The weekly report from the world’s birdwatching capital… by Seymore Thanu
1. Lying on the beach.
2. Lying on the beach with a book.
In fact, you can scratch number one. I don’t recall a time when I was on the beach and I didn’t have a book.
I don’t know how sand-proof a Kindle is, and chances are I don’t want to find out. But I do know that, page for thumb-licking page, books have stood the test of time.
Psst. Need a good book? Here are some great suggestions that are nature calibrated. If you’re engaging the environment, why not learn about it, too?
My all-time favorite natural history book is A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. A classic and a masterpiece. Some of the best nature writing ever crafted.
Every time I begin to think of myself as a good writer, I open Leopold. Flip to November. Read the short essay, “If I Were the Wind”.
I heard Aldo Leopold’s daughter read this passage once. It’s a good thing I don’t wear makeup.
Another classic is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. You want to know how the environmental movement got started? Here it is. The catalytic book. If you have not read it, you are doing a disservice to yourself and the memory of a heroic biologist and one helluva smart woman.
How about William W Warner’s, Beautiful Swimmers? It is an absolute delight. I mean the writing, not the subject (which is the blue crab). You love crabs? You’ll love them even more after reading this wonderful treatment of this epicurean crustacean.
Moving on. Have you read Red-tails in Love? It’s the story about a Jersey hawk and his mate who find love in Manhattan within spitting distance of Woody Allen. Actually, it would make a perfect script for a Woody Allen movie. But first, you have got to read the book.
And how about Kingbird Highway? Ace birder Kenn Kaufman’s great birding saga. It’s right up there with Roger Tory Peterson’s and James Fisher’s quest, Wild America. Of course, once you’ve read Wild America you’ve got to read Scott Weidensaul’s follow up entitled Return to Wild America.
Who is Scott Weidensaul you ask? Just the best nature writer in the shop today. Well, except for Michael Pollan and E. O. Wilson, and somebody else whose name escapes me.
Guy who wrote that book on hawks with David Sibley, The Wind Masters. Tells the life history of birds of prey in the first person. Where every hawk in North America stars in some aspect of a bird’s life. Establishing territory, courtship, hunting, migration, death. You know, what’s-his-name.
Oh, forget it. They’ll know the guy by name at the Cape May Bird Observatory where you can find lots of these titles.
In an age when books are going out of style, I must say that the folks at the CMBO are way behind. They’ve got stacks of books. Racks of them. Local authors. Top nature writers.
Want a hot tip? They’ve got a whole bunch of classic bird books. Books like The Shorebirds of North America. Murphy’s Ocean Birds. A set of Rachel Carson’s trilogy. Even a hard-bound set of Bird Studies at Old Cape May. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find this Cape May classic? Well, you will unless you get over to the CMBO. Bring a credit card with lots of tread or a check book with lots of overdraft protection.
And if you haven’t got anymore room on your bookshelves, that’s no excuse. The CMBO loves old nature books. Pack up all those nature books that you’ve read and reread and don’t need any longer. Bring them over to the CMBO. Make sure you give them to Sheila Lego, she’s the curator for used books. She’ll add them to our shelves of previously-owned tomes of nature. Who knows, you may be opening up a window into nature to a youngster just getting started, or someone who has dreams of visiting far-off and exotic birding locales.
The Cape May Bird Observatory is THE place for anything to do with nature. Located at 701 East Lake Drive overlooking Lake Lily in Cape May Point, the center is open 9:30-4:30pm daily. Ask any of our staff or volunteers, they are always glad to help with anything you need. Check out the newest books (including Bayshore Summer by what’s-his-name) and some great new merchandise – including our exclusive CMBO logo jewelry, clothing and more. Take a look at the sightings log, pick up a vintage book, look at some of the wonderful Charley Harper merchandise, or just browse. If you aren’t in the area, visit us online www.BirdCapeMay.org – where birding Cape May is only a click away.
Seymore Thanu is New Jersey’s own Pete Dunne, Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory and Chief Communications Officer for New Jersey Audubon. Author of several books on and about nature (available at CMBO), he has written for virtually every birding publication and for The New York Times.