The paths of different birds look like double helixes, flowing strands of hair, and migrating serpents, and they beckon with calls that have definite meanings. These mysterious creatures inspire growing numbers of birders in their passionate pursuit of new species, and writer John R. Nelson is no exception. In Flight Calls, he takes readers on explorations to watch, hear, and know Massachusetts's hummingbirds, hawks, and herons along the coasts and in the woodlands, meadows, and marshes of Cape Ann, Cape Cod, the Great Marsh, Mount Auburn Cemetery, the Quabbin wilderness, Mount Wachusett, and elsewhere.
With style, humor, and a sense of wonder, Nelson blends his field adventures with a history of the birding community; natural and cultural history; bird stories from authors such as Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and Mary Oliver; current scientific research; and observations about the fascinating habits of birds and their admirers. These essays are capped off with a plea for bird conservation, in Massachusetts and beyond.
John R. Nelson is professor emeritus at North Shore Community College. His essay Funny Bird Sex was awarded a 2018 Pushcart Prize.
"This is an entertaining account of the world that local birds inhabit as well as the unique breed of Homo sapiens that chooses to spend its free time chasing down and identifying birds. Through Nelson's descriptions and explorations of local bird habitats, readers will come to appreciate the biological diversity of the state and region."
– John Hanson Mitchell, author of Ceremonial Time: Fifteen Thousand Years on One Square Mile
"Flight Calls is somewhere between a personal memoir, a true-life adventure, and a birder's personal journal. In addition, anyone reading this book will surely be impressed with Nelson's grasp of literature, both ornithological and historic."
– Wayne R. Petersen, author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Massachusetts