Friday, 24 August 2012

Birding for mermaids (and mermen!)

Recently, I have managed to squeeze in reading a few books in between my usual mix of birding, writing, tour leading with perhaps a bit of sleep thrown in for good measure.

Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm Petrels of North America by Steve Howell was one book that I didn't expect to get into as much as I did. This is a group of birds that I have relatively little experience of compared with the raptors or thrushes and chats. I found the book utterly fascinating. I loved the author's comparison of the world's seas with deserts, forests and other more terrestrial habitats. It never really occurred to me to think in those terms. Indeed, he went into great detail about the different oceananic weather systems and how birds reacted to them. Fascinating stuff. All this before I even started to read the species accounts.

Of course, North America is infinitely bigger than the UK and as such had a far larger array of petrels, shearwaters and albatrosses than us. Nonetheless, the species accounts were both informative and readable. The field identification sections were of particular interest as I was learning things about some of the familiar species that I had hitherto no knowledge of. I never knew, for instance, that female Sooty Shearwaters had smaller bills than the males. For a tubenose afficionado those kinds of details must be highly useful. Which brought me to my next thought: was the author a merman? How could he know so much about a group of birds that most of us only ever see swinging past some blustery headland on a cold autumnal morning.

Negatives? I wished that I lived in an area with easy access to many species of these birds. One day?

1 comment:

BirderRon said...

Ahe but David - if you moved away you would surely miss your belove Scrubs. Would you still be called a Scrubber then?