Monday, April 16, 2018

This is the Nest That Robin Built

I have long loved Denise Fleming's mixed media paper art but it really shines in This is the Nest That Robin Built. A cumulative tale, based on “The House That Jack Built," the story follows the effort it takes for Robin to build a nest. She needs help from a number of friends, including the squirrel who trims the twigs, the pig who mixes some mud, and the mouse who gathers some weeds. Eggs are laid, "brittle and blue," and nestlings hatch. A triple-foldout page reprises the actions Robin followed, ending with little birds ready to fly.

Baby Mockingbirds (photo by Deb Davis Nevin)
While this is a perfect read aloud that will have children reciting along, it also does have some good information on nest building for young birders right as nesting season starts. And the illustrations of baby birds waiting to be fed is spot on: they are all bright yellow mouth!

Parents and teachers should also visit Fleming's website for activities related to the book, including a really cute baby robin mask that will have the kids looking like baby birds. There is also a teacher's guide available.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Falcon Cam: "Tower Girl" Thrills

Photo collage courtesy of UT-A
Check out the newest "Longhorn" at the University of Texas! "Tower Girl" swoops around campus before returning to her nesting box where she can be viewed by the world thanks to the school's falcon cam. The fastest bird, and one of the fastest animals, on the planet, Tower Girl feasts on the many doves, pigeons, and grackles on campus. Austin, TX is at the outer edge of peregrine falcon breeding territory. The male falcon visits in late winter and early spring so we may see some action here. Click the link to open the cam: Falcon Cam

American Kestrel, a small falcon
(Photo by Jeanette Larson)
Read other Bird Brainz posts on falcons by clicking: Peregrine Spring and The Hawk of the Castle

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Warbler Wave

Warblers are amazing little birds. They comprise one of the largest groups of birds in North America, with more than 50 species identified and considered common to the United States and Canada. They are perching songbirds with plumage that can range from browns and grays to rich yellows, oranges, and greens. While they are found in almost every habitat, they can be difficult to identify because of the color variations, their size, and their swift flitting from branch to branch, often in dense foliage. Because of their size and coloring, birders often refer to them as LBBs (little bitty bird or little brown birds), or, with disappointment, "gone bird."

In Warbler Wave, April Pulley Sayre shares the wonders of these tiny birds with young readers using over-sized photographs composed to give the reader the feeling that they are actually out in the field birding. With the photographs Sayre adds poetically phrased information about the warbler's habits, plumage, diet, and song. The book opens with photographs from the middle of the night, letting the reader know that tiny wings are migrating to find food. With daylight, the reader enjoys seeing these birds in various situations until, as night falls, the birds continue on their migration, "Surfing rivers of wind way up high.../calling zeep, zeep, zeep in the sky."
(Inside page, copyright April Pulley Sayre)

Sayre acknowledges that the photographs are not intended to be of the type used in field guides (where illustrations clearly show markings and features that distinguish one species from another), but the crisp, clear photographs will help armchair birders feel inspired to go outside and find these birds. While guides help with identification, they are usually drawings as it is almost impossible to get photographs that perfectly whos all the important features. In that way, Warbler Wave is also closer to the real experience faced by birders--trying to identify from a wisp of color, a side view, and the tail shape as it flits away.

Four pages of back story provide plenty of additional information about warblers and their habits, as well as information on the Spring migration, which generally begins in late March and runs through May. Her website, provides specific identification notes and discussion for the birds included in the book. But don't let the simple format fool you; while the book is great for young birders, it is packed with enough information to appeal to birders of any age.

Black-throated warbler
My photos don't begin to compare with those by April Pulley Sayre but I did want to share one from Rockport. These LBBs are hard to find and birders love to share a good catch!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Birds: Discovering North American Species

This very educational book provides an up-close look at 13 different North American birds. For each bird, Raines provides a poem, some facts, and descriptive information about the birds habits and behavior. Some poems are simply melodic while others add to knowledge of the particular bird or offer insights into the bird's personality (Blue jay, blue jay / strut your stuff!) The photographs are clear and near-life size or over sized. The book itself is large and square, making it easy to share with groups of children. The last three pages of the book are devoted to "story stretchers" designed to provide lessons and activities about birds in general or specific species. For example, a science stretcher asks children to explore the habits of hummingbirds while a listening stretcher explorers bird sounds.
American Robin

The birds covered are the American Robin, Blue Jay, Carolina Chickadee, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Mockingbird, Red-Winged Blackbird, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Pelican, Great Horned Owl, American Crow, Canada Goose, and Northern Cardinal. While several are found across North America, a few will be unfamiliar in some areas or are migratory visitors. This book doesn't take the place of a field guide but serves to introduce the birds, and the crisp photographs provide a good up-close view that will greatly help with identification in the wild. Additionally, most of the birds are ones that can be easily seen in backyards and fields.

Red-Winged Blackbird
Although the publisher is not well-known, the book is widely available through online bookstores and libraries and will be useful for elementary school birding groups and science classes. And hopefully the introduction leads to further investigation and research.

Note: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher. It will be donated to my local public library.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Best Bird Books of 2017

I don't usually post two days in a row but the start of the new year means it is time for all of the "best" lists to come out and I wanted to share this list of the top twelve bird books of 2017. The list was developed by Forbes and, as I have learned being on many book awards and best lists committees, is very subjective. The books are all non-fiction and memoir, although I've noticed a lot of birds in fiction this past year. They are also all for adults so the list doesn't consider the many really good books for kids that came out in 2017. Only Mozart's Starling is on my Kindle but I hope to read, and review, a few others from the list. And it will be interesting to see what books come out in 2018. I already have a few lined up! (Note also that one of the books, The Seabird's Cry, includes puffins, which I blogged about yesterday.) Happy reading!

Click on the link to go to the article and read the synopses but here are the titles:
  1. Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird by Katie Fallon 
  2. The Seabird's Cry: The Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets and Other Ocean Voyagers by Adam Nicolson
  3. How to Speak Chicken: Why Your Chickens Do What They Do & Say What They Say by Melissa Caughe
  4. The Robin: A Biography by Stephen Moss
  5. Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt 
  6. The Wonder of Birds: What They Tell Us About Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future by Jim Robbins
  7. Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World by Noah Strycker
  8. Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear
  9. Flock Together: A Love Affair with Extinct Birds by B.J. Hollars
  10. One More Warbler: A Life with Birds by Victor Emanuel and S. Kirk Walsh 
  11. As Kingfishers Catch Fire: Birds & Books by Alex Preston and Neil Gower
  12. The Curious Bird Lover’s Handbook by Niall Edworthy

Twelve Best Books about Birds--2017