Birder on Berry Lane

Published on September 27, 2022

Birder on Berry Lane: Three Acres, Twelve Months, Thousands of Birds, 2020 by Robert Tougias. The Cover shows a colorful Rose-breasted Grosbeak (red, black, and white) on a branch. The background appears as if it is sketched and there is the figure of a man in the distance digging with a hoe or a shovel. The binding and title are red.

Reviewed by Marybeth Ginsberg

Robert Tougias' passion for birding began when he was a young boy. In his book Birder on Berry Lane, Tougias provides a detailed view of the monthly activity that surrounds his home in suburban Connecticut.  In this year-long account, readers learn fascinating facts about the many species of birds that visit his backyard.

"For Tougias, birds “are the visible, audible expressions of the pulse of life that teems all around us.” He observes and describes the breeding, nesting, and migration habits of the bird species he encounters. "Birding isn’t just a matter of ticking off species one by one.” No matter where he is, Tougias always maintains a watchful eye with the hope of expecting the unexpected." 

A glimpse into Tougias' backyard goes far beyond the wood’s edge. The author provides background and anecdotal information to enlighten and educate his readers. The family cabin in Vermont serves as a reference point throughout the book. Readers learn about the birds that