cover image Small-Headed Flycatcher. Seen Yesterday. He Didn't Leave His Name.: And Other Stories

Small-Headed Flycatcher. Seen Yesterday. He Didn't Leave His Name.: And Other Stories

Pete Dunne, Author, Louise Zemaitis, Illustrator University of Texas Press $25 (156p) ISBN 978-0-292-71599-8

Friends and relatives, birds and birders, life as he sees it--Dunne covers all these topics, moving easily from humor and poignance to reflective wisdom in these 30-odd essays and stories gathered from such magazines as Audubon, American Birds and Bird Watcher's Digest. Both novice and full-fledged birders will get that special insiders' glow from reading essays like ""Getting a Leg Up on Bird-Sighting Sheets,"" in which Dunne parallels the behavior of his dog, Moose, with that of dedicated birders: Moose sniffs, ponders, then makes his mark. Birders check the bird-sighting lists, review the good birds listed, then ""raid a pen and sprinkle the page with hot new entries."" Dunne is as well attuned to people as he is to birds. He understands when his brother, Mike, eschews the sport after observing the obsessive rituals of birding enthusiasts. He appreciates his wife's West-of-the-Rockies sensibilities: ""To her mind, every day she wakes in the East is a day begun with compromise."" Many times Dunne mentions the solace people find in nature when all else fails, while several essays outline the development of Dunne's attitude toward nature and its exigencies. He struggles with the concept of nature as ""a regular killing field"" and concludes, ""I have chosen instead to accept life's pattern as it has evolved and hope, even if I sometimes find it hard to believe, that there is a reason."" His book should not be hidden in the birding section of bookstores, for these stories show us that Dunne is as striking a storyteller as he is a naturalist. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Sept.)