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How to watch a bird by Steve Braunias

How to watch a bird

by Steve Braunias

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Captures the draw of birdwatching to an outsider, who immerses himself in the world for a year. Great interview with Turbott and cameos by Major Wilson of Bulls and Buller. ( )
  adzebill | Jun 17, 2016 |
This little book was knocked off in an hour and a half. Its really like reading an extended article, or newspaper column. Funny that, as the author is actually a columnist for our national Sunday paper. It was a treat to be reading the bird and place names that are so familiar to me.

Less bird encyclopedia, and more an exploration of the authors new interest in birds, this book is quietly delightful. We hear snippets about the authors personal life, about life in New Zealand in general, and about that breed of bird aficionados: Birders. But what fascinated me was the subset of that group of Birders, the Twitchers.

These folk "collect" sightings of bird species and compete against each other. In a Twitcher's quest to be the person with the highest number of sightings, they will travel long distances at short notice, have their sighting verified, then vamoose again sometimes showing little or no interest in the other birds that are about. It all seems very odd to me. But then again, my interest in birds is limited to simply loving the sound of the NZ native bush birds.

Braunias gives us a slice of the lives of others, and confesses to being a bird addict himself now too. But I cant help but feel like a publisher called him up and said: "we need a book about birds, can you five us 30,000 words by the end of next month?". ( )
  Ireadthereforeiam | Dec 4, 2012 |
I don't think I have ever in all my life read so many books about birds as I have this year. (Two.) Oh no...does this mean I'm going to become a birder?!? Oh Noooooooo...but wait...after reading this book, I have a much higher opinion of birders than before. And please note, that is "birder," NOT "bird-watcher" which is a mildly pejorative and condescending term for unserious casual glancers.

Of course, this is a view of the New Zealand birding world, so isn't overly likely to be applicable to Long Island, New York. More's the pity. Braunias presents a cast of lovably obsessed if socially prickly monomaniacs, past and present, who sound as though they'd render any cocktail party chatter silent. But, if you're in the right frame of mind (ie, to learn), they're fascinating to listen in on. I found myself rooting for birds I've never seen and likely will never see to win their fight for survival.

Braunias's gift as a writer is the short, punchy anecdote...he's a columnist for Sunday Magazine, which appears to be a lot like the Sunday New York Times Magazine, so that makes sense...and this book is just exactly long enough to let him showcase his brightest turns about birds and birding to best advantage.

I love that the book is so physically attractive, too, with its heavy cover stock, its well-reproduced halftone photos inside, and its all-around crisp design. New Zealand press AWA Press has distribution in the USA, so I assume it's possible to buy one here. I'd encourage yo to do so, because it's a delightful way to spend a few hours in good company. ( )
2 vote richardderus | Aug 25, 2010 |
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To Emily and Minka
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It was our first summer together.
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Steve Braunias writes: 'When a black-backed gull flew past the balcony of my girlfriend's apartment in downtown Auckland on a sultry evening last summer, it came so close to where I was standing, so suddenly and dazzlingly, a white flash against the black night, I was bowled over with happiness. I thought: 'Birds, everywhere.' That became the opening sentence for my next Sunday column. 'Birds are everywhere in New Zealand, on coasts, riverbeds, in bush, forests, islands, at sea, on lawns, roofs, telephone wires - a massive, fleeting population, an irresistible presence. I wanted to know more about them. 'This book, then is my personal journey - a beginner's guide to bird-watching. It's also a New Zealand history, a geographical wandering, and an affectionate look at the people who are captivated by birds. Mostly, though, it's a book about birds - from the flightless ratites who once had it good here, in a land without predators, to the introduced birds, the migratory birds which fly incredible distances to get here every year, and the birds modern and completely at home here.'
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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