How To Look at a Bird: Open Your Eyes to the Joy of Watching and Knowing Birds

Storey. Feb. 2024. 144p. ISBN 9781635866490. pap. $18.99. SCI
Leslie, the doyenne of nature journaling, whose best-selling Keeping a Nature Journal is now in its third edition, here narrows her focus to avian life. Joy and wonder abound in more than 140 pages that she characterizes as “more than a guide book.” The text is brief and the language simple, but the book’s pencil sketches and watercolors are plentiful and lovely. It teaches how to look at birds (observing size, shape, color, field marks, beaks, feet, and more), how to listen (birdcalls vs. birdsongs), observing at feeders, understanding behaviors (nesting, where birds go at night, habitat, and more), and drawing birds (a 10-minute version of Leslie’s workshops), and it also digs deeper (including references and the basics of taxonomy). The book provides closeups of nine common species in a “What bird is that?” feature. For her, curiosity is key, so when learning to look at birds, a pigeon is as good as a pipit. To that end, she bravely includes personae non gratae of the birding world, such as house sparrows and starlings, in her discussion. Excerpts from Leslie’s own nature journals add some whimsy.
VERDICT Leslie’s gentle, encouraging tone will assuage any doubts of readers new to sketching nature. An inspirational first flight for fledgling birders.
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