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Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons In the Lives…

Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons In the Lives of Migratory Birds

by Miyoko Chu

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I was excited to read this book, given my obsession with birds; however, it was mostly a disappointment. One of my chief complaints was that the author spends a significant number of pages (including a lengthy appendix) describing specific geographical locations to watch birds. I noted to myself that the cover gave no indication of this being a guidebook. Had I wanted a guidebook telling me where to go to look for birds, I would've checked one out from the library. Instead I checked this out, hoping it would be chock full of interesting facts. It started out fine but, in addition to the problem listed above, quickly became mired down in repetitive descriptions of scientific "studies" of questionably significant value. To me, many of these studies amounted to harassment of wildlife in the name of science. Were the average human to grab a wild bird and stuff it in a sack they'd be universally disparaged. But if you're planning to write a peer-reviewed journal article about it, by all means you should stuff as many birds in a sack as is humanly possible. Unfortunately I returned this book to the library before I remembered to pull a specific quote from it. To paraphrase: this scientist who attached radio transmitters to migratory birds followed a particular bird for hundreds of miles one night. The next day, after losing contact with it, he experienced massive regret. What right did I have, he wrote, to contribute to the already tremendous odds stacked against this tiny bird as it made its annual grueling journey to its breeding grounds. He never strapped another transmitter on a bird after that. Sometimes in our pursuit of scientific knowledge, we lose sight of the value of life's mysteries. I think it's great that scientists figured out how far migratory birds travel between their wintering and breeding grounds, but they were able to do that from simple observation. Maybe as a layman I cannot see the value of some of the more invasive techniques scientists use to study birds. I'm sure that they would say that it's important work: for example, they are studying if migratory bird numbers are dwindling and if so, why. There are many contributing factors, and it's maybe more complicated than just blaming it all on human activity. If such a loss is not due to human activity, that's fine. But do we really need to know for sure that chopping down entire forests is bad for birds? Or that filling the air and water with toxic chemicals irreparably alters the food chain? Can't these be basic assumptions? After all, scientific inquiry takes time, and that is one thing we are rapidly running out of. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
The journeys of songbirds are truly amazing. This book gives a very enjoyable account of all sorts of birds, not least the wonderful bobolink, as they travel outrageous and inspiring distances every year in spring and fall. It also introduced me to a new interest: listening to the the flocks of songbirds migrating overhead in the safe darkness of the night! ( )
  rightantler | Dec 23, 2010 |
One of the most captivating and fascinating books I have read. Great reference material ( )
  regaljm | Aug 6, 2008 |
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"Songbird Journeys is the first book devoted to songbird migration. Until recently, little was known about the lives of songbirds during their autumn and spring travels or in their winter habitats. Aided by modern technology, however, scientists have documented mass migrations over the Gulf of Mexico, identified the voices of migrants in the night sky, and showed how songbirds navigate using stars, polarized light, and magnetic fields. Miyoko Chu explores the intricacies underlying the ebb and flow of migration, the cycle of seasons, and the interconnectedness between distant places. Songbird Journeys pays homage to the wonder and beauty of songbirds while revealing the remarkable lives of migratory birds and the scientific quest to answer age-old questions about where songbirds go, how they get there, and what they do in the far-flung places they inhabit throughout the year."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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