and Other Stories about Birders and Birding
by Pete Dunne
University of Texas Press, 2003
||Many of the essays in this collection concern birds and birders in New Jersey, where Pete Dunne is the director of the Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. Others are more general pieces about the mechanics of birding or the motivations of birders. But none of them are what you'd expect from a consultant to the prestigious Peterson field guide series, that being accounts of birdwatching expeditions to distant corners of the globe for a brief glimpse of a rare species to add to his Life List.||Comets don't cross the sky every day. Great,
journal-worthy events seemed
hard to come by at first. So I was forced to look hard and close and
at everyday things to fill those pages. And you know what? The closer I
looked, the more journal-worthy entries I found. Take Carolina Wrens!
documented in the pages of my journal, they sing every month of the
Take Carolina Wren nests. Did you know that the birds use paper and
skins and string and feathers in the construction?. a birder may
these things, but not a bird watcher and certainly not a bird watcher
keeps a journal -- the most important book I own.
|Instead, Dunne's witty pieces have more to do with the act of birding and the people who perform it than with the species and their habitats. While describing a particularly rainy bird walk, for instance, he reveals that he hates getting wet. "Hate it in a way that makes the hydrophobia of cats look like the aqua-equanimity of seals," he complains. "While others get to conduct their birding in places like southeastern Arizona and southern California, I seem always fated to forage in places like... Sitkagi Beach, coastal Alaska -- a geographic blotter that absorbs 160 incheas of rain, sleet, or snow a year (usually all three at once)."||
||The title essay, "Golden Wings," pays tribute to Dunne's mentor, the late birding legend Roger Tory Peterson, with a whimsical story about the famous birder's first day in heaven, where he gets his first set of wings. "He spread wings that would have put him well up in the record books," Dunne writes. "But though their length and breadth, and wonderful symmetry were impressive, what most delighted Roger was that when the underwings caught the radiance of heaven, they blazed with yellow shafts of light. 'Just like the flock on Old Swede Hill,' thought Roger."|