The weekly report from the world’s birdwatching capital… by Seymore Thanu
This column is about books. How boring (you are thinking); a string of words discussing words. Well, sorry but that’s your narrow-mindedness talking. In point of fact, I’m not talking about a word book. I’m talking about a picture book. More specifically a book filled with images (and a few supporting words) that will lead you to a world of discovery, wonder, enlightenment, life-long happiness, and world peace in our time.
I’m speaking (of course!) about that narrow band of the publishing spectrum known as the field guide; a book designed to help you identify the bird you are seeing.
And now you are back to thinking, “how boring.”
Boy, you really are narrow minded aren’t you? Which could be, in this specific case, a good thing because now that I have that narrow slice of your brain properly focused, I’m going to convince you to run down to the Cape May Bird Observatory and buy The Sibley Guide to Birds.
I repeat – The Sibley Guide to Birds. Which is just the most intelligent, utilitarian, practical, functional, and best all-around field guide to bird identification ever crafted on these American shores.
And it was all written and painted in Cape May Point, New Jersey! The Jersey Shore! So not only is it a literary triumph, it is truly a Cape May souvenir.
Okay. So why buy a field guide to the birds in the first place?
Because like most people you want world peace, not to mention a world filled with discovery, wonder, enlightenment and happiness. Birds are nature’s most obvious envoys. They sing. They fly. They entertain. They inspire. And they’ve never declared war on the human race (except in movies).
The bird droppings on your newly-washed car? That’s a guerilla operation.
Why should you buy David Sibley’s field guide instead of the dozen or so other field guides that are on the market?
Because it really, really works. It makes bird identification so easy it seems like an afterthought. The layout is brilliant. The illustrations accurate beyond compare. The text spare and apt.
But the real reason to buy this book is because nobody in North America knows birds better than David; and, it is his peculiar genius to be able to put this knowledge in a book and hand it to you.
Me? I own about a dozen copies of The Sibley Guide (aka just plain “Sibley”). Have one in the office; one in the other office. One (maybe more) in the car and the wife’s car. One in the kitchen. One in the upstairs bookcase. One in the downstairs bookcase. One in…
You get the idea. I NEVER want to be more than a few paces away from a Sibley. You just never know when you are going to need to identify a bird.
Of course, I own a lot of other field guides, too. In fact, I own just about all of them. But David’s book is the one I turn to when I’m puzzled about some pint-sized flycatcher or streaky, sparrow-ish like miscreant.
If I’ve got a question, David’s got the answer.
But maybe you are the kind of person who really doesn’t care about birds (or world peace).
Well, you are in luck. It just so happens that David has just come out with The Sibley Guide to Trees!
Even nihilists, anarchists, terrorists, patriots, defenders of freedom, mercenaries, industrialists, and assorted warmongers like trees.
You’ve got to write your peace-shattering manifestos on something. You’ve got to find something to hide behind when you set on firing a shot to be heard around the world.
But alas, David didn’t write his tree book in Cape May Point; although he may have drawn some of the trees here.
Doesn’t make nearly as good a souvenir as his bird guide does.
If you are interested in looking at The Sibley Guide to Birds (or trees), and possibly buying a copy (or two, just like Seymore), then head over to the Cape May Bird Observatory where they have a selection of Sibleys. THE place for anything to do with nature, CMBO (609-884-2736) is located at 701 East Lake Drive overlooking lovely Lake Lily in Cape May Point and is open 9:30am to 4:30pm every day. If you have any questions at all, ask any of our staff or volunteers – they are always glad to help with anything you need, even things you didn’t know you needed yet.
While there, check out the view of the lake from the wide selection of scopes and binoculars, the latest in books, bird feeders, and some great new and fun merchandise, including our exclusive CMBO logo jewelry, clothing, totes, and more. Take a look at the sightings log or our website to check what’s being seen, scan the bookshelves, pick up a bargain from the used and vintage books section, look at some of the wonderful Charley Harper merchandise, or just browse around. And if you aren’t fortunate enough to be in the area, visit us online www.BirdCapeMay.org, where birding Cape May is only a click away. Or give us a call, we do mail order as well.
Seymore Thanu is none other than New Jersey’s own Pete Dunne, Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory and Vice President of Natural History for New Jersey Audubon Society. Author of several books on and about nature (available at the Cape May Bird Observatory), he has written for virtually every birding publication and for the New York Times.