One favorite old bird book might be Richard H. Pough's 'Audubon Bird Guide
to Eastern Land Birds', published by Doubleday & Co, Inc. in 1946. This was
an authoritative bird guide in its time, I am sure; at least I remember
seeing it in library and other collections. The birds included however
start with the cuckoos, then the owls, the woodpeckers and all the
passerines, leaving out hawks which may have been considered birds of the
air rather than the land. I have my dad's old copy; he was born in 1911 &
had taken to country living from the city.
Don Eckelberry's painted birds in the 48 color plates are vivid but
soft-textured and luminous, actively posed at multiple angles. Even though
the rundown of species includes ones like Ipswich sparrow not recognized as
distinct species today, or excludes others such as Nelson's sharp-tailed
sparrow, it does cover some of the birds found near the Mexican border and
many found in the west-central U.S. and Canada. What may be most striking
is the thoroughness of the text in detailing habits, habitat, nest and
range as then understood.
In March 2008 for a few days a Townsend's solitaire showed up on the
grounds of the St. Paul Science Museum, which at the time was an
ultra-convenient location for me to get to, and I ended up with a very
personal encounter with this bird, who behaved as if glad to have a
visitor, any visitor, on an early Saturday morning. When I used the Pough
bird book to look up habits and habitat of the solitaire, Pough's
description of preferred habitat was an exact match for the landscaping
that had been done right there, behind the Science Museum.
*Tanya Beyer - d.b.a. Epiphanies Afield, Natural History Art from the
North American heartland
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