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Listening to a Continent Sing: Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific

Biography / Memoir

By: Donald E Kroodsma(Author)

311 pages, 125 b/w illustrations

Princeton University Press

Hardback | Sep 2016 | #226860 | ISBN-13: 9780691166810
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £24.95 $32/€27 approx

About this book

Join birdsong expert Donald Kroodsma on a ten-week, ten-state bicycle journey as he travels with his son from the Atlantic to the Pacific, lingering and listening to our continent sing as no one has before. On remote country roads, over terrain vast and spectacular, from dawn to dusk and sometimes through the night, you will gain a deep appreciation for the natural symphony of birdsong many of us take for granted. Come along and marvel at how expressive these creatures are as Kroodsma leads you west across nearly five thousand miles – at a leisurely pace that enables a deep listen.

Listening to a Continent Sing is also a guided tour through the history of a young nation and the geology of an ancient landscape, and an invitation to set aside the bustle of everyday life to follow one's dreams. It is a celebration of flowers and trees, rocks and rivers, mountains and prairies, clouds and sky, headwinds and calm, and of local voices and the people you will meet along the way. It is also the story of a father and son deepening their bond as they travel the slow road together from coast to coast.

Beautifully illustrated throughout with drawings of birds and scenes and featuring QR codes that link to audio birdsong, this poignant and insightful book takes you on a travel adventure unlike any other – accompanied on every leg of your journey by birdsong.

"[...] Listening to a Continent Sing: Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific recounts an amazing cross-country bicycle trip spent listening to birds. This is a different kind of reading experience. Listening to the accompanying audio not only immerses you in the Kroodsmas’ trip, it also forces you to slow down a bit and savor it. That’s a good approach to listening to birds, as I’m sure the author would tell you, and it also works well for this book. So well, in fact, that this was my favorite book of 2016."
– Grant McCreary (12-03-2017), read the full review at The Birder's Library

"One of the fascinating aspects of both the book and the recordings is that, while chasing after birdsong, Mr. Kroodsma captures so much other detail as well. Don't miss the pack of mongrels and hounds bellowing the bikers through Dwarf, Ky., or the creaking bicycle saddle accompanying the rich afternoon chorus of a moist deciduous forest on a steep uphill climb in the same state's damp and diverse mountains. Listening to a Continent Sing along with its website, is both an inspiration and a bundle of gifts waiting to be unwrapped."
– Julie Zickefoose, Wall Street Journal

"Blurring the lines between travelogue and casual scientific observation, Listening to a Continent Sing recounts their journey and transports the reader into the mind of a scientist renewing his awe of nature through an endearing portrayal of avian vocal communication and behavior. In its refreshing mix of history, linguistics, biology, and ethology, Listening to a Continent Sing brings back the joy and enthusiasm for scientific pursuits that can sometimes wane with time."
– Helen J. Barr, Science

"Kroodsma evokes the profound pleasure of rising before dawn to listen to the morning songs of the birds and ending the day with their evening choruses [...] An informative exploration of the subtleties of bird songs."

"Birdsong maven Donald Kroodsma's travel journal is a welcome addition to the cycling-road-trip genre that began over a century ago [...] It's the author's knowledge of birdsong [...] that makes this book so delightful."
Natural History

"The story is charming, funny, poignant, and heartwarming [...] If you are going to treat yourself to one special gift this summer, make it this one!"
– Cathy Taibbi,

"Listening to a Continent Sing will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the outdoors, by cyclists, and above all by birders. I have only just begun reading the book, but I already suspect that it will turn out to be one of the outstanding popular birds books of the year."
– The Curious Naturalist blog

"While the book may be categorized as a birding adventure, it is also the story of a father and son deepening their bond as they cycled by day and camped by night together for 10 weeks."
– Jennifer J. Meyer, Orange County Register

"Our sophistication in listening to birdsong and our enjoyment have been greatly facilitated by the writings of Don Kroodsma [...] [Listening to a Continent Sing] provides a delightful, vicarious ride across our country."
– Herb Wilson, Portland Press Herald

"Listening to a Continent Sing is a travelogue of Kroodsma's 5,000 mile trip, a celebration of nature, and a multimedia experience – the book is littered with quick-response codes that link to samples of birdsong found throughout the trip, such as the pileated woodpecker and the sandhill crane."
Chicago Tribune

"Coupling these [QR] codes with the website to supply reader support makes this book truly one of a kind. Innovative educators will enjoy the challenge of deciding exactly how to use Listening to a Continent Sing in their teaching."
NSTA Recommends

"Kroodsma has an insatiable curiosity about bird vocalizations and also a deep passion for his subject [...] This book provides a delightful, vicarious ride across our country. We stop frequently to appreciate the music of the birds."
Portland Press Herald

"An accomplished travelogue written with great style which makes for an enjoyable and highly entertaining read. It is a book to be enjoyed by birders or non-birders alike."
– Another Bird Blog

"Kroodsma [...] is to birdsong what a sommelier is to fine wine. With ears as finely tuned as a musician able to recognize a symphony by the first few notes, he identifies a variety of bird species and their many song variations [...] Listening to a Continent Sing is a feast for the senses and will no doubt inspire many to listen more deeply and more intently on the next walk or bike ride."
Urban Audubon

"Kroodsma delivers a continent-wide perspective on birdsong and acoustic communication, weaving evolution, habitat, and behavior into a fabric that is rolled out as he and his son make the East-West journey by bicycle. There are few if any researchers with the breadth of knowledge of the subject and field experience that Kroodsma has."
– Greg Budney, Cornell Lab of Ornithology


How to Listen Using the QR Codes vii
Acknowledgments xi
Prologue xiii

1. Beginnings 1
2. Peace, and War 12
3. Lemonade 20
4. Blue Ridge Dawn 30
5. A Virginia High 44
6. Appalachia 56
7. Boone Country 68
8. A Ride in Heaven 74
9. Laid Up 82
10. On the Road Again 86
11. Dawn Sweeps the Shawnee 96
12. The Ozarks 106
13. A Prairie Gem 115
14. Kansas Oceans 125
15. Shortgrass Prairie 136
16. Western Birds 146
17. Riding the Rockies 153
18. Sage and Song 163
19. Hello, Wyoming 173
20. The Oregon Trail 179
21. Grand Tetons 190
22. Into the Fire 199
23. Caterpillars Marching 207
24. Chief Joseph Pass 217
25. Lewis and Clark 225
26. Pacific Islands Incoming 233
27. Ascending into Oregon 242
28. Geological Chaos 251
29. Over the Cascades 261
30. A Homecoming 270
31. Land's End 280

Epilogue--Where Are They Now? 287
Notes 289
References 295
Index 299

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Donald Kroodsma is professor emeritus of ornithology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a world-renowned authority on birdsong. He is the author of The Singing Life of Birds, The Backyard Birdsong Guides, and Birdsong by the Seasons. He lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts.

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