Book Review: Birder on Berry Lane by Robert Tougias

Friday, February 21, 2020

Title: Birder on Berry Lane
Author: Robert Tougias
Publication Date: March 17th 2020

Synopsis: "A month-by-month guide to the birds that flock to the peaceful New England backyard of a noted writer, birder, and naturalist.

Robert Tougias's house on Berry Lane may look like a typical Connecticut suburban home, but as his fascinating year-long account reveals, its three-acre backyard is teeming with nature's mysteries. Acutely sensitive to the activities of birds, Tougias notes which species are present, which are breeding, and where their nests are. He identifies each species by its song, and brings us on a journey of appreciation as we learn the wonders of bird migration, the sensitive interaction of birds with their habitat, and the hidden meaning of their call notes and songs.

Intimate and acutely observed writing reveals the miracles of the ordinary in the subtle changes, season to season, of the ecosystem of the woods, streams, and meadow that make up the sprawling backyard on Berry Lane. We are led to consider, too, the dangers posed by the climate crisis and unthinking human development. The quietly powerful writing tunes our senses to the change of the seasons, the return of warblers in spring, geese flying south in the fall--all happening on time as they have for eons.

Beautifully illustrated with twenty-five line drawings, Birder on Berry Lane is a book of sublime simplicity that teaches an appreciation for what we commonly overlook."

My thoughts: I really enjoyed my time with this one. The title basically tells you what's inside: a birder talking about his experiences watching birds where he lives on Berry Lane. I adore nature writing like this, and I love bird-watching myself, so to read about someone living in New England talking about the birds there was just a wonderful and calming experience for me. Tougias also talks about the mating, migration, and nest-building habits of many of the birds, and desribes their preferred diets, too, but this book never comes across as being overly scientific or dry, just educational whilst still being enjoyable.
The tone of this book is gentle, and you can really feel the author's love of birds and bird-watching. I loved how he introduced a little bit of his own life into everything, and talked about his past and his daughter a little, too. When that human element is introduced into nature writing, I find myself feeling really absorbed in the story and adore being carried along so much that the book is often over before I'm ready. I will say that occasionally the flashbacks came really suddenly and I had a bit of trouble keeping up with whether it was current day or some other time - this may have been an issue with the eARC I was reading, though, as the formatting was a little wonky.
Finally, I just wanted to mention the illustrations by Mark Szantyr - they are lovely, and add so much to the reading experience. It was really lovely getting something to look at when Robert Tougias was speaking on a specific bird - living in Australia, I am not super familiar with a lot of the brids that Tougias was writing about, so the pictures helped a lot.

Overall this is a quiet, lovely little book. I may have to get a physical copy when it comes out to reread - I think with the formatting problems fixed it could be a gem of a book.

{I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

You would like this book if: You enjoy nature books, bird-watching, or anything of that ilk.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Any cup of tea, just whilst watching birds in your garden or at the park, too.

Rating:  8/10

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