Art and Birds

26 03 2009
Jean Luc Mylayne - Bird Photography

Jean Luc Mylayne - Bird Photography

I have always loved art and at one point, in what seems like a past life now, went to art college to do my foundation degree. Now obviously I see birds and art as making an interesting combination. Some of the photo’s from my linked sites are truly stunning but recently I was turned on to two artists who have been more influenced by nature and birds instead of using them specifically as the focal point of their photography.

The first is Jean Luc Mylayne. My brother actually got me the Jean Luc Mylayne book for my birthday and it is really spectacular. All of his pictures were taken on a large format camera so there are no telephoto lenses involved here, he rather has worked the birds into his photographs either using close approach or just letting them be just one aspect of the particular shot. Often he uses the birds as part of the piece rather than them always being visually at the center of it. My wife likened some of them to a birding Where’s Waldo. Cool pictures with lots of humor and charcter. You can see some of the art online (here) and if you are out in the Midwest you can see his amazing prints in person at the Krannert Art Museum (here).

Another art bird book that I got for my birthday, from my friend Tina Green, was Egg & Nest by Rosamund Purcell. The photo’s are either of bird skins, eggs or nests from all over the globe, but with much of the emphasis on North American species. As well as the photographs, there is some interesting stuff about oology and bird collecting in a historical context. It’s a fascinating book and along with the Mylayne book would make a great present for a birder who has an eye to more artistic endeavors. It seems like the recent exhibition of Purcell’s work at Harvard is over but I will keep my eye’s open for forthcoming shows.

To quote from the reviews on the Purcell book “What kind of genius is Rosamund Purcell? Is she an artist? A scholar? A documentarian? A living cabinet of wonders? Her originality defies category as does her newest triumph, Egg and Nest. Crack it’s shell.” – Jonathan Safran Foer

Both books are available from Amazon at least and I imagine you can find them in good book stores locally. I thoroughly recommend checking them out. Purcell Book. Mylayne Book.

Bird Phone

28 01 2009
eNature - Swainson's Thrush

eNature - Swainson's Thrush

My friend Chrissy sent me a link to a site where you can get bird song ringtones for your phone. There are plenty of sites out there offering this feature but the eNature one was the only one I could find that was letting you use them for free. Other prices seemed to range from $2.49-$2.99.

I notice on the eNature front page that Barn Owl was a favorite. I find that a little hard to believe, although I would think it would certainly make you want to make you pick up your phone pretty quickly.  For me the Swainsons Thrush would be hard to beat although you might end up just wanting to listen to the song more than you want to pick  up the call! I haven’t tried one out yet but i’ll update when I do. Not sure why Audubon or someone doesn’t offer this as a service – might be a nice little fundraiser (I’d be much happier paying a non-profit for this service).

New Book Project – Birds and People

16 01 2009

Birds and People - David Tipling

Birds and People - David Tipling

If you have read my post on Holiday Gifts for Birders or perhaps just spent some time with me in the field you’ll know that one of my favorite books on birds and birding is Mark Cockers Birders: Tales of the tribe. He’s, in my opinion, one of the few birders that manages to combine in his work a great sense of humor, a great deal of knowledge and a reverence for the subject all at the same time.

I noted that he has a new book coming out, which was being heavily promoted in the Independent UK Newspaper, the other week (yes in the UK national newspapers are interested in birds, birding etc etc !!!!) The book, Birds and People: A Global Celebration of Birds in Human Culture will be a collection of reflections on our relationships with birds around the globe and they are looking for your contributions! Essentially they are looking for 300 or so word pieces that illuminate our wider relationship with birds, which sounds like an interesting opportunity for all those budding writers out there!

You can read more on this interesting project here. Some of the stories that are going to be included in the book arealready available on the website, as are some of David Tipling’s amazing photographs that will accompany the project – see above (his website can be viewed here). I am really looking forward to publication of this project, it looks fascinating! My favorite section so far is on the Kazakh Eagle Hunters.

Holiday Gifts for Birders

5 12 2008


Seeing as we are into December I thought it might be fun to throw out a few holiday gift ideas that I have stumbled upon. It’s always hard to find something for a birder that they don’t already have so I thought that these suggestions might be a little change from the usual field guide (which most of us usually have 10 copies of already!) I’ll probably add to this post as we head into December so check back for (or feel free to send me) more ideas. I am not getting commission on any of this – worse luck.


