One Last Thing About New York

I can't believe I forgot to include this in the last post!  While running down 5th Avenue, I saw this: Not Kenn Kaufman I paused. A man in a blue shirt, with a beard looking up at a butterfly...hey wait a minute is that Kenn Kaufman? The man does like to sport a beard and blue shirts. He wrote a butterfly guide. I of course had to tag him in that photo on Facebook to see if he had a modeling gig on the side.

Turns out that is not Kenn Kaufman. Thanks to crowd sourcing information that is Rainer Andreesen in the ad. Rainer is also partners with Victor Garber.  Scroll down on that previous look, Rainer is very handsome, well done, Victor. Here's a side by side comparison of the two:

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Well, perhaps we have a candidate should there ever be a Kaufman biopic and they need a lead? Also, here's Rainer without a that what Kaufman looks like without one?



The Unfeathered Bird aka Coolest Bird Book so far this year

The Unfeathered Birds


I have been so excited about getting a review copy of this book for months! At fist I was bummed because I knew others were getting it but then realized it went to an old address. When I opened the box, I fell in love right away! This is the coolest bird book that I've seen come down the pike in the last year.  It's called The Unfeathered Bird by Katrina van Grouw, a former curator of the ornithological collections at London's Natural History Museum.

gentoo penguin


I think this is my favorite image in the book, it's a gentoo penguin jumping out of the water, its body reflected on the surface. The bird is missing feathers and skin and you can see the muscle structure as the bird is in motion. This book initially seems a macabre nature book, but the book teaches you so much about avian anatomy and structure.




This freaky little image is a budgerigar without feathers, skin or muscles drawn by the author. Look at how long the neck is! So that is what is under your cute little budgie if you share a home with one. And you learn some very fun tidbits of information that are written in an accessible way, like:

" The skull of parrots is unique in having the orbits of the eyes completely encircled by bone. This gives the skull greater strength to withstand the crushing action of the jaws."

Who knew?



This is an illustration of a buzzard (similar to red-tailed hawks in North America) and you can see the muscles and the wing and tail feathers--fascinating and surprising how it all works together to get the bird in a thermals. This book will make you rethink birding structure when you see them in the wild.

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As if accipiters didn't look freaky enough, here's a Eurasian sparrowhawk without feathers killing a Eurasian collared dove.  I can see this book having appeal to people who aren't as interested in birds because it is just so strange. The freaky illustrations can appeal to the Edward Gorey crowd, the anatomy can appeal to the ornithologists and the easy to understand text appeal to the casual birder. If you are looking for a unique, artistic book...and perhaps a few ideas for an interesting tattoo--this book is it.  I highly recommend it, it's worth the hard cover price.

I've said this before and I'll say it again, Princeton University Press is coming out the coolest titles these days.

A Guide To The Birds Of East Africa

Hey, somebody got an interesting photo of a woodpecker in Arkansas--no, seriously, they did. It's not an ivory-billed, but some kind of crazy hybrid. Northern flicker looks like one half of the bird...but the other half, who can say? Check out photos here (click on the thumbnails to see larger versions). I'm thinking flicker with a red-bellied, but I'm not married to that.

I forgot to mention that I read a delightful little book earlier this summer call A Guide to the Birds of East Africa. The book by Nicholas Drayson is about two older male birders in Africa having a birding competition. Whoever sees the most species in the span of a week wins the opportunity to ask a prominent local female field trip leader to a big dance coming up. Will the winner by the shy Mr. Malik who has been pining for Rose all these years but is not the best birder on the block? Or will the winner be that rogue Harry Kahn with fast car and hardcore birding buddies? It's a bit British in style, but still has enough of a sense of humor to throw in a fart joke. If you're looking for something light to read with a touch of African birds, this book is a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Birding books (a shopping guide)

Hello, all, NBB here.

First off, I should tell you all that Shazz (a nickname she picked up from a UK reader, as I recall) is alive and well and is getting ready for a short trip out of town, which is why I'll be your host for the next few days. I'm sure when she returns, she'll have a long series of posts detailing every single inaccurate thing I wrote about birds, or perhaps, if we're very lucky, she'll go back and annotate the posts I did write, so we'll get sort of a director's commentary.

My wife is a wonderful woman with a great sense of humor. Except when it comes to birds, an area where she has no sense of humor. At all. I can make jokes about bees carrying little pails and Cinnamon needing to color eggs for Easter, and it's all good. But jokes about pouring salt on a bird's tail are met with a stony silence, and heaven help us if we're watching a movie and characters camping on a mountain forest hear a loon call.

Which of course just makes it funnier to me.

To compensate for this, I try to give Sharon bird-related books she'll really like. Now, Sharon's pretty hardcore, so these suggestions may not apply to the birder in your life, but I thought I'd pass them on, regardless. This is primarily for the significant others of birdwatchers, because boy howdy, I think I've caused a few fights in other people's relationships by buying too good a gift, if you know what I mean.

The first thing you need to know is that there are four kinds of bird books. There are basic books, field guides, scientific books, and bird porn (here's hoping that last category doesn't get us flagged again).

Basic books have a lot of general information and pictures, and are designed for the casual bird watcher. There the kind of book you'd get someone as a housewarming present, I guess; they don't give a lot of details, because they don't want to bore the casual reader. I recognize them by picking a paragraph at random and thinking, would I read this book myself? If the answer is "yes," then I don't get it for Sharon. Don't get me wrong, these books often have useful information, and if your loved one starting out as a birder, this is probably the best place to begin.

Field Guides are pretty obvious, but need to be suited to the personality of the birder. Think of it like choosing a wand in Harry Potter. "This one? No, no, no, too heavy. How about... Yes, this is very good for birds in your area, not so much for shore birds. But then there's..."

It's probably best to let a birder choose their own field guide, though of course they can drop hints about one they'd like for someone to pick up for them (cough, cough). Guides are either use photos or paintings. Photos, of course, show you what the bird actually looks like (but are often taken from a distance), while paintings can show a lot more detail (but you kind of have to translate an artist's rendering into real-world situations).

One fun thing you can do with field guides is look for ones that refer to different countries. In addition to the fact that they probably won't have it, the birds in other countries are (gasp) usually colorful, and pleasing to look at. Guides to other countries are usually the only ones I buy for Sharon because in terms of what she needs for her day-to-day birding, she has the guides she needs: a Sibley in the car for checking field marks, and several more at home for puzzling out difficult birds.

Scientific books are the meat 'n' potatoes of what I get Sharon. And the best part is that you can usually find them really, really cheap because no one in their right mind would buy them unless they worked at a library and needed to fill up the stacks with books that no one ever checks out.

Scientific books are books written by ornithologists for ornithologists. They have very few pictures, lots of graphs, and such thrilling titles as "Biosystemics of the American Crow." When I see something like this peeking up at me from the bottom row of Half Price Books, I think "Pay dirt!" More boring makes it more better, as I learned over the course of a few Christmases, having put down books on very obscure topics (Analysis in Turkey Vulture Droppings) in favor of bird books that looked mildly interesting (to me). Fortunately for all concerned I mentioned to Sharon the terrible books I had almost bought, before I realized she'd left for the bookstore so quickly that all I was talking to was a Sharon-shaped dust cloud that slowly dissipated.

So, if you have a hard-core birder in your life (Hi, Reier!) these are the kind of books to look for. You especially want to be on the look out for The Life Histories of North American Birds by Arthur Cleveland Bent, an amateur birder who compiled data on, well, every North American Bird and published the data in a series of books through the Smithsonian (and later, Dover). Again, these are pretty much reference books, not really for reading. Unless you're married to my wife.

A story: we're lying in bed together, reading. I forget what I was reading, something nerdy no doubt about elves and Quests and so forth, but somewhere in there, Sharon let out a gasp. An audible, shocked gasp. I looked over to see what she was reading, and the chapter header was Parasitic Infestations of Peregrine Falcon Nests, 1920-1921.

The final category is Bird Porn, which means giant, full color books filled with pictures and illustrations of birds. It's hard to go wrong with picture books, but you do have to be careful when dealing with illustrations, because, well, sometimes they suck.

And by that I mean that they're inaccurate. Or that the birder in your life doesn't like the illustrator's style. I generally don't pick up books of illustrated birds unless they're by Robert Bateman, an artist I know Sharon likes.

So, that's that. Sorry the post wasn't funnier or more interesting. I'll bring out the bees and the bunnies soon, I promise.