Going Wild : Adventures with Birds in the Suburban Wilderness by Robert Winkler. First published 2003.
Robert Winkler's Going Wild is a collection of essays on the birds and wildlife found close to his Connecticut home. While the essays are well-written, I didn't find them to be particularly interesting, especially as someone who is not familiar with Winkler's neck of the woods. None of the essays drew me into the setting and I felt like I was reading a report of the author's activities rather than a descriptive story about something interesting he found while exploring wild areas close to his home.
A bigger problem I had with Winkler's book were distractions in the text that kept taking me out of the essays. For example, in an early passage, Winkler writes that anthropomorphism is "distasteful because it, too, denies animals their identity." But throughout the book the author is guilty of anthropomorphizing birds again and again. In an essay about feeder birds, he describes a White-breasted Nuthatch as patient and deadpan, and tells of the bird's tenderness and "romantic side" during spring courtship. Later a House Sparrow becomes entangled in one of his feeders, and as the author works to rescue the bird, he notes that "the light in [the bird's] eye told me he was uninjured, yet he was plainly terrified." Later, Barred Owls are optimists, and "glad to be alive."
Several times I was also distracted by shady behavior in which the author engaged. He visits nature reserves or parks outside of regular hours, offering flimsy justification. He also came to realize cats belong indoors a bit late - six years into keeping an outdoor cat. I'm glad he saw the light, but reading about his cat's 80+ victims didn't do much to help me empathize with the author.
I'm sure I would have enjoyed this book more had I been familiar with some of the spots where his would-be adventures took place. Unfortunately, the distractions just added to my lack of interest. I give Going Wild 2 Goldfinches out of 5.