ABOUT ME -
My name is Amy and I'm a birder living in central Florida. On this blog I post book and birding product reviews as well as birder gift ideas and announcements related to my birder gift shop on this site. I also have a personal birding blog called Powered By Birds.
Unless otherwise stated, all books and other products reviewed on this blog were purchased or independently acquired by the reviewer. Readers who make a purchase by clicking on links in product reviews or featured t-shirt posts (T-Shirt Tuesday) may result in the blogger receiving a commission or referral fee.
The Bufflehead is a small species of duck native to North America. This week’s highlighted t-shirt, Bufflehead Sketch, features a Bufflehead in flight, flying away. The rough black-and-white sketch coveys motion and the beauty of a duck in flight. The design is distressed for a vintage look on certain products. Both versions are shown below.
The weekly T-Shirt Tuesday feature on this blog will go on hiatus in 2011. However, t-shirts and other products may still be featured from time to time.
As my birding library grows, I’ve acquired a lot of books via trading sites like PaperBackSwap (PBS) and BookMooch (BM), or via thrift shops, used book stores, and festival fundraisers. Acquiring books this way makes the obsessive book-collecting part of this hobby a bit more affordable. Publisher review copies help, too! So far I’ve reviewed 19 books on this blog, most in 2010, and I thought it would be interesting to see where they all came from (and where they are now).
The Search for the Pink-headed Duck is Rory Nugent’s memoir of his travels in eastern India and his search for a duck believed to be extinct and which was last seen in the 1950’s.
Nugent hopes to search for the Pink-headed Duck in certain parts of India where it happens to be difficult to obtain a tourist visa. This leads to him spending a great deal of time in and out of bureaucratic offices in Delhi, with a lot of downtime between official visits. Eventually he does get moving, first to places like the poultry markets of Calcutta, and then to hiding in the back of a jeep to travel outside the boundary of his visa, to the outskirts of Sikkim and Darjeeling and Assam, and finally down the Brahmaputra in a hand-made skiff with an Indian friend met only weeks earlier.
Nugent spends a lot of time with interesting characters, including a “gentleman outlaw” smuggler, Gurkha freedom fighters, Tibetan lamas, and a Tantrika (one who follows the Trantric Way). Between the outlandish Indian characters, Nugent befriends many more locals in all of his travels, certainly adding a richness to his own experience and to the book.
The book is a great travel adventure yarn, which is a genre I love. However, the search for the rare, possibly extinct Pink-headed Duck feels like an afterthought sometimes, and I did wish for more background on the bird itself, and possibly more time (or pages) devoted to the search for the duck and other birds (Nugent claims to be a birdwatcher, after all). I give The Search for the Pink-headed Duck 3.5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Thanks to Robert of Birding is Fun for letting me know about this book by reviewing it on his blog.
Back in September, Scott Crocker’s Ghost Bird played at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, and Arthur and I went down to see it. The movie was pretty limited in its theatrical run, so if you didn’t get a chance to see it, you’re in luck because it comes out on DVD tomorrow.
Crocker’s documentary follows the saga of the search for the (presumed extinct) Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and the frenzy that ensued after a video purported to capture an IBWO in flight was made public. According to the official website:
Ghost Bird is a feature length documentary about an extinct giant woodpecker, a small town In Arkansas hoping to reverse it misfortunes, and the tireless odyssey of the bird-watchers and scientists searching for the Holy Grail of birds, the elusive Ivory-billed woodpecker.
Promotional material for the movie made me think it would be primarily about the crazy changes that happened in and around Brinkley, Arkansas following the rediscovery. The movie does take a humorous (and ironic) tone when Brinkley is the focus, but the film tells so much more. Bird experts, ornithologists, museum curators, and others all weigh in on the controversy, and the tales they share are maddening, amazing, and fascinating.
Birders and non-birders alike will enjoy this well-made, informative and entertaining documentary. Whether you followed the 2004 Ivory-billed Woodpecker rediscovery story closely or not, check out Ghost Bird. I give Ghost Bird 5 Goldfinches out of 5.
The Ghost Bird DVD is available for purchase via Amazon. My review is based on a theatrical screening.
Birds of the Middle East by Richard Porter & Simon Aspinall. Second edition published 2010. As reviewed and pictured: Softcover, 384 pages.
This new title from Princeton Field Guides covers over 800 species found in the Middle East (defined for this book as the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran). I’ve never been birding in this region, but since there’s a lot of species overlap between this region and Europe and northern Africa, I see a lot of familiar species when paging through this guide. I was interested to note at least 8 non-native species of weaver and bishop that have established populations in the region.
The color illustrations, drawn by three different artists using a similar style, are fantastic. The birds are presented on a plain white background, naturally perched on branches or standing on a sandy surface. The plates are well-arranged throughout the guide so the white background isn’t boring.
The descriptive texts and rang maps for the birds are presented opposite the color plates, which is always handy. The most important identification clues are printed in bold text. Notes following many of the bird texts indicate abundance, additional range details, or other helpful sighting information.
The bulk of the book is your standard, working field guide, but larophobes like me might especially appreciate plate 72, devoted to identifying large white-headed gulls (shiver). This plate is accompanied by a handy chart comparing features of several gull species, including moulting dates!
This week’s highlighted t-shirt is inspired by roadside information signs. Here the icons are for Eat (knife/fork), Sleep (person on bed) and Bird (represented by binoculars). This is one of two versions of Eat Sleep Bird in the shop; the other one features a bird blind to represent Bird.
Here’s a list of current (as of December 6th) blog & online contests by birders, for birders, and/or offering bird- or birder-themed prizes. Click on the links to learn more, check eligibility, and enter to win! If you are running a contest or know of something that should be added to this list, let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email. This is a monthly post appearing on the first Monday of every month. I will add any updates I find during the month as a comment on this post. If you’d like to stay updated, you can subscribe to the comment RSS feed for this post.
CONTESTS WITH DEADLINES near and far
Two-Fisted Birdwatcher is giving away a blog-branded hoodie. Find this month’s hidden bird to be eligible for the drawing. This monthly giveaway usually ends by the end of the month, so submit your answer before December 30th! See the contest page for details.
ONGOING CONTESTS of interest to birders
Birder’s World magazine runs a Photo of the Week Contest. Check out the rules page to find out how to enter. Prizes include gear from Zeiss optics.
Subscribers to Birding Adventures TV’s digital newsletter may enter the regularly-occurring BATV quiz for a chance to win $10 Nikon gift vouchers or other prizes. You’ll need to subscribe to the BATV News mail list to see the bird ID quiz photos.
Members of 10,000 Birds’ Conservation Club are eligible to enter giveaways offering prizes from Conservation Club sponsors. Have a look at the current and past giveaways, and then sign up! Membership costs $25 per year and the funds go towards various conservation causes.
Duncraft hosts a caption contest on Facebook every week. Become a fan of Duncraft to see each contest posting. Enter to win a $10.00 Duncraft Gift Coupon. New caption contests start each Monday.
WildBird on the Fly periodically gives away books and other prizes with fun, short-notice contests. Follow her blog and her Twitter account @WBeditor to get in on the prize giveaways.
Each month the Birds & Blooms website runs the Where’s Webster? contest. Find Webster the duck on the website and enter to win. Prizes vary and the contest runs month to month.
Birder’s Lounge runs a monthly ID Challenge. Contestants play for their favorite bird/nature/conservation charity. The prize is a $10 donation to the winning charity, in the winner’s name. (Thanks to Amber for the details!)