Generally there isn’t much that I find that I like in the way of videos. The identification ones are just usually so dull and even if the production quality is high the content is usually bland. Here are a couple of videos I’d recommend though. Have a look through Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Borders and I’ll sure you’ll find them online.

The BBC’s ‘Life of Birds’: A must own. Beautifully filmed and great narration by David Attenborough you couldn’t ask for more (clip here).

The BBC’s ‘Wild China’: not just birds but plenty of great bird sequences in amongst this typically wonderful BBC documentary (clip here).

Kes: About the only movie I know of about a boy and his bird. The northern British accent just makes me think of my Grandmother as well. A bit of a weepie this one but with plenty of laughs along the way (you may need an interpreter for the accents though).

The BBC’s Attenborough in Paradise: A great documentary about the amazingly varied birds of paradise of Papua New Guinea. Even better you could buy your significant birding other a ticket on the trip to Papua New Guinea with Sunrise Birding and see these magnificent birds for yourselves (you’ll have to wait to 2010 though as next years trip of a lifetime rightly sold out very quickly). Gina assures me the viewing is a little safer and easier than the one highlighted by David in the video!

The BBC’s ‘Life in the Freezer’: Not just birds but a real must own for penguin enthusiasts everywhere!


Is it just me or most books on birding as dull as dishwater? Here are a few that I think break out of that mold:

Rare Birds of 2009: Published by the charity Birdlife International this highlights  the most endangered birds on the planet. Best of all a fair portion of the cost goes to conservation causes. Purchase online here.

Luke Dempsey – A Supremely Bad Idea: A Brit expat called Luke who finds himself inextricably drawn to birding – sound familiar? Plenty of humor and well written – where can you go wrong?

Mark Cocker – Birders – Tales of a Tribe: A humorous look mainly at the British birding scene. A good opportunity for US birders to get to grips with the great world of British birding slang: stringy, getting gripped off, dipping – all key words for your average birder.

Kenn Kaufman – Kingbird Highway: An oldie but a goodie. The ultimate in big years in America and much more rewarding and inspiring than that trite Big Year book in my ever so humble opinion.


Get all of your bird songs on your iPod with Bird jam Just don’t play it constantly on your bird trips, it tends to confuse your erstwhile leader when he hears Elegant Trogon down at Allen’s Meadows.

Flight Calls of North American Birds: Ever wonder how good birders seem to pick up on great birds flying over – well here is part of the trick. Almost essential in my opinion for birding during winter finch irruptions and to pick out cool birds during fall migration.


Want to inspire potential birders in your family? Here are a couple of cool things I picked up on.

Penguin Boots. How cool are these! I just wished that they made them in a mans size ten 

Proper binoculars for kids. These Leupolds were specifically made with the designers kids in mind and are perfect for young children 5+. You’ll find that they are of good enough quality glass that you’ll want to borrow them back! A quick note – remember when buying binoculars for children the biggest problem they have with most binoculars are not designed with a small enough IPD to fit their smaller faces.


A couple of years back I found these great reusable hand warmers in Japan and they now seem to have crossed the pond EZ Heat Hand Warmers – see them in action here. Being reusable I would think they must be a little more eco-friendly than those disposable ones.

My binoculars are always filthy these days but that because i’ve lost my Lens Pen.

Here are a couple of little stocking-filler nik-naks that my wife sent me a link for: Purse, key ring, owl t-shirt

Bumper Stickers that I love from

Non-profit Membership

A great idea for aspiring birders or those that have already been bitten by the bug is signing them up for membership of one of the birding clubs or environmental organizations. Most of them have plenty of great benefits including cool magazines etc and you get to know that your gift is giving in more than one way as the conservation work these bodies do is often invaluable.

American Birding Association. A great organization for birders as their magazine and newsletters are as good as it gets for bird identification articles etc. They also have a youth chapter which many organizations lack.

Connecticut Ornithological Association. Great local birding information. Worth joining for the Connecticut Warbler Magazine alone which includes Greg Hanisek’s quarterly round up of the season in Connecticut as well as great articles by local birders such as Nick Bonomo, Frank Gallo, Mark Szantyr and Julian Hough amongst others.

Audubon Societies. Both National and State Based. These are two separate non-affiliated bodies but they do often work closely together for conservation in our state.

For something slightly more exotic for well traveled friends why not look at the Oriental or Neotropical Bird Clubs?