Troutbirder

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Monday, June 3, 2013

A Love Affair with Birds


I came late to birding in my life after having giving up upland game hunting due to a defunct knee.  After an introduction to this new hobby by a good friend,  I also thought it was  an excellent opportunity to  take my big GSD for long hikes in the countryside.  And so it all began.

Now I even look for books on the subject.  A case in point is a wonderful new biography by Sue Leaf titled A  Love Affair With Birds.  I clearly remember my first successful outings in the 1960’s hunting pheasants, ruffed grouse and ducks.

 That’s approximately  how Dr. Thomas Sadler Roberts, one hundred years earlier had done his work;  gun and then, later, camera in hand,  he traveled  the state observing, collecting and describing birds and then finally writing, ” The Birds of Minnesota.” That two-volume set, published in 1932, is still considered the seminal and  definitive account of the state’s wild avian population.

 Sue Leafs biography of Roberts,    based on her nearly five years of research and interviews, describe him as a workaholic.  He kept his Minneapolis medical practice going, which included delivering lots of babies and using any spare time to do his birding.

 Roberts quit his medical practice at age 57 so he could devote more time to ornithology, although as Leaf points out, he never described himself as an ornithologist, instead calling himself a retired doctor.

 He became the first professor of ornithology (an unpaid position) at the University of Minnesota and helped create what would become the U’s Bell Museum of Natural History and devoted himself to educating aspiring classroom teachers about birds.

 Leaf’s book describes how this son of a privileged family from Philadelphia made Minnesota his home and excelled at medicine and ornithology at a time when the state was a magnet for white settlement and commercial development that altered the natural landscape that Roberts treasured.

Thomas Sadler Roberts, gone now for nearly 70 years, left a legacy of appreciation for our state’s natural history and bird life.

Anyone with an interest in birds, Minnesota’s natural history and learning about the fascinating  life of a singular doctor, author, curator, educator, conservationist and bird enthusiast will find this book a rare treat. If there is any downer at all to reading this great biography it is this – there is a sadness to being taken back in Minnesota’s history to a time when the passenger pigeon  still flew in our skies and other birds, now very rare or not seen at all,  were a common sight….

 

 

12 comments:

amanda | wildly simple said...

My parents were always birders when I was growing up. Not as much as they used to be.. I think this would be a great book to re-trigger that passion. Thanks for the good info!
I saw our first hummingbird on Thursday, and watched a kingfisher over our pond this morning.

David Oliver said...

Another terrific review! I don't know how many more of these I can read though because even as my mind broadens, my ego takes a beating.

Our Neck of the Woods said...

That book sounds really fascinating, thanks for the great review! My grandma has always loved looking at birds and can often be found on her back porch with a set of binoculars looking at her feathered visitors. I never really cared much about birds until I moved out to the country and now all the different types of birds I see are so amazing.

PS - I didn't know about toad houses until just recently so don't feel bad! :)

Primitive Stars said...

Oh I love watching birds, have been for many years, would love to read that book, Francine.

Montanagirl said...

My Grandmother loved birds. She would be loving the birds I see in my backyard. Very eloquent and poignant post today, TB.

Ms Sparrow said...

Even with the loss of some species, it is a joy to see the resurgence of the eagles and wild turkeys. Of course, there is also the "invasion" of house finches and other birds but it's always something!

Linda said...

Wonderful review, Trout!

Retired English Teacher said...

This was great.

Anvilcloud said...

I think it would be fun to be a birder although it's not one of the things that I expect I'll get around to doing.

Janie said...

Sounds like an interesting book for bird and history lovers.

Betsy Adams said...

This one caught my attention since I also love my Backyard Birds... I was never a 'birder' either until we moved here. Now I love it --although I only do it with the birds in my yard. Many 'birders' branch out and track birds everywhere --but I have so many other interests that I just stick to the ones who visit my feeders. But--I love that part very well. In fact, I think you missed seeing one of the best bird posts I have done.. It was on Wed. May 29... Check it out...

Great review...
Hugs,
Betsy

center city sue said...

Thank you for the very nice review! You gave an accurate and sympathetic view of this half-forgotten man who was so important to Minnesota. He was The One, really, beating the drum for natural history, at a time when very few thought much about nature, except to beat it into submission. My gratitude to you! Sue Leaf