cover image A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See It All

A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See It All

Luke Dempsey, Author . Bloomsbury $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-59691-355-4

In this uneven debut, Dempsey details his bird-watching misadventures as he and two friends quest after America's rarest birds. The hapless trio try to defend osprey in Florida, pacify Texan smugglers, unwittingly set up a spotting scope in the middle of a busy road, lug around (and forget) a cooler of fancy cheeses on a trip through Arizona. Although amusing, the series of pratfalls blunt and obscure Dempsey's more pointed observations on why birders are so passionate about the pursuit and the urgency bird watching takes on in the face of habitat destruction. When the author writes passionately about pine beetle damage in Colorado or permits readers access to a triumphant glimpse of a cerulean warbler, the episodes cease reading like vacation-slide narrative and approach an affecting honesty with comments such as this one (prompted by a rain-swept outing in Washington State): “Once again, birding had loaned me a calmness that seemed to push me apart from the concerns of the world.” (Aug.)