Twenty delightful essays about nature and, especially, birds- -many of which appeared originally in Smithsonian, Country, and elsewhere. Page (coauthor, with Charles Officer, of Tales of the Earth, reviewed above, etc.) admits to sharing his home with a Polish hen and her chick, a parrot, and seven finches--but insists that this didn't start out as a book about birds. Well, it didn't end up as one either. Certainly there's wonderful material about birds here, but calling this a bird book is like calling Lewis Thomas's The Lives of a Cell a histology text. Page isn't merely a sharp observer but a ponderer: His observation of deceit in birds, for instance, leads to speculation about their ability to think and what that means about our own special place in nature (if animals can reason, he says, ``we might be impelled to regard ourselves as one among many expressions of life--a different idea than being high man on the totem pole''). The sight of a cardinal leads to thoughts about the human mind and our own perceptions and experiences of the color red. Whether Page writes about his own homemade backyard pond, the uncertain future of horseshoe crabs, the persistence of starlings, disappearing seashores, threatened rain forests, the death of a baby chimney swift, or the vocalization of songbirds, he's telling us about the reality of things--about ourselves and our world. The essays are mostly brief, often witty, always thoughtful, and written with style and grace. Page urges readers to pass along nature books to friends and to hold on only to field guides--this, however, is a nature book to keep.