Monday, May 23, 2016

One Wild Bird at a Time by Bernd Heinrich


Why I Read It: Grabbed from the Amazon Vine program; I loved Winter World.

Summary: Heinrich investigates the lives of several species of birds living near his cabin in Maine.

My Thoughts: Heinrich has done it again. Mostly what he has done is he has caused the world to slow down for just a few minutes and see it the way that he does, one piece of data at a time. The stories of each species he covers focus on the tight confines of his woods in Maine. He spends his days like I hope to some day, taking long observations and thinking deeply about what he sees. Why do redpolls burrow into the snow? How does a red-breasted nuthatch build its nest? Oftentimes, he challenges us to take the unexpected turn in the way we think, to challenge conventional wisdom.

Just as often, he makes us laugh with his experimentation techniques. When a black-capped chickadee slams into a window on his cabin and dies, he doesn't just let it become food for another bird, or even give it a "proper" burial; he skins it and examines the contents of its guts to find out what species of caterpillars it's been eating. When he wants to find out whether or not a ruffed grouse is more apt to create a subnivian burrow in an area where others already exist, he tests his theory by taking a dead bantam rooster on a rope out to a clearing and pitching it head first into the snow, to mimic the grouse's holes.

As someone who has dabbled in citizen science, I bow to the master! This book makes me wish I had more free time to explore the world like Bernd Heinrich does.

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