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Eli Knapp takes readers from a leaky dugout canoe in Tanzania and the mating grounds of Ecuador's cock-of-the-rock to a juniper titmouse's perch at the Grand Canyon and the migration of hooded mergansers in a New York swamp, exploring life's deepest questions all along the way. In this collection of essays, Knapp intentionally flies away from the flock, reveling in insights gleaned from birds, his students, and the wide-eyed wonder his children experience.
The Delightful Horror of Family Birding navigates the world in hopes that appreciation of nature will burn intensely for generations to come, not peter out in merely a flicker. Whether traveling solo or with his students or children, Knapp levels his gaze on the birds that share our skies, showing that birds can be a portal to deeper relationships, ecological understanding, and newfound joy.
Part I. Through a Child's Eyes
1.The Only Things to Fear Are Birds Themselves
2. One Short of a Parliament
3. Nothing to Sneeze At
4. A Flicker of Life
5. Birders Can't Ride Shotgun
6. Chomping at Nature's Bit
7. The Birds and the Bees
8. The Delightful Horror of Family Birding
Part II. The Sky is our Classroom
9. The Grand Titmouse
10. Absurd Bird Words
11. Sole Recipients of Grace
12. Film Fallout
13. A Golden Opportunity with a Silver Lining
14. Serendipitous Birding
15. Please Disturb
16. Dutch Blitz Birding
Part III. Chicken Soup for an Outdoor-Lover's Soul
17. Flying Through the Bird Portal
18. My Chickadee Epiphany
19. One of Life's Harrier Moments
20. Bearing Through the Birdfeeder Blues
21. The Nature of Nature
22. Clutch Performance
23. Frustration or Fervor
24. Just Because
25. The Moral of the Mourning Doves
26. Never Again... Until Next Time
Eli Knapp, Ph.D., is professor of intercultural studies and biology at Houghton College and director of the Houghton in Tanzania program. Knapp is a regular contributor to Bird Watcher's Digest, New York State Conservationist , and other publications. An avid birdwatcher, hiker, and kayaker, he lives in Fillmore, New York, with his wife and children.
"Eli J. Knapp has done a marvelous job capturing a balance of science and humor in his latest collection of essays. The Delightful Horror of Family Birding eminently burnishes birding's reputation, making the science accessible [...] Knapp gives the reader plenty of detail to appreciate precisely what the clever book title promises."
– The Utah Review
"Knapp pays attention, not just to birds, the landscape, and the sights and sounds around him, but also to people's responses to those things, including his own, and to human interactions with each other and to nature. His is an astute perspective, a perpetual student of life, humans, and nature, and his stories are consistently fun and thought-provoking."
– Bird Watcher's Digest
"Pithy, funny, and wise essays about forays into nature [...] Knapp writes wittily of nature's nuances. Tales of field trips with students, birding with family, or the fun of leading bird walks ('Look! Butterbutts!') all contribute to the cheerful wonder Knapp evokes."
"Eli J. Knapp's The Delightful Horror of Family Birding trots the globe with humor, insight, and deep-seated appreciation for nature and bird-watching [...] focuses on its subject with wit, erudition, and passion as vast as a great flock darkening the daytime sky."
– Foreword Reviews
"Eli J. Knapp lets nature lead him and thereby – in this important collection of essays – he leads us to deeper perceptions of the bounty of nature. Humorous, a little irreverent. You learn about birds without even knowing."
– Peter Kahn, author of The Human Relationship with Nature
"I have a secret crush on Eli Knapp. He is a masterful storyteller – self-deprecating, witty, and always eager to learn life lessons from his experiences. His stories are fun, funny, moving, clever, and always full of birds!"
– Dawn Hewitt, managing editor of Bird Watcher's Digest
"Eli Knapp's essays capture the special, quirky, inquisitive nature of bird watchers. Whether he's teaching his sometimes-receptive college students about birds or mixing birds and nature into a family outing, he weaves engaging tales of these experiences, leaving the reader wanting more of his well-told stories. He's at the head of the class among the new generation of nature writers."
– Bill Thompson III, editor of Bird Watcher's Digest
"An engaging and witty self-portrait of one man's amiable obsession – and an honest exploration of how he attempts to transmit this passion to his children and his students. A very fun read – and you'll learn a good deal of bird biology along the way."
– Thomas Lowe Fleischner, editor of Nature, Love, Medicine: Essays on Wildness and Wellness