320 pages, b/w illustrations
All around the world, birds are a subject of intense and even spiritual fascination, but relatively few people see the word 'bird' as a verb. Peter Cashwell is one who does. This is a whimsical and critical book about his many obsessions, including birds, birders, language, literature, and pop culture. It begins with an irreverent examination of birding as a historical, cultural, and even religious phenomenon and describes how a 30-something student of academic and popular culture ends up an active participant in organised bird counts. Birding alone is compared to birding in company, and the pleasures of feeding birds outside are contrasted with the irrational terror of encountering them indoors. It also includes a birder's travelogue in which the author recounts the high (and low) points of trips all around the nation: from Virginia, where geese of unusual size appear out of nowhere, to South Carolina's Low Country, home to some of America's most beautiful birds and most ravenous biting insects; from Long Island, where, against all odds, nature still exists, to the river, city, and state of Iowa, where nomenclature is in short supply.
"[...] This is definitely a worthwhile read. Just don’t go into it expecting to learn much about new birds or how to bird. That is not the aim of this book. Rather, it’s to express what it means ‘to bird’ and why one would want to. And it accomplishes this in a very humorous and well-written manner. However, it does not have much “replay value”. While I enjoyed it, I don’t foresee myself wanting to re-read it anytime soon."
- Grant McCreary (20-12-2006), read the full review at The Birder's Library
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Peter Cashwell teaches English at the Woodberry School in Virginia. He lives in Woodberry Forest, Virginia.