Friday, February 8, 2013

The Book in Hand — Green Birding

In my essays here about birds, I’ve often touched on my own philosophy of birding. (Short version: Bird locally, and love every bird.)

I explored the idea most fully in these two essays:

The essay at the second link described my astonishment that birders who drove for hours to see a rare bird that I found didn’t seem to care much about…the bird itself. They were most interested in checking it off their birding lists. *eyeroll*

Just about a year ago, Richard Gregson, a birder from Montreal, contacted me to ask permission to include excerpts from that essay in Green Birding, a book about environmentally-friendly birding. I was delighted that he found my essay worthy of sharing with other birders, and I was also very grateful that he asked my permission.

The book has just come out, and it’s a good one. Here are my impressions. (I have not had time to read the whole thing yet, so I can’t in good conscience offer a bona fide review.) 

First off, I like the look and feel of this little book. It was printed using “responsible environmental practices” certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The green color scheme, used throughout the book, is appealing. The page layout is nicely designed; there’s little wasted “white space,” but the fonts, colors, and layout support an easy-to-comprehend organization, and the text itself is easy to read. (These are always important factors for me; good design enables smooth reading.)

Green Birding covers:
—Where to look for birds close to home--often-overlooked spots in cities and suburban neighborhoods that can be bird magnets
—How to get deeper by studying the birds around your home and participating in citizen science and conservation projects
—Green birding listing challenges and groups the green birder can get involved in
—Includes advice on how to adapt your equipment to a new style of birding and how to attract more birds to your home garden.

The table of contents lays this all out in nine chapters:
1 – Why Green Birding?
2 – Getting Started
3 – Patchworking [yay!]
4 – Equipment and Record-keeping
5 – The “Sport” of Green Birding
6 – Creating a  Green Bird Garden
7 – Citizen Science
8 – Personal Research in Your Patch
9 – Conservation

And – thank you! – an Index.

The text will appeal to birders at all levels. For a beginning birder, Mr. Gregson defines terms and explains the what, why, and how of birding. For the more experienced birder, and for those who wish to advance without causing environmental harm, Mr. Grenson offers sound, reasonable advice and ideas for how we can derive more enjoyment close to home, even if our life lists have climbed into the hundreds.
(I don’t even keep a life list any more – ready why here:

I’m particularly interested in the chapter on creating a bird-friendly garden. We need to add trees and other plants to our yard, and I want to be sure that any changes we make will be bird- and animal-friendly.

The chapters on citizen science are very interesting. I confess to not engaging much with citizen science. However, an appendix with names, descriptions, and contact information for the many organizations and citizen-science projects named in the text would have been a useful addition, and might have prompted me to take that next step. Yes, yes, we can all look stuff up online. But a book that is meant to inspire us to take action should make it easy for us to act.

Now, I confess that as a person who makes a living in part as a writer and editor, and sometimes as an indexer, I may be more sensitive than the average person to spelling and grammatical errors, typographical errors, and poor indexing. But I really do not understand why any professionally produced book should have any spelling errors or indexing errors. In a book about birds, not a single bird name should be misspelled. As I said, I have not had time to read the book yet. But in the two minutes that I spent scanning just the index (as I do with most books), several errors fairly flew off the page:

  • “Horned Brebe” should be “Horned Grebe”
  • “birds, climate change’s affect on” (should be Birds, climate change’s effect on”
  • “Red-tailed Cooper’s Hawk” should be ... well, what should it be? Red-tailed? Or Cooper’s? The entry directs me to page 16, where both birds are mentioned. But there is not a listing for page 16 under Red-tailed Hawk.
  • Oh. My own name was misspelled, too. Well, that happens sometimes. But it was correct in our email correspondence…?

And it would have been nice if inverted subject entries had been used, so that, for example, all Woodpeckers would have been listed under “Woodpeckers,” instead of under “Downy…” “Hairy…”  etc. (And beginners who don’t know that a “Golden Flicker” is a woodpecker might be grateful to see it included in a listing of woodpeckers.)

These errors are the responsibility of the publisher, not the author. It is the publisher’s job to engage proofreaders, fact checkers, and professional indexers to ensure that their products are error-free. Unfortunately, production errors undermine the message that the author is trying to promote. In a book about birds, if the names of birds are misspelled, how will I know that other information is presented correctly?

I look forward to reading the whole book, and to applying what I learn to making my own birding “greener.”

Production errors aside, this book is a good resource for all birders, whether you’ve been birding for decades, or are just starting out. Just don’t rely on the index.

Gregson, Richard. Green Birding: How to See More Birds and Protect the Environment at the Same Time. 2013. Stackpole Books. Paperback: 134 pages. Price: $16.95 U.S.