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.

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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.
Archive: August, 2009

Book Review: Of a Feather

Posted on August 22nd, 2009 in Book Review, Books

Of a Feather

Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding by Scott Weidensaul. First published in 2007.

From shotgun ornithologists collecting bird skins to the “angry ladies” that rebelled against the fashion industry’s use of bird feathers, and from the first citizen scientists sharing bird sightings to the development of the modern birding field guide, this book covers many fascinating stories in the history of birding in America. You might know that invasive species like the House Sparrow are a headache for many bird lovers, but do you know how these birds got here in the first place? They were invited guests – but even then there was controversy.

One surprisingly divisive issue, which pitted may noted ornithologists against one another, became known as the “Sparrow Wars.” North Americans in the late nineteenth century were infatuated with the idea of bringing to the New World foreign birds, especially those from Europe, like the nightingale and skylark, that were famed in art and literature.

Unfortunately the “Sparrow Wars” continue to this day, while, ironically, the House Sparrow is in deep decline back in Europe. I wish I could go back in time to stop the acclimatization crowd from playing their awful “worldwide game of biotic shuffleboard.”

For me this book was all about the more I learn about birding, the more I realize that there is so much more to learn. Before reading this book I didn’t know much about the history of birding in this country. I’d heard of the most famous players, like John James Audubon, Roger Tory Peterson, David Allen Sibley, etc, but I hadn’t heard of so many other figures who were important in the advancement of bird study and birdwatching in the United States. I knew of the Kaufman guidebook series, but I didn’t know anything about Kenn Kaufman (and I still don’t know much – he wrote a book about his big year a few years ago, I hear). I highly recommend this book to any birder who is interested in learning about the progression of ornithology, bird study, citizen science and birding in America. I enjoyed reading about the origins of the AOU and their checklist, about the first hawk watches, about the Audubon Society throughout the years, and of course about those “Sparrow Wars.”

The house (or English) sparrow was a darling of the acclimatization crowd, promoted as a natural control on agricultural pests like cankerworm. […] In Boston, the city was providing them with nest boxes on Boston Common, while the city forester was employed to kill predators that might harm the imports, including eighty-nine northern shrikes — an astonishing number of this rare northern migrant — shot in the winter of 1876-77.

Can you imagine?! And this was a controversy among ornithologists! I give Of a Feather 4 and a half Goldfinches out of 5.

If you have other books you’d recommend to a new, curious birder, please let me know in the comments!

T-Shirt Tuesday: 3x for twitchers

Posted on August 4th, 2009 in T-Shirt Tuesday

Have you ever gone twitching? Lots of birders do – they hear of a rare bird sighting not too far from where they are, and go out and try to find that bird. For serious twitchers, the rare bird doesn’t even have to be that close. This week’s highlighted shirts are all devoted twitchers.

First up is this t-shirt with twitch-ified proverb: If at first you don’t succeed, twitch twitch again. Sometimes you can’t get that wanted bird on the first try, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up!

Twitch Twitch Again Light Blue T-Shirt

This design inspired by Shakespeare reads Tis better to have Twitched and lost Than never to have Twitched at all. Even an unsuccesful birding outing is better than a day sitting around indoors, right? You’ll get your target bird next time!

Twitched and Lost Long Sleeve T-Shirt

And this one is just for the ladies: Twitchy Woman.

Twitchy Woman Red T-Shirt

Bird blog & online contests for August

Posted on August 3rd, 2009 in Contest

I’m going to continue to keep track of the bird- or birder-themed online contests & giveaways I find, but I think it’s a bit much for a weekly post. I’m going to try and post a list on the first Monday of the month. As before, 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.

Here’s a list of current blog & online contests by birders, for birders, and/or offering birdy 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, please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email.


*new to the list this month* Designs by Vanessa is giving away a mixed media original canvas artwork from Tinker Dot Designs. The work features cute pattered bird silhouettes. Visit the contest page for full details; contest ends August 31st.

The Swarovski Digiscoper of the Year Contest runs through 31 October. First prize is an EL 32 binocular. Be sure to read the rules before entering.

The Rainforest Alliance is running their 2nd Annual Picture Sustainability Photo Contest. Enter photos to win prizes including a trip for two to Costa Rica. Click here for the rules. Contest ends 1 November.

ONGOING CONTESTS of interest to birders

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.

The Eagle Optics Email Contest is ongoing for anyone subscribed to their newsletter. A new winner is chosen every month. Click here for details.

Birder’s Lounge runs a monthly ID Challenge. Prizes vary month to month.