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Monday, June 10, 2013

Look Up! Birdwatching in Your Own Backyard, written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate. Candlewick, Random House. 2013. $18.00 ages 8 and up

"You may not have a yard, but you do have the sky. Look up! Many hawks, falcons and even owls make their homes in the city. City birds are tough and adaptive - meaning that they make do with what they find."

You don't need much to become an avid birdwatcher...your eyes, your ears, a sketchbook, something to draw with, a field guide...then patience and practice. Sounds easy, right? It really is!

I love a quote from the author that I read yesterday in an interview with Charlotte at Prairie Birder

"So I made a pledge to myself to try and get out more and take walks at lunch — I thought it would be good for me, in the stress management department. Across the street from work was the Mount Auburn Cemetery, and that’s where I walked. It’s an amazing place, full of interesting trees and flowers, and it’s full of birds, too. (Famous for it, actually) The more I got outside and walked, the more I noticed birds. Really, had they been here all along, and I never noticed? I started thinking that there was all this wonderful stuff in nature going on, and I wasn’t paying the least bit of attention, and that bothered me. So I bought a beginners’ Peterson’s field guide and I looked up the birds eating my house, and they were Starlings. And then I saw another bird eating ants in my backyard, and I looked it up and it was a Flicker, and it was doing exactly what the book said it was supposed to do, which was eat ants, and I just thought that was so cool."

In this funny and informative guide to watching whatever birds you might find in your own backyard, Annette LeBlanc Cate gives ample instruction for finding a new and satisfying hobby. By giving the time to take a concentrated and leisurely look at your world, you will make many discoveries. But, you gotta get outside! You won't likely need your field guide until you have done plenty of noticing regarding color, shape, songs and activities of the birds you are watching so carefully.

From the get-go, readers are bombarded with information. However, it never seems to overwhelm. It is chatty, and funny, and has great appeal for all ages. While we may not see bears, raccoons, moose or other animals from our particular environment in our backyards, we see birds around us every single day...even in the cold, clear days of winter.

In this book, the birds have their say! Speech bubbles provide much of what we learn about them. Birds are often labelled to help with identification, and the amount of useful data provided is astonishing in its variety.

 Anything that is new to us takes time and patience; the author makes it seem so worthwhile and certainly shares her enthusiasm for something she has learned to love and appreciate. The bibliography is useful, the index helpful and the endpapers a visual delight! It is one of those books that I fully expected to skim through in order to get and give a sense of its message. Instead, I read every word carefully and pored over the artwork, and now I am on my way into the back porch to have a careful look at the wrens and robins that are nesting nearby. I will admit I am not as keen to carefully consider the raucous crows, but I will even give them some leeway.



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