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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

Book reviews: Laura Erickson excellent on nests

Nesting is the most active, interesting, and important part of a bird’s life. It is the center of that life. 


“Into the Nest: Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Life of Familiar Birds” by Duluth Author Laura Erickson and Marie Read is a definitive and beautiful examination and explanation of nesting. 


There are several things to like about this book. First, it focuses on our backyard birds, common birds, offering insight into behavior in front of us, but most often our of our reach. It answers every question I could think of. And the photographs illustrating all of this are phenomenal. I suffered a huge case of photographer envy as I read this book.


The book examines courtship, mating, nest construction, egg-laying, parenting on the nest, nestlings, feeding time, and the end of it all — flight of the fledglings. This will become your go-to book for backyard birding.


Laura is author of seven books about birds. She has been editor of “BirdScope” magazine, and a columnist and contributing editor for “BirdWatching” magazine. She is recipient of the Roger Tory Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the American Birding Association.


Marie Read, who lives in Freeville, New York, is author of three books. Her photos and articles have been featured in several birding magazines and “National Geographic.” 


The book is published by Storey Publishing in cooperation with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Soft cover, 203 pages, index, glossary, excellent range maps, and hundreds of photos. Price $16.95.





“Offshore Sea Life ID Guide, West Coast,” by Steve N. G. Howell and Brian Sullivan, Princeton University Press, soft cover, 56 pages, heavily illustrated, $14.95. 


I wish the authors had done this book years ago. I’ve been on several West Coast pelagic birding trips, my standard bird ID book helpful — for birds — but leaving me reliant on guides for shout-out names of other animals the boat encountered; sometimes you are simply in the wrong place to hear. What was I missing? Species names for whales, dolphins, sea lions, sharks, turtles, flying fish, and more. If you’re going to be out there, maybe only once, get your money’s worth.


Obviously, this isn’t a book for use here. But if you signup for a West Coast pelagic trip — and every serious birder should do that at least once — this book is a must.


Howell has been a guide on most of my trips; he is excellent. Sullivan is one of the most active and respected bird photographers in North America.





“Water Babies: The Hidden Lives of Baby Wetland Birds,” William Burt, available this October from Countryman Press, Hardcover, color photos throughout, 240 pages, $29.95.

What I’ve seen of this book is a teaser sent by the publisher. The photos shown are excellent, text minimal but complete on species basics. This book that looks like it could go on the shelf beside the Erickson/Read book on nesting.


Duck stamp -- read this one first

This information was supposed to precede the earlier post about the plans for spending the addional money to be raised by the price increase for the duck stamp. Now it should make more sense.

A pair of Ruddy Ducks are the birds of choice for the 2015-16 federal duck stamp. It goes on sale this week at most U.S. Post Offices and some sporting-goods store. You will notice in the upper left corner of the stamp the new price — $25, up from $15. This is an increase long needed, as the cost of the land purchased and leased with this money has increased much since the $15 price was established. The stamp remains the best conservation investment you can make. Every birder, everyone who enjoys or appreciates birds should buy this stamp. Much of the land in our national wildlife refuges has been purchased with duck stamp dollars. The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, its official name, indeed supports waterfowl hunting. Many, many more species of non-game birds use this habitat, however. Don’t let the hunting designation throw you off. This is first and foremost a conservation stamp. Visit any of our over 500 national wildlife refuges, and count both game and non-game species seen, even in fall migration — no comparison. There’s a movement underway to get a non-game bird included on future stamps, perhaps a heron flying across the water in the distance. It is hoped that such an inclusion would emphasize the broader impact of stamp dollars. 

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