They paved paradise and put up a birding spot.
“Parking Lot Birding.” Who wudda thought? It’s an idea from Texas in a recent book with that title, highlighting parking lot opportunities in the Lone Star State. A guide to Texas birding isn’t useful up here (unless you plan a birding trip to Texas, a very good place to see interesting birds). It’s the idea that has potential anywhere.
There might be more birds in the woods that the parking lot serves, but as author Jennifer L. Bristol says, you often can see them better from the pavement. Parking lots also are ideal for people with mobility issues.
Bristol’s suggested parking lots, filling more than 200 pages, favor places already known as birding destinations, like parks, reserves, preserves, refuges and such.
That makes sense.
A very good choice here, for instance, particularly at this time of year, would be Colvill Park on the southern outskirts of Red Wing, with access from Hwy. 61. It has a huge riverside parking area, where you can view eagles through your windshield.
This is what the website Explore Minnesota has to say: “Situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, the floodplain forest of Colvill Park is one of the most popular spots in Minnesota to watch bald eagles returning from winter sites.
“In the spring and fall migrating ducks such as mallards, common mergansers and common goldeneyes can be seen feeding. Whitetail deer, mink and gray squirrels are also commonly seen.”
Another good choice is in Minneapolis, the T.S. Roberts Bird Sanctuary at 4124 Roseway Road, adjoining the Lyndale Park flower gardens (1300 W. 42nd St.) and across the street from the Lake Harriet Band Shell.
There is parking at the gardens, the band shell and across the street from the sanctuary’s western entrance.
Parks aren’t the only places to look. The only place I’ve seen pileated woodpeckers making nest holes in power poles is from the lot serving shoppers in Wayzata’s Colonial Square. It also happens to be adjacent to a small preserved piece of Minnesota’s historic Big Woods. You never know.
You can make a parking lot a one-off destination or fatten your list on multiple visits.
(Bird before you shop so the ice cream doesn’t melt.) The publisher, Texas A&M University Press, will soon be out with another book-based good idea for birding — cemeteries. Like Lakewood in south Minneapolis.
Warbler guide updated and ready for spring
Just in time for migration comes a newly revised book on identification of the warbler species seen here. “Warblers of Eastern North America” (2nd edition) from Firefly Books is an excellent companion for the spring birding opportunities about to be ours. The author is Chris Earley.
The book is slim enough for a jacket pocket, informative enough to be of real assistance.
It has 128 pages, printed on glossy stock that will survive a bit of mud or drops of coffee, covers regular 128 Eastern species, and adds those Western species apt to stray in our direction.
Text for each bird begins with conversational comments, moving to brief but complete descriptions of plumage and voice. The photos are excellent. There are pages of photos comparing look-alike species. Spring and fall feathering is shown. The design of the book makes its use easy.
There is a list of references, printed, recorded or available by app. (The app list should be part of all field guides.) The range maps are worth a comment: I regard them as a measure of the publisher’s intent to serve readers fully.
This book has five-star range maps; they are excellent.
Earley is the interpretive biologist and education coordinator at the Arboretum, University of Guelph, Ontario.
Price of the book is $19.95.
Hummingbird feathers become sunlit prisms
The hummingbird for a brief second aligns with the sun to give us the flash of its blazing throat. Christian Spencer puts the birds between the sun and his camera, turning feathers into prisms, catching unseen rainbow colors for photos in his book “Birds: Poetry in the Sky.” Spencer shows hummingbirds in a totally new way. Published by teNeues, 120 photos, coffeetable format, $70. Listed on Amazon. See teneues.com/en.
Four more nature books to consider
“Mushrooms of North America”: A new field guide from the National Audubon Society, at 711 pages, with thousands of color photos, likely the most complete reference to this subject you will find. With descriptions of cap, stem, flesh and spore print, and authoritative notes on growth characteristics, habitat and conservation status.
Definitive is the word. Durable cover, 7 by 9.5 inches (not a pocket guide), $39.95. Available April 11.
“Wildflowers of North America”: A complete identification reference book of 912 pages from the National Audubon Society. Thousands of color photos, updated range maps, common names, authoritative notes on flowering season, usages, scent, habitat and conservation status.
Introduction to wildflowers, definitions, how-to-use guide, glossary and index. Durable cover, 7 by 9.5 inches, $39.95, another definitive guide.
Available April 11.
“A Traveler’s Guide to the End of the World”: Author David Gessner translates scientific climate-change data to stories about the experiences of real people as they deal with a new world. Torrey House Press, soft cover, on sale June 13.
“Wilderness Tales”: Forty stories of the North American wild by 40 of our best-known authors, an anthology collected by Diana Fuss, including a timely section of stories on endangerment and extinction, published by Knopf, 586 pages, hardbound, $35.
Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.