Wednesday, June 03, 2009

All Things Reconsidered - Roger Tory Peterson

All Things Reconsidered - my birding adventures

I had some trouble getting into this book. I guess one reason is, while I love birds very much, I’m not (yet, maybe) a bird-watcher, so many bird names in the book, especially the first pieces didn’t really mean much to me.

I also didn’t know much about Roger Tory Peterson except for a couple of articles I read on New York Review of Books (one, a review of this book). I knew only that he was considered peerless in his artistic portrayals of birds and that his bird identification guide (published in 1934) revolutionized the field-practice. So with that in mind I think I bypassed the two large groups of people this book is aimed at.

These are a series of articles publishes in the magazine Bird Watcher's Digest from ‘84 to ’96 (the year of his death at 88) ranging a breath of subjects: many are reminiscences of the author’s first steps into bird-watching (among my favorites), exotic expeditions, smaller adventures near-home (some of these were also beautiful), eulogies of colleagues, reflections on conservation and wild-life art.

His style is very polite, very soothing even gentlemanly. Reading “All Things Reconsidered” I really got a sense of how important Peterson was in the bird-watching and conservation world in the U.S. He was one of the first to witness the damage DDT spraying was causing among birds, and to demand its eradication; he also was the driving force behind many sanctuaries both in the U.S. and outside, not to mention his activities within the Audubon Society, his work with young people and teachers, some of the first bird-watching expeditions aimed at tourist, and of course, his guides, who found a way into every bird-watchers pocket everywhere around the world.

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