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: March, 2011

March 2011 Giveaway: Wesley the Owl

Posted on March 30th, 2011 in Books, Contest

Yesterday I posted a 5/5 review of Stacey O’Brien’s wonderful memoir Wesley the Owl. Today I’m excited to announce that my review copy of this book is my March (just under the wire!) blog giveaway!

The contest is open to everyone (global) and entry is very simple. If you’d like to enter the drawing to win my review copy of Wesley the Owl, just leave a comment on this post before 11:59pm EST on Thursday, April 7th. A random entry will be chosen sometime on Friday, April 8th.

Book Review: Wesley the Owl

Posted on March 29th, 2011 in Book Review, Books

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. First published 2008. As reviewed and pictured: Softcover, 237 pages.

A few months ago, I was holding Pip, FCWR’s education Barn Owl (pictured below), at a public program. A woman came up to see Pip and talk with me and other volunteers about the birds. Then she started telling us about a wonderful book about a woman who had a Barn Owl as a pet. It was about an owl named Wesley and it was the most wonderful story. She urged us to read it. None of us had heard of the book and hearing about an owl as a pet of course set off some alarms in our minds, because, well, no one can have a Barn Owl or any other wild bird of prey as a pet. I figured it must be a fictional tale and not something I would want to read. Since that day, I have heard of this book a few more times from enthusiastic raptor program visitors.

Flash forward to several weeks ago, when Arthur and I stopped at Half Price Books and I made my usual bee-line to the natural history section. Wesley the Owl was among the bird books, and I recalled the random recommendations thrown my way during the past few months. I added the book to my *cough* pile of purchases and started reading it almost right away, sure that I would not enjoy it. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wesley the Owl does not tell the story of a pet owl, but of a wild animal biologist who cares for a permanently injured, unreleasable Barn Owl, for the bird’s entire life, practically from hatching. The book is prefaced with a note from the author, explaining the uniqueness of her situation (which does not matter, legally speaking), changes in federal laws since she first took Wesley in, and the illegality of keeping any bird without a permit.

Stacey O’Brien was working at Caltech when she began caring for Wesley, a Barn Owl who suffered from permanent nerve damage in one of his wings, making him unreleasable. Wesley was a tiny chick, just 4 or 5 days old. O’Brien takes Wesley into her home and a totally unique relationship builds between them as the years pass. The Caltech biologist is able to observe Wesley’s behavior with a scientist’s eye, while at the same time cultivating a sort of personal, enduring emotional intimacy with the owl. O’Brien relates the story of her life with Wesley by sharing fascinating behavioral discoveries, tender personal interactions, and the inevitable hilarious mishaps that occur when living with a creature that survives on a steady diet of mice.

I started reading Wesley the Owl with an enormous bias but I ended up loving this memoir. The writing is informal, conversational, making the book a very easy and enjoyable read. I give Wesley the Owl 5 Goldfinches out of 5.

Here’s a link to a promotional video from the book’s publisher (warning: contains gratuitous owl-snuggling): Wesley The Owl, Stacey O’Brien.

Book Review: Dial B For Birder

Posted on March 14th, 2011 in Book Review, Books

Dial B For Birder by Lola Oberman. First published 1992. As reviewed and pictured: softcover, 176 pages.

Oh, how I enjoy learning about birds, reading about birding adventures, and keeping up with the latest ornithological discoveries. The Internet age makes any kind of hobby learning so easy, but I remember a time when following a passion could be a bit more isolated and even a somewhat tedious experience. In high school, I became really interested in silent film, with a particular interest in the comedian Buster Keaton. I remember going to the library and checking out all of the silent film books, scouring the bibliographies for other Keaton resources that I’d be lucky to find at a used bookshop, if I knew what to look for. Now I follow (way too many) birding blogs and several ornithological online newsletters, all of which are available to me 24-7. Adding titles to my bird book wish list is just a matter of clicking a mouse. (I could go on — my autograph-collecting phase involved an extremely elaborate index card file system used to keep track of addresses and mailings. Index cards! Wow, I’m old.)

Lola Oberman’s charming Dial B For Birder, published 19 years ago, takes the reader back to a time when curious citizens who had a burning bird-related question could not turn to a quick search of Wikipedia on their smartphone for answers. No, in 1992 the natural thing to do when faced with a feathered dilemma was to call an expert. On a corded, possibly even rotary telephone. In Dial B, Oberman relates her experience as a “telephone bird identifier” for the Audubon Naturalist Society in Washington, D.C.

The book is divided into 40 chapters, 10 for each season. Each short tale relates an interesting or unusual bird-related call Oberman received from a member of the public. An interested birder, Oberman sometimes become acquainted with the caller by visiting the site of a potential rarity. Serious mysteries invited follow-ups, the calling in of experts, or photographic evidence. My favorite chapters were the ones where the phone call would spark a memory in the author. In these instances, Oberman deftly transitions from her concerned caller to an old lesson learned, or from the call of an excited new birder to a personal favorite birding memory. Oberman’s writing is easy to follow and the short chapters make this an enjoyable, quick read. I didn’t really learn anything new in reading this book, but it was kind of interesting to think about the role she was playing and how her type of “bird hotline” is a rather archaic thought today. While learning from others experience is irreplaceable, for many of the inquiries posed in this book, the answer today would be: “just Google it.”

I give Dial B For Birder 3 Goldfinches out of 5.

Bird blog & online contests for March 2011

Posted on March 7th, 2011 in Contest

Here’s a list of current (as of March 7th) 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.


10,000 Birds is giving away a copy of Birds of Brazil. Enter by Thursday, March 11th; see the contest page for details.

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 March is over! See the contest page for details.

Win a squirrel diversion package worth $200 in the Duncraft 4th Annual Squirrel Photo Contest. Enter by April 15th.

ONGOING CONTESTS of interest to birders

BirdWatching Magazine runs a Photo of the Week Contest. Check out the Photo of the Week page to find out how to enter. Prizes include gear from Zeiss optics.

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.

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

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!)

February 2011 Giveaway Winner

Posted on March 4th, 2011 in Contest

Thank you to everyone who entered my February giveaway! I used a random name picker to select the winner. Congratulations to Caitlin Coberly on winning a copy of The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds! Caitlin, I’ll contact you via email to get your address details.