Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Posts about Bird books

David Sibley here next week

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: March 26, 2014 - 11:02 AM

Artist and author David Sibley will be here Wednesday, April 2, to talk about the new edition of his book “The Sibley Guide to Birds. He’ll speak at the Bell Museum of Natural History The event is co-sponsored by the Bell Museum and The Bookcase in Wayzata. A copy of the $40 book is included in the event’s ticket price: $45.50 for individuals, $65 for a couple. Both prices include tax and a small handling charge. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/583888

An interview with Sibley about birding and his book can be foundon the cover of today’s StarTribiune Variety section.

Artist, author David Sibley to speak at Bell Museum

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: March 5, 2014 - 5:16 PM

Artist and author David Sibley is coming to Minneapolis to talk about the new edition of his book “The Sibley Guide to Birds." He’ll speak at the Bell Museum of Natural History  at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 2. The event is co-sponsored by the Bell Museum and The Bookcase in Wayzata. The museum is located at the University of Minnesota.

The second edition of his famed guide will be in stores March 11. A copy of the book is included in the event’s ticket price: $45.50 for individuals, $65 for a couple. Both prices include tax and a small handling charge. Shelf price of the book is $40. 

Tickets can be purchased at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/583888

The new edition has larger illustrations, digitally remastered for quality. The text has been expanded to include habitat information and voice description. Sibley offers tips on finding birds in the field. There are over 600 new paintings, including illustrations of 115 rare species, and illustrations in some cases of regional plumage differences. More than 700 maps show winter, summer, year-round ranges, migration routes, and ranges of rare species. 

Poignant records of lost animals

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: March 17, 2014 - 4:39 PM

“Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record,” Errol Fuller, Princeton University Press, 2013, hardcover, 255 pages, illustrated, $29.95.

The animals going extinct today are so much more fortunate than the animals that went extinct, say, 100 years ago.

They are apt to be better remembered.

Today we can capture in photographs memories of what we are losing. We can easily keep the lost ones on record, in mind. We are so able to document our folly.

That was not the case until fairly recently. Equipment was a factor, probably the factor. No one was able to photograph the sky-darkening flocks of Passenger Pigeons, the flocks that, we are told, took  days and nights to pass a single place.

We can’t form a true mental image from the words, “We are told.” We need the experience or the photo of the blackened sky to help us comprehend the loss.

There are photos of Passenger Pigeons. You’ve perhaps seen the sad, poignant photos of Martha, the last of her species as she waited in the Cincinnati zoo to put a period on her story. 

Author Errol Fuller gives us a book filled with poignant images in “Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record.” He has collected photo images of 28 animals gone extinct. There are many more extinctions, of course, but few photo records of what is gone. 

Some of the photos are quite good, others dark and blurry. Particularly good are the black-and-white photos taken by James T. Tanner of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers encountered in the 1930s as he studied these birds in Louisiana. There are several images of a young bird, looking almost playful, obviously unaware of its future.

Most of the animals discussed in the book are birds. For all of the animals Fuller provides interesting, brief accounts of how and why these animals went extinct, who had photos, and how he found them. He offers important footnotes to extinction history. The answer to the question why, incidentally, turns out to be habitat loss more often than not. Apparently, we haven’t learned much from our history.

I found the emotional content of these photos surprising. There is a difference between reading of an extinct animal and seeing them here. Fuller shows us what we’ve lost.

Because some of the photos are of marginal quality, Fuller has included in an appendix artists’ illustrations of these 28 animals. They are lovely, colored paintings and drawings. They are not nearly as powerful as the sometimes crude photos he offers us.

(Note on Ivory-billed Woodpecker: Some people say there are more recent photos of that bird, albeit blurred, distant images best viewed with imagination. Fuller believes this species to be dead and gone, any photos in absolute need of imagination. He mocks people who say they have seen the bird as recently as 2002. Some of us believe — hope — he sooner or later will be proven wrong. The hunt does continue.)

Duluth's Laura Erickson honored

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: February 11, 2014 - 8:42 AM

Laura Erickson, Duluth resident, birder, author, radio personality, and blogger, has been given the Roger Tory Peterson Award by the American Birding Association. She is honored for a lifetime of work on behalf of birding. Laura has been particularly focused on birding for youngsters.

She is author of six books about birds: "101 Ways to Help Birds;" "Sharing the Wonder of Birds with Kids," which won the 1997 National Outdoor Book Award; "The Bird Watching Answer Book;" For the Birds: An Unusual Guide;" and"Twelve Owls" and "Minnesota Birds of Prey," both illustrated by Betsy Bowen, artist from Grand Marais.

Laura has been producer of her own radio show about birds since 1986. This brief and entertaining bit about birds can be heard on public radio stations in Duluth, Grand Rapids, St. Cloud, and Thief River Falls. She also is a busy public speaker. Laura's web address is www.lauraerickson.com

Congratulations to an outstanding educator and ambassador for birding.

Birding iBooks

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: February 4, 2014 - 10:25 AM

Some of our best birding books are now available in digital format from iTunes. Princeton University Press has published six of its recent books in ebook form. They are as good-looking in digital form as they are on paper. Katrina Van Grous’s “The Unfeathered Bird” is one of the books. Her detailed and incredible drawings of avian skeletons lose nothing in the translation. “The Crossley ID Guide” also is available, with plates shown in greater detail. Ditto “The World’s Rarest Birds.” Take a look. Princeton will be adding titles regularly to its new digital book shop. 

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