Monday, January 30, 2012

John Yow

From a Q & A with John Yow, author of The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds:

Q: What is an "armchair birder"?

A: An armchair birder is a person too lazy to get up and "go birding," which can be pretty exhausting, or a wannabe naturalist who somehow made it through school without taking any science courses, which can be pretty demanding. But really, being an armchair birder is okay. It means you're content to look at the birds that come to you, but motivated enough to take a close look. And of course, it means you're willing to read to fill in the blanks. One idea behind the book is that the natural world is close by; you don't have to go find it. Thoreau, whom I quote often, never went anywhere, but he saw everything there was to be seen.

Q: I admire your ability to pay close attention to the habits of birds in order to reveal their secret lives. What is the first step in tuning in to the birds around us?

A: The first step is getting outside your own head (or your own i-Pod or cell phone). For some of us, like me, that's easy, because what's inside of our heads is profoundly boring. Other people are endlessly fascinated by their own thoughts, feelings, relationships, and agendas, and about all we can hope for from those folks is that they do as little harm as possible.

Q: How is this book different from other birding books?

A: This is a different bird book because the concept is different. The purpose of bird "guides" is to help you identify birds you haven't seen before, and in most cases, that means helping you identify hundreds of species you will never see. That's fine. Everybody needs a bird guide. But after you've identified the species, the guidebook has done its job. My idea was to take the birds we've already identified and talk about what they're up to.

The great advantage of this concept was that it...[read on]
Visit The Armchair Birder website.