NORTH ON THE WING by Bruce M. Beehler


Travels with the Songbird Migration of Spring
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A nature-memoir homage to Edwin Way Teale’s classic North with the Spring (1951), an account of a 17,000-mile journey following the migration of birds from Florida to New England.

Beehler (Lost Worlds: Adventures in the Tropical Rainforest, 2008, etc.), an ornithologist with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, was first introduced to Teale’s account by his mother, who spent her free time “prowling the local library in search of nature in the written word and bringing her discoveries home to share with us.” Here, the author chronicles his similar journey, tracking the spring migration of songbirds from the coast of Texas up the Mississippi Valley into Canada and then down into the Adirondacks. A lifelong bird-watcher, the author records the species he saw at each stop along the way as well as notable flora and other fauna. Beehler is keen to know what efforts are being made to preserve and restore bird habitats, and he reports on his many conversations with those who are making it happen, exploring their work and the problems they face. The author is ever the lecturer, providing information on local history, culture, and geography and instructing readers on the major flyways of North America, the skills migrating birds employ to find their way, and the techniques of bird banding. To enhance this rather didactic work, each chapter opens with a black-and-white rendering of a bird along with a brief quote from Teale or another naturalist, and a few black-and-white photographs, mostly of warblers, are scattered in the text. Beehler occasionally introduces a personal note with what appear to be excerpts from his daily journal of his travels, which includes such details as how he got to a campsite, what the weather was like, and what he wore or ate.

Slow going for general readers but a valuable source of information for songbird lovers and dedicated bird-watchers.

Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-58834-613-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Smithsonian Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2017


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