Bird-Watching Book Traces History of the Hobby

of a feather by scott weidensaul.jpg
I've never been a bird-watcher, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I attended ornithological expert Scott Weidensaul’s discussion on his latest book, Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding. My superficial mind conjured up images of old white men with jeans tucked into socks, corncob pipes, and cargo vests. So when Weidensaul started off the lecture admitting the bird world to be a predominantly masculine one, I wasn’t shocked. As he trailed further down the timeline of rich ornithological history, however, plenty of strong women appeared as key figures in popularizing bird conservation and birding as both a sport and science.For example, in the late 1800’s, when bird hats were all the rage, activist Harriet Hemenway took the lead in fighting the millinery trade, which, at the time, basically meant the feather industry. She then went on to shut down the interstate bird-skin trade, and founded the renowned Massachusetts Audubon Society. Rosalie Edge, another hero, bought Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania then turned it into the first sanctuary for birds of prey, which were otherwise being slaughtered. And the role of early "field guide" books--the idea of which was virtually incomprehensible to average hobbyists at the time--was revolutionized when Florence Merriam wrote a guide with newbies like me in mind. I now realize I owe some serious thanks to Merriam and the other chickadees who have me inspired to start birding. I never thought I'd be saying it, but I think I'm hooked--count me (proudly) in with the rest of the 80 million bird-curious Americans that love to go out chasing birds. ::American Birding Association ::Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding

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