Good Birders Don’t Wear White and Fifty Places to Go Birding Before You Die are both guides of a sort, unlike A Summer of Birds. Good Birders is the more practical, full of hints that can make you a better birder, with humor, compiled by a list of birding stars. Some of the hints are common sense: clean your optics; bigger magnification is not better; take notes; have good manners; keep a calendar. Others are more esoteric, at least to me; I didn’t know that waving a white rag will flag in sea ducks and the big grebes. I hadn’t thought about the details of introducing children to birds, though I found it interesting that, as Laura Erickson suggests, both my son and I were started with “real” guides as kids.
One caveat: although I completely agree with Pete Dunne that it is best to “use good equipment” (and I thank him for, many years ago, giving me my first great pair of binoculars, which I still use), I fear that too much commodification is happening in our beloved pastime. Tours to exotic places are now a given; a weekend winter drive through any refuge will reveal 50 fancy sport-utility vehicles disgorging birders with spotting scopes that cost as much as a used car. When a set of tips for digital photography says that “you can get started in digital photography with an investment of two thousand dollars or even a bit less,” I worry. Perhaps better to go with the chapters on “Dump the Gear” and “Let Birds Help You Escape to Paradise”: home.
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