watching the world from a window,
waiting for a spot o’ sun.
Hmmm, ...another bird book soon to be gracing the shelves of the bookstores around town—or so I thought, flipping through the glossy pages of the latest from Princeton University Press.
The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds, to be released in March 2011, boldly features the photographic excellence of Richard Crossley, a life-long lover of birds and admitted “twitcher,” as bird chasers from his native Britain are sometimes called. In 640 beautifully mastered composite plates assembled from over 10,000 single digital images, Crossley has created what he hopes will help us become better birders. Another bird book, a revolutionary guide…really?
With technological prowess, Richard Crossley has taken advantage of the digital revolution to create a guide featuring scenes of different habitats loaded with multiple views of the represented bird—“near, far and everything in between.” Close-ups often show the bird in as much detail as if it were perched on your windowsill, while, in the same scene, a flock of the same forages at the distant horizon or flies silhouetted against the sky. There may be dozens of birds in different plumages, different poses, all scattered across the page—and at first glance, I was confused as to what to do with them all! Hidden in tall spikes of teasel or plucking thistle down from messy, matted seed heads, 17 American Goldfinches looked back at me from one page. Isn’t a field guide supposed to show me a nice, clean picture, and point to some clear field mark so I know what to look for?
In a moment of both delight and dismay, I stooped to pick up a small form barely larger than the clothespins tucked into my pocket, as it lay wet and dirtied in the center of the yard just feet beyond the clothesline.
A little bird, strangely fallen with no obvious explanation as to how it had happened to lay there, motionless in the dampened grass.
I turned it over in my hand, the cold and small, soggy, brown lump.
And felt a wave of regret wash past as I tipped his lifeless head to one side and found a long, slender, recurved bill—my brown creeper.