as I did, and watch cahows on a nest cam. This was my favourite story in the book, drawing together history and heritage from the days of exploration and piracy, modern history, and conservation history.

Susan Fox Rogers has edited WHEN BIRDS ARE NEAR: Dispatches from Contemporary Writers. She brings together tales of one bird or of a day spotting a multitude of species. Women and men, people of colour or otherwise, trekking the Sierra Madres, sailing a yacht or sitting at home, all can get involved. Tim Gallagher brings us the most sobering tale, of how drugs gangs are burning down old growth forest in Mexico, every year making it more dangerous for him to mount an expedition to find woodpeckers. We can’t all travel, nor risk danger. But we can read about the wonderful bird species, and their champions, their friends, their surprised spotters on a casual picnic. Make time to see the birds. They are your heritage.
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An interesting bunch of essays on birds or birding life and the memories associated with them.  Each chapter is by a different writer, and tells us a personal story that related to each one of them.
From birding across the country or even out of the country, these stories bring us knowledge of their favorite birds, the memories these bring up for the writers and for all the love of nature in some form, whether in a city, on the plains, shores or forests.
 Well worth a read if you are a birder trying to define your roll in this exclusive club.
I am not a birder per say, but enjoy everything about birds and enjoy seeing the many that I have just around my house, and it made me more aware when I am out and about. I did a lot of looking up birds while reading this book.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Cornell University Press, Comstock Publishing Associates for the copy of this book.
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When Birds are Near is a collection of twenty-six essays, all focussed on birds, all written by serious birders. If they have anything in common it might be a feeling of avidity: whether the writers are commenting on the species visiting their backyard feeders or describing the lengths they have gone to in order to track down some rare sighting for their life-list, these are no casual observers; these are people with immense mental catalogues of field marks and birdsong, accumulated through years of study and experience in the field, and who are so in tune with the variety of birdlife surrounding them, that they have a heightened sense of their own place in nature. Not surprisingly, this enhanced communion with wildness makes for many essays lamenting humanity's deleterious effects on the natural world, but this collection is not a downer – there are many beautiful moments of awe, hope, and humour. The collection is a little uneven – I liked some essays much more than others – but there is much more good than otherwise and earns a solid four stars overall.
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When Birds Are Near is a collection of 26 essays focusing not on birds and their behaviour, but on their watchers. This is a book about the appeal of birds, and the effects birds have on the emotions and lives of birdwatchers.

In her introduction, anthology editor Susan Fox Rogers explains her goal was to collate field reports which also reflected on “love, family, life, and death.” Birds are the occasion, not the subject.

So what’s in here? Topics include the shame of misidentifying birds in front of beautiful women, teaching a nighthawk to fly, leading tours in Alaska, taxidermy, birdwatching in the city, John James Audubon, playing god in the garden, being a wildlife steward, and failing to find the bird sought.

For me, the highlight was Jenn Dean’s ‘The Keepers of the Ghost Bird’: an account of the rediscovery of the Bermuda petrel and the naturalists on Nonsuch Island. Three other standouts are Sara Crosby’s ‘The Black and White’, David Gessner’s ‘The Snowy Winter’, and Alison Világ’s ‘Extralimital’.

Novelist and birder Jonathan Franzen wraps up the collection with humour. I particularly liked the comedy over the masked duck.

Birds spotted in this book include California Condors, Sandhill Cranes, Spotted Owls, Snowy Owls, Painted Buntings, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Greater Prairie-chickens.

Among the golden eggs, however, are a couple of turkeys: a dream sequence, gushing over a son’s accomplishments, some gauche phrasing and punctuation, and an over-dramatic military encounter in the jungle. Several essays have awkward opening paragraphs. There are certainly excellent essays in When Birds Are Near, but it’s not an even read.
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This is an excellent book for the bird enthusiast. This was like many books wrapped up in one, with different authors telling their own personal stories about finding birds that make them the happiest, and that may be rare.  I could feel the excitement along with each story, and wanted to get right out and enjoy the joy, music, and shows that the birds put on in my own backyard.
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Loved it! I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this book! I took notes. "Sometimes the best bird experiences are defined less by a rare sighting than by quality of presnece, some sense of overall occasion that sets in motion memories of a particular landscape, a particular light, a particular choral effect, a particular hiking partner."
On grief, "Rather birds and my departed had taken up residence together in a dense, tangled unconscious habitat of feeling and memory. Through birds the fullness of love and grief became fuller."
I enjoyed 'et all.' The simplistic cover, the compilation of authors reflecting on love, loss, nature and family.

Nature infused pearls of wisdom from a multitude of Authors.

Thank you NetGalley and Comstock Publishing Associates for the opportunity to review this wonderful book!

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I received an arc of this title from NetGalley for honest feedback. While I don't love the cover of this book, I did enjoy it. As a bird watcher myself who came to the hobby as a way to spend more time with my mother I found these stories heartwarming and relatable and informative.
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