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An ornithologist’s account of his youthful, year-long, cross-country birdwatching adventure: “A fascinating memoir of an obsession.” —Booklist At sixteen, Kenn Kaufman dropped out of the high school where he was student council president and hit the road, hitching back and forth across America, from Alaska to Florida, Maine to Mexico. Maybe not all that unusual a thing to do in the seventies, but what Kenn was searching for was a little different: not sex, drugs, God, or even self, but birds. A report of a rare bird would send him hitching nonstop from Pacific to Atlantic and back again. When he was broke he would pick fruit or do odd jobs to earn the fifty dollars or so that would last him for weeks. His goal was to set a record—most North American species seen in a year—but along the way he began to realize that at this breakneck pace he was only looking, not seeing. What had been a game became a quest for a deeper understanding of the natural world. Kingbird Highway is a unique coming-of-age story, combining a lyrical celebration of nature with wild, and sometimes dangerous, adventures, starring a colorful cast of characters.
The author recounts his trek across the country at age sixteen in search of birds, his efforts to set a record for the most North American species seen in a year, and how he gained a deeper understanding of the natural world. Reprint.
America is a nation of ardent, knowledgeable birdwatchers. But how did it become so? And what role did the field guide play in our passion for spotting, watching, and describing birds? In the Field, Among the Feathered tells the history of field guides to birds in America from the Victorian era to the present, relating changes in the guides to shifts in science, the craft of field identification, and new technologies for the mass reproduction of images. Drawing on his experience as a passionate birder and on a wealth of archival research, Thomas Dunlap shows how the twin pursuits of recreation and conservation have inspired birders and how field guides have served as the preferred method of informal education about nature for well over a century. The book begins with the first generation of late 19th-century birdwatchers who built the hobby when opera glasses were often the best available optics and bird identification was sketchy at best. As America became increasingly urban, birding became more attractive, and with Roger Tory Peterson's first field guide in 1934, birding grew in both popularity and accuracy. By the 1960s recreational birders were attaining new levels of expertise, even as the environmental movement made birding's other pole, conservation, a matter of human health and planetary survival. Dunlap concludes by showing how recreation and conservation have reached a new balance in the last 40 years, as scientists have increasingly turned to amateurs, whose expertise had been honed by the new guides, to gather the data they need to support habitat preservation. Putting nature lovers and citizen-activists at the heart of his work, Thomas Dunlap offers an entertaining history of America's long-standing love affair with birds, and with the books that have guided and informed their enthusiasm.
Become a better birder with brief portraits of 200 top North American birds. This friendly, relatable book is a celebration of the art, science, and delights of bird-watching. How to Know the Birds introduces a new, holistic approach to bird-watching, by noting how behaviors, settings, and seasonal cycles connect with shape, song, color, gender, age distinctions, and other features traditionally used to identify species. With short essays on 200 observable species, expert author Ted Floyd guides us through a year of becoming a better birder, each species representing another useful lesson: from explaining scientific nomenclature to noting how plumage changes with age, from chronicling migration patterns to noting hatchling habits. Dozens of endearing pencil sketches accompany Floyd's charming prose, making this book a unique blend of narrative and field guide. A pleasure for birders of all ages, this witty book promises solid lessons for the beginner and smiles of recognition for the seasoned nature lover.
Victor Emanuel is widely considered one of America's leading birders. He has observed more than six thousand species during travels that have taken him to every continent. He founded the largest company in the world specializing in birding tours and one of the most respected ones in ecotourism. Emanuel has received some of birding's highest honors, including the Roger Tory Peterson Award from the American Birding Association and the Arthur A. Allen Award from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. He also started the first birding camps for young people, which he considers one of his greatest achievements. In One More Warbler, Emanuel recalls a lifetime of birding adventures—from his childhood sighting of a male Cardinal that ignited his passion for birds to a once-in-a-lifetime journey to Asia to observe all eight species of cranes of that continent. He tells fascinating stories of meeting his mentors who taught him about birds, nature, and conservation, and later, his close circle of friends—Ted Parker, Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, Roger Tory Peterson, and others—who he frequently birded and traveled with around the world. Emanuel writes about the sighting of an Eskimo Curlew, thought to be extinct, on Galveston Island; setting an all-time national record during the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count; attempting to see the Imperial Woodpecker in northwestern Mexico; and birding on the far-flung island of Attu on the Aleutian chain. Over the years, Emanuel became a dedicated mentor himself, teaching hundreds of young people the joys and enrichment of birding. "Birds changed my life," says Emanuel, and his stories make clear how a deep connection to the natural world can change everyone's life.
Every year on January 1, a quirky crowd of adventurers storms out across North America for a spectacularly competitive event called a Big Year -- a grand, grueling, expensive, and occasionally vicious, "extreme" 365-day marathon of birdwatching. For three men in particular, 1998 would be a whirlwind, a winner-takes-nothing battle for a new North American birding record. In frenetic pilgrimages for once-in-a-lifetime rarities that can make or break their lead, the birders race each other from Del Rio, Texas, in search of the rufous-capped warbler, to Gibsons, British Columbia, on a quest for Xantus's hummingbird, to Cape May, New Jersey, seeking the offshore great skua. Bouncing from coast to coast on their potholed road to glory, they brave broiling deserts, roiling oceans, bug-infested swamps, a charge by a disgruntled mountain lion, and some of the lumpiest motel mattresses known to man. The unprecedented year of beat-the-clock adventures ultimately leads one man to a new record -- one so gigantic that it is unlikely ever to be bested...finding and identifying an extraordinary 745 different species by official year-end count. Prize-winning journalist Mark Obmascik creates a rollicking, dazzling narrative of the 275,000-mile odyssey of these three obsessives as they fight to the finish to claim the title in the greatest -- or maybe the worst -- birding contest of all time. With an engaging, unflappably wry humor, Obmascik memorializes their wild and crazy exploits and, along the way, interweaves an entertaining smattering of science about birds and their own strange behavior with a brief history of other bird-men and -women; turns out even Audubon pushed himself beyond the brink when he was chasing and painting the birds of America. A captivating tour of human and avian nature, passion and paranoia, honor and deceit, fear and loathing, The Big Year shows the lengths to which people will go to pursue their dreams, to conquer and categorize -- no matter how low the stakes. This is a lark of a read for anyone with birds on the brain -- or not.

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