14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2003
This is the kind of book my husband hates...it's the kind of book that makes me grab his sleeve so that I can read the funny bits out loud. Except the funny bits keep coming, so he can't ever get away!
Peter Cashwell manages to dissect his birding obsession, give you nuggets of information, and throw in snippets of history all while making you smile, chortle or laugh out loud. I don't know that I learned a lot...but then I have a bird-obsessed mother so have heard a lot of these facts before, but I enjoyed every step of this birding expedition. I'd love to go bird-watching with the author because I'd be sure that even if we saw no birds, we'd have a great time and I'd come home smarter.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2003
Mr. Cashwell has written a delightful book that all would enjoy. Regardless of whether or not you can tell the difference between a warbler and nuthatch, Cashwell enthusiasm for birding and his skill with the language will keep you chuckling throughout. If you love stories about family, friends, travel, and well, birds, this book is sure to please.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2003
I am soooo NOT the target audience for Mr. Cashwell's book, given the fact that the only thing that might normally make me hyper-aware of birds would be if a very large one suddenly landed on my head. Taking that into consideration, then, the fact that I find his book so delightful and enlightening says more to me than if I considered myself to be more of a fine-feathered friend. It also means that I'll be giving Mr. Cashwell's book to all of my more ornithologically-minded friends, not to mention language/literature buffs, since Mr. Cashwell's amusing musings are by no means confined to things that fly and should therefore not be - dare I say it? - pigeonholed into just one category.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Readers with no interest in food or nature are missing out on some of today's most humorous, personable and evocative writing. Take Peter Cashwell, for instance, an English teacher (why couldn't I have had a teacher like him?) and self-styled victim of Birding Compulsive Disorder, whose first book, a lively and very funny loose-knit collection of essays, begins a description of pelican flight: "If pelicans were drivers, they'd own huge, rectangular American luxury cars with plush interiors...."
Or how about this perfect picture of Skimmers off a damp, chilly beach: "thirty or forty slim, scissorlike black birds wheeling around in the deepening gray; they looked like feathered knives tossed aloft by a master juggler."
Cashwell, who cross-references an eclectic knowledge of popular culture (particularly rock music and comic books), serious literature, and research with his birding, divides the book into three sections: Birding, Birds, Birded. The first section leans toward the evolution of a birder - boyhood experiences with birds and mosquitoes in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, his later establishment of a life list (the move from casual to avid), migration counts, haiku from the Peterson Field Guide, and the serendipitous birding experiences of daily life, like the inherently funny attempted rescue of a vulture in the front yard.
The second section focuses on individual birds - how the cardinal got its name, why the starling deserves our hostility, the "social cachet" of raptors, and the poignant, funny tale of the owl that saved Christmas. And the third leans a bit more to the outings of the experienced birder, trips to add to the life list in Delaware, Iowa, even Long Island, NY. These are particularly evocative and full of the surprises that Cashwell finds especially rewarding in birding.
Those who pick this book up for the funny stories and incisive visuals of chilly, drizzly beautiful dawns, and then succumb to Cashwells' infectious enthusiasm will also find plenty of practical information on birding whens, wheres and hows. A word of warning though; casual backyard birders are likely to find themselves itching to get up at dawn and go tramping around bug-infested habitat with a pair of binoculars and a Peterson guide.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2003
Peter Cashwell, an English teacher, has written a graceful book that discusses birding in a light-hearted manner. It will delight those of us who love birds and those of us who love the English language. I often laughed out loud at the various situations Cashwell creates for himself in the pursuit of birds. After reading it, I felt inspired to look at the visitors to my backyard far more closely.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2004
A well-written book by someone who enjoys birding, but is far from obsessed by it (a lack of obsession is sometimes a good trait to have!). I found that I was able to relate to many of the stories; particularly those when he was searching out a specific species of bird, or the differences in birding alone or with a partner (I prefer the buddy system -- he comes around to it slowly).
Being a New Yorker (& living on Long Island specifically) I was somewhat offended about his (& his fellow southerners) belief that nature ends at the New York border. Fortunately his birding trip on a winters day to Cold Spring Harbor seems to have changed his mind (so might a visit to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge or even Central Park). His tale of birding in Iowa, in particular his experience with the Iowa Birding Hotline, was good for a few out-loud laughs.
I was less interested in his research of the naming of the cardinal, or his disdain (though I share it), for the starling.
All-in-all, a good read about the big (and small) pleasures to be found in the pursuit of birds.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2003
I'm not into "birding" at all, and I just loved this book. Reading it was like having a smart, funny friend around to tell me fascinating stories. I didn't want the book to end. (How often does THAT happen?!)
Of course, if you are a "birder" this book is something you will want to own. Also, it would make a terrific gift for anyone who enjoys a good read.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2006
This book began great. I was thinking I should get a copy for everyone who cares about me so they can get a better perspective on what this geat passion of birding is like. I was laughing out loud and thoroughly enjoying the read. But after about half way through the book, I began to lose interest. It seems as though Cashwell had some good ideas at first, but then he still needed to come up with filler for the rest of the book. By the end I was so frustrated with his mundane and frequent asinine observations that I finally had to put the book down without finishing it. His glibness went from entertaining to irritating to the point of unbearable by three-quarters of the way through. I did manage to get the part where he said he had about 250 life birds. I'm not sure how a person living in the Eastern US could have such a small life list and feel good about writing a book as though he's an expert on the topic. I know people who can log that many species in one day on the East Coast. So, if you get this book, stop after the story about the Christmas Great-Horned Owl. That was the last good story in the book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2014
Cashwell's book serves to provide insight into the nature of the obsession for those not caught up in the madness of birding. It isn't a how to, it is a laid back narrative which explores the journey as much as the means or the end.
I think some reviews were disappointed that it was not more of a "how to" book but a little more of a "why I" or "why we" book. Personally, I found it to be light hearted, well written and enjoyable.
on April 26, 2014
It is a good and interesting book for everyone who loves birds. The author obviously enjoys seeking new ones.
I would love to identify every new bird that I see. They usually fly away before I can see all the identifying marks.