The Living Bird – 100 Years of Listening to Nature

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By Gerrit Vyn | Mountaineers Books | Hardcover | September 2015 | 208 Pages | 250 Colour Photos | ISBN: 9781594859656

The Publisher’s View: An intimate yet stunning exploration of North American species, The Living Bird shares our joyful and complex relationship with birds. Through imagery and thoughtful essays, award-winning photographer Gerrit Vyn, along with leading naturalists and bird enthusiasts, takes readers on a visual and experiential journey, revealing the essence of the century-long work done by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Barbara Kingsolver remembers herself as a reluctant birder until, years later, she exalts in a special birding trip with her father. Scott Weidensaul dives into the secret lives of birds: How do flocks of birds manage to migrate thousands of miles? What determines who mates with whom? And what is the purpose of all those pretty feathers and glorious melodies? In her essay, Lyanda Lynn Haupt finds inspiration in our everyday birds as they connect us to the natural world. Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology John W. Fitzpatrick considers the threats birds face today, and some of the failuresand successesof the past. Jared Diamond underscores that it is in our hands to preserve the living birds around us.

For 100 years, the Ithaca, NY-based Cornell Lab of Ornithology has researched the lives of birds, educating the public and striving for protection of species and habitat. But the Lab does more than just study – it celebrates birds through song and image, and connects people to birds, opening thousands of eyes to the natural world around us.

Other Views: You’ll thoroughly enjoy essays from folks like Barbara Kingsolver, who notes in the introduction that this book is “an ode to birds, a celebration of everything we love about them.” You’ll learn new facts from “The Secret Lives of Birds” chapter, like the tidbit that while mockingbirds are renowned for their ability to repeat songs, the Brown Thrasher actually has a much bigger repertoire – up to 7,000 or more! You’ll laugh when you recognize yourself in Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s essay “Inspiration Aloft” as the birder who “is unable to keep up a conversation out of doors. To the annoyance of their friends, they are always darting their eyes from tree to sky to trail to sidewalk…” You’ll feel a deep sadness to read of the damage humans have wreaked on birds and their habitats, but also feel inspired to continue the good fight as you’re reminded of success stories like bald eagles, brown pelicans, and wood ducks. Birds & Blooms

The Author: Gerrit Vyn is a Seattle-based photographer whose images have been used by many conservation organizations and appear regularly in books and magazines including National Geographic, Audubon, Living Bird, BBC Wildlife, Natural History, National Wildlife, and New Scientist. He was the primary image provider for two State of the Birds reports that were delivered to Congress by a coalition of leading environmental organizations. He also has produced and authored two CD compilations, Voices of North American Owls and Bird Songs of the Pacific Northwest. His audio and video work has been featured on radio and television programs including NPR’s Morning Edition, PRI’s Living on Earth, Birdnote, PBS News Hour, and CBS Sunday Morning.

Fatbirder View: Well there are plenty of articles to enjoy in the book, from the vaguely whimsical and personal through the scientific appreciation of birds to the history and importance of Cornell. All informative, entertaining or educational. Most are very well written and some inspire.

But…. They are very much secondary to the photographs. I cannot ever before remember looking through such a ‘coffee table book’ and thinking that every single photograph is totally stunning! This guy is fantastic. Every birder will be bowled over, everyone who appreciates nature will love these pictures and just about anyone with a soul will be impressed. I want Gerrit to ‘get out more’ as there is a whole world of wonderful birds outside of the US, which his massive talent could bring to us all. Not cheap and too big for a Xmas stocking but there’s plenty of room under the tree for this one.

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