cover image When Birds Are Near: Dispatches from Contemporary Writers

When Birds Are Near: Dispatches from Contemporary Writers

Edited by Susan Fox Rogers. Cornell Univ., $22.95 (228p) ISBN 978-1-5017-5091-5

Rogers (My Reach), a visiting associate professor of writing at Bard College, assembles an exquisite array of diverse voices united by a shared love of birding. She begins with a bit of literary and personal history, recalling how “one summer, not long into my bird-obsessed life, I sat down with [E.B.] White’s essay titled ‘Mr. Forbush’s Friends,’ and a new bird world opened up to me.” Each of the following essays explores birding as an art of wanderlust and extreme patience while highlighting varied species, in habitats from the shoreline of the Sargasso Sea in Bermuda (where Jenn Dean describes how the cahow, a species thought extinct since the 17th century, was rediscovered in the 20th) to the North Dakota prairie (where Richard Bohannon considers the Baird’s sparrow and the Sprague’s pipit, both small, unremarkable-looking species known in the birding world as LBJs, or “little brown jobs”). K. Bannerman, meanwhile, tracks the Northern pygmy owl in the wintry forests of Vancouver, and Christine Byl observes cranes in Arctic wetlands, a veritable “buffet” for the omnivorous birds. A piece by Jonathan Franzen on birders’ own idiosyncrasies closes the collection on an introspective note. Devoted birders and readers with a more general interest in wildlife will appreciate this lovely collection. (Oct.)