Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Watching the Birders

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Watching the Birders

Article excerpt

PERHAPS it's only natural that a bird-watcher would turn to watching the birders, for they can be as interesting and varied as the birds. In fact, they are a special breed.

A dedicated bird-watcher will drop everything to hunt up a new bird for his life list, to count migrants, or to study avian behavior. But why?

Why chase all over the country for something that may or may not be there when you arrive? Why scan the sky for endless hours and days from one spot, no matter the weather? Why endure the miseries of hours cooped up in a box peering through slits? Some of the answers can be found in "Season at the Point."

Jack Connor, a bird-watcher himself, has apparently been as intrigued with the nature of birders as of birds. His account of the fall migration season (of both birds and birders) at Cape May, N.J., hinges on the peculiar passion humans have for flying wonders. Connors's method is to record the situations, the scenes, the people, and their conversations, in a verbal version of a video documentary. He tosses in big chunks of information about birds and their ways, along with local history of bird-watching at Cape May. Did you know, for example, that the first recorded instance of bird-watching there was in 1633?

Cape May is a bird-watcher's paradise because it is possible to see a greater variety of birds there than anywhere else in the continental United States, except Alaska.

Just why this should be is still something of a puzzle, despite centuries of watching and adding up the observations.

Connors is not the first writer to tackle the subject. "Bird Studies of Old Cape May," a classic by Witmer Stone, was published in 1937. A lot has been learned in the meantime, and bird-watching has gone from being the occupation of eccentrics to a respectable, money-making industry. So "A Season at the Point" updates the whole topic. …

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