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Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Book Review - The Birds of Maine - Princeton University Press

 


     Having spent a week intensively birding in Maine a few years ago, in all its varied habitats, I looked forward eagerly to reviewing Birds of Maine.
     Although I never met Peter Vickery I knew of him by reputation and a greater advocate for the State of Maine and its birds never lived. Sadly, Peter died of cancer before the completion and publication of the book, and it is due to his dedication and commitment that we have this magnificent work before us today. If it is possible to achieve perfection in a work of this nature, I think this is it. Even those who have little interest in Maine specifically should get their hands on a copy to see how it should be done!
     Peter's wife, Barbara, and the eminent author and ornithologist, Scott Weidensaul, took on the  responsibility of completing the book, sensitively  embracing Peter's vision throughout, and the results speak for themselves. 
     By carefully reading all of the sections leading up to the species accounts, one is provided with a wonderful review of Maine's rich ornithological history, avian distribution, habitats, current status and conservation, and a glimpse into what the future might hold, faced with rising sea levels and the impact of climate change. How many coastal marshes will disappear? How might rising temperatures affect forest cover and the birds that depend on it? Which  species will no longer find the conditions they need for their very survival? Many of these questions have disturbing implications, but the issues need to be faced. One cannot plan for a future without understanding what it will look like.
     I have long held the art of Lars Jonsson in high esteem and I can think of no better artist to provide the coloured plates which grace the book so well. A Swede by birth and by choice, Jonsson has great experience with the birds of a northern landscape such as Maine, and is especially adept at rendering the seabirds of northern latitudes in evocative detail.
     The line drawings of Barry Van Dusen are no less inviting and make it a pleasure to turn each page.
     The species accounts, the meat and potatoes of the book so to speak, are well laid out, filled with information, frequently accompanied by range maps. Below the common and scientific name each species is introduced by a short sentence, often whimsical in nature, great fun in a serious tome. A couple of examples will illustrate the technique. For the familiar and much-loved Red-winged Blackbird, "A loud, flashy harbinger of spring." And for the less admired brood parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird, "A stealthy, ubiquitous, and successful brood parasite from the Great Plains". 
     This book is a huge success from every vantage point. In the interests of a balanced review I searched for typos, for editorial sloppiness, for incorrect facts, for a picture incorrectly labelled, for maps that were unclear - I found none!
     Of all the books that have come my way in recent years, this is about as good as it gets!

The Birds of Maine - Princeton University Press
Author: Peter D. Vickery, illustrated by Lars Jonsson and Barry Van Dusen 
Hardcover - US$45.00, £38.00  
ISBN: 9780691193199
Published: 3 November 2020 (USA)
                12 January 2021 (UK)
664 pages - 8.75 x 11.75 inches - 150+ black-and-white drawings and colour plates

     
     

30 comments:

  1. Thanks a lot for telling about 'The Birds of Maine', David! It sounds as a very interesting book. So sad Peter D. Vickery died of cancer before the completion and publication of the book.

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  2. I am sure you are exactly the right man to review each and every bird book that has ever been thought of it written! Sorry that the author died. Glad your eagle eyes never found any mistakes! Have a great day, hugs to you and Miriam!

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  3. So nice that you have got many books over the years, David. I guess that you have the same amount in books as I have in plants. Can you go into a bookstore without buying some books?
    I guess you will say yes, but I don't belive you ;)

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    1. Marit, how could you possibly think that I am not a man of iron discipline?

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    2. I just gessed it... ;)

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  4. I certainly agree with you about the wonderful illustrations of Lars Jonsson. How can one man produce so many perfect artworks?

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  5. I love the cover. I just finished reading Scott Weidensaul's book, A World on the Wing. I'll be reviewing it soon. One book ahead of it.

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  6. It looks and sounds wonderful. How very sad that he didn't see it published, and how wonderful that his work was continued.
    I am smiling at Marit's comment and your response. I have almost total sales resistance - except where books and plants are concerned.

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  7. Of course, what's not to like about a book that features penguins on the cover, David? It's unfortunate that the author wasn't able to finish and then see the completed work but thankfully his wife and fellow ornithologist followed through on his project.

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    1. The bird on the cover is a Razorbill, Beatrice. Penguins are birds of the southern hemisphere.

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  8. Querido amigo, que tal! it is a great pleasure to find
    these pieces worthy
    of making them known. I confess that i had to investigate where Maine is and
    was amazed by so much beauty. A true paradise for anyone who
    likes colors, birds, trees, nature, forest and sea.
    Greetings from freezing Buenos Aires and enjoy the heat ✩。: * • .❁ ❁. • * :。 ✩

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  9. Excellent review, David. It has been some years since I've been in Maine, but always enjoyed spending time there.

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  10. What a fabulous cover that is!! :)

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  11. Another lovely book to add to your collection.

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  12. La couverture est très réaliste, les illustrations de l'intérieur doivent être très jolies.
    Bonne journée

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  13. Hi David - what a great review ... and thanks for letting us know about the Razorbill on the cover. Sad he died, but thankfully his work preparation for this book was allowed to continue to publication - congratulations to Barbara, his widow, and Scott for this.
    Gosh I'd love to have a look at it sometime ... and to see more of Lars Jonsson's art ...
    Thank you ... you cover all the bases when you write these reviews.
    Cheers for now - Hilary

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  14. Buenos días estimado amigo, gracias por mostrar esta gran obra que a buen seguro su autor estaría totalmente satisfecho de haber podido presentar en persona. Siempre es un placer conocer tus recomendaciones.
    Un fuerte abrazo querido amigo y buen resto de semana.

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  15. Triste enfermedad la del cáncer, que se ha llevado a tantas personas ya. Lamento su muerte, también personas muy cercanas, han muerto de esa misma enfermedad.

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  16. This sounds like a beautiful book. If I lived in Maine, I think I would have to have it. What a shame that the author's life was cut short by cancer.

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  17. A great review. I get so fed up when I read a book and find stupid mistakes and spelling incorrect, it somehow spoils the final thoughts no matter how good it is for other reasons.
    Hope all is well, best wishes to you both, Diane

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    1. I agree with you, Diane. Sloppy editing spoils everything else.

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  18. If the book has no mistakes, it had a very good correction.

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  19. love the birds on its cover even if I don´t remember the name right now. :)

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  20. Another book to add to your library, David. Love the cover.

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  21. Hello,
    Looks like a beautiful book, great review. I like the cover!
    Have a happy day and great weekend!

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  22. Sounds interesting! I love the cover photo!

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    1. And you border Maine and would share many, if not most, of the same birds.

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  23. El libro tiene que ser muy interesante ¿ pero lo hay en español ? Abrazos amigo David.

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