A World of Watchers

Joseph Kastner, Author, Charles Elliott, Editor Alfred A. Knopf $25 (241p) ISBN 978-0-394-52869-4
Among outdoor activities related to nature, bird-watching ranks second to fishing, according to the author; and bird watchers have led the way in pointing out the environmental hazards of pesticides. Kastner (A Species of Eternity traces the history of this ""most scientific of sports or the most sporting of sciences'' from exclusive, all-male clubs of the last century to the wide membership of today's Audubon Society. Before the advent of field guides and inexpensive binoculars, bird-watchers ``collected'' or ``took'' specimens (i.e., killed birds); yet laws protecting birds were among the first conservation measures. Kastner discusses this ambivalence. He profiles eccentric and compulsive characters who contributed to bird lore: Charlie Pennock, who disappeared for nine years (he resurfaced as John Williams, and his identity was discovered by his bird reporting), Spencer Baird, Elliot Coues, Roger Tory Peterson, Edward Howe Forbush, John Burroughs. Kastner singles out women bird-watchers for tribute, especially those who are school teachers and nature-writers. Recognition of 40 species qualifies the serious bird-watcher, asserts the author; that is not requisite for enjoying his book. Illustrated. (November 24)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1986
Release date: 12/01/1986
Paperback - 978-0-87156-784-0
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