An Enchantment of Birds: Memories from a Birder's Life

An Enchantment of Birds: Memories from a Birder's Life

by Richard Cannings

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In these delightful meditations, biologist and bird lover Richard Cannings weaves stories of his personal encounters with birds into fascinating descriptions of their behavior, anatomy, and evolution. He muses over the meadowlarks’ ability to hide their nests so completely that he has seen only two in a lifetime spent searching for them; the trumpeter swan, as picky as a two-year old, devouring potatoes and carrots but turning up its beak at Brussels sprouts; the northern gannet, with its snowy plumage, black wingtips, and startling blue eyes; the little saw-whet owl, which dabbles in bigamy and even trigamy; and more than two dozen other birds. Covering the entire continent, from the cacophony of a seabird colony on the shores of the Atlantic to a symphony of snow geese on the autumn plains to songbird courtship in the alpine tundra of the Rockies, An Enchantment of Birds informs and entertains, in one fell swoop.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781926685083
Publisher: Greystone Books
Publication date: 07/01/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Richard Cannings works as a consulting biologist in Naramata, British Columbia, assessing endangered species and organizing broad-scale bird population surveys, among many other projects. He teaches field ecology at the University of British Columbia and was curator of the Cowan Vertebrate Museum at the university for fifteen years. He is the author of The Rockies: A Natural History and, with Sydney Cannings, of British Columbia: A Natural History and The B.C. Roadside Naturalist.

Read an Excerpt

My earliest memories are of meadowlarks. Their songs rang through my open bedroom window as the morning sky brightened and have become etched in my mind as a coordinate of home. I have met many people since who feel that meadowlark songs are an integral part of living in the West, like the taste of saskatoon berries, the smell of sagebrush after a thunderstorm and the colour of the evening sky above the black mountains in the summer twilight.

Just before I was born, my parents built a house in a new subdivision carved out of wild bunchgrass. For five or six years the meadowlarks came back to the yard they had owned before we did, but eventually the young apple orchard turned the prairie into a deciduous woodland and they had to look elsewhere to nest. Western meadowlarks are birds of grasslands and cannot tolerate forests, though they happily sing from a ponderosa pine growing high and lonesome amid the grass. But for those few years the meadowlarks were a big part of my back yard, the males singing from the freshly-planted apple trees, the young riding on the back of the tractor as it mowed the long grass in midsummer.

Loud and melodic, meadowlark songs sail through the dry air, advertising the presence of a male with a territory. One might think that meadowlarks and other grassland songbirds are at a disadvantage when compared to forest birds in that they don’t have any high trees to sing from to broadcast their songs far and wide. But the wide open spaces are an advantage both for being seen and heard—there are no trees to get in the way. To get a high singing site, many grassland birds—the sky lark is a famous example—simply fly up into the air, giving long songs while they are mere specks against the blue sky. Male meadowlarks have a flight song, but it is not as musical (to the human ear) as the song they give while standing on fenceposts or other perches.

Table of Contents

Western Meadowlark
Western Kingbird
Evening Grosbeak
Bohemian Waxwing
California Quail
Black-capped Chickadee
Pygmy Nuthatch
White-headed Woodpecker
Calliope Hummingbird
Western Bluebird
Common Poorwill
Flammulated Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Northern Pygmy-Owl
Northern Flicker
Clark’s Nutcracker
American Crow
Common Raven
Golden Eagle
White-tailed Ptarmigan
Horned Lark
Northern Gannet
Tufted Puffin
Black-footed Albatross
Bald Eagle
American Dipper
American Coot
Turkey Vulture
Gray Flycatcher
Western Grebe

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Enchantment of Birds: Memories from a Birder's Life 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
tripleblessings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Each chapter portrays a different bird species found in Canada, some common and some endangered, with interesting accounts about their behaviour and habitat, why some are endangered, why some have become less abundant or have changed locations over time, and why the author knows and likes these birds. An appealing read for amateur birdwatchers and students of nature and the environment.
Kellswitch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful and lovely book, so accessible it felt like listening to a conversation with the author about his experiences with birds and nature.Each chapter is about a different bird, some of their history and nature and his experiences in seeing them, often going back to when he was a child. Each chapter also only has one image of the bird in question, a simple black and white line drawing of each one and while as usual I would have loved color photos in this case the simple images really suited the book, photos would have been a detraction I feel. I also appreciated his ecological message which brought the point of the need for better management of natural resources on our part without ever getting preachy. Physically I also really liked the smaller than average book size, the quality of the paper (at least for this edition) and the simple but elegant cover and overall structure of the book.
rightantler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a delightful book of birding memoirs. For me made all the more enjoyable as many familiar birds are featured. A great introduction to Cannings and I shall be seeking out more of his work.