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The Birds and Birders of Cape May

by Jack Connor

Pub Date: July 18th, 1991
ISBN: 0-87113-456-X
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

The title's ``Point'' is Cape May Point, N.J., and the ``Season'' is the 1988 hawk-watch, a three-month period from mid- August to mid-November when tens of thousands of migrating birds pass overhead. Despite the title's narrow focus, this excellent account has a scope as broad as life on earth, and Connor leaves the reader wanting to know more, wanting even to grab binoculars and head outdoors. Like John McPhee, the author knows how to bring a subject alive through the words of the people closest to it. Here, those men and women are dedicated birders and bird-banders, two sometimes antagonistic but not always mutually exclusive groups, and the ostensible subject is raptors (a group of birds that includes both owls and hawks), or, to be technical, which Connor rarely is, the order Falconiformes, which includes osprey, vultures, kites, accipiters, buteos, eagles, and, of course, falcons. The larger subject is our fragile environment, for which birds are a measure of change as well as the victims of change. For birders, Connor makes clear, seeing birds is all-important; for banders, capturing them and actually handling them is the ultimate experience. Though the two may disagree about priorities, both groups are filled with committed naturalists and conservationists, and Connor presents their views equitably and their enthusiasms eloquently. Nature writing by a keen observer of nature, both human and otherwise. (Line drawings—not seen.)