The sky is gray. The temperature is near freezing. The wind is raw and leaves are falling from the trees, coloring the ground with flecks of brown and red and yellow. It’s a dreary day, a day when I plan to stay indoors, to read, to write and to observe nature, and birds, through the windows of my home. I’ve started those activities at my computer with the book, Birds of America, open on my desk.
I’ve been fascinated with birds since I was very young and this book, published in 1917 with a second edition published in 1936, has been my guide to birds since I was a little boy. We didn’t own a copy but Mother brought it home from the town library. She worked at the library so she didn’t check it, just brought it to me and returned it to the library only when somebody asked for it, which didn’t happen more than a couple of times.
I couldn’t read when Mother first brought me the book. But that book has beautiful color plates, pages of colored pictures of birds, which Mother, or Dad, went through with me whenever I came home and said I’d seen a bird I didn’t know; nor did they from my description. Near the beginning of the Preface to Birds of America it states, there is a “large and steadily increasing number of persons who are interested in American Ornithology.”
Birds of America is not a book to take in the field when bird watching. It’s a large book, bigger than a volume of the set of encyclopedia I have. I did have some books I could carry easily in the field, a set of three shirt pocket size books, The Red Book of Birds, The Blue Book of Birds, and The Yellow Book of Birds. There may have been a fourth, The Green Book of Birds, I don’t remember. But I didn’t want to carry three, or four, books, even though they were small, when I went walking through the woods near my home or along a country road.
A Field Guide to the Birds, by Roger Tory Peterson, is a book that fits in a pocket, a large coat pocket. It was published in 1934 but I didn’t get a copy then. I got a copy of the third or fourth edition. I have now looked for, found, and purchased copies of every edition of Peterson’s classic.
Now there are many books called field guides for the identification of American birds. I have also purchased, or been given, all or nearly all of them, National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds, Ken Kaufman Field Guide to the Birds, David Sibley Field Guide to the Birds, Donald and Lillian Stokes A Guide to the Birds (field guide size though it isn’t titled field guide).
Those field guides to birds are all for eastern birds, east of the Rocky Mountains. There are also field guides to western birds and I have a book titled, Guide to the Birds of Alaska. I have A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico, and A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe.
There are books of approximately the same size to many other natural history subjects. I have A field Guide to Birds’ Nests, A Field Guide to the Insects, A Field Guide to Mammals, A Field Guide to Animal Tracks, A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs, A Field Guide to Wildflowers, A Field Guide to the Ferns. I have a book titled A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals.
The sky is gray. The temperature is near freezing. The wind is raw and leaves are falling from the trees coloring the ground. It’s a dreary day but it’s warm in the house and I have a plethora of nature books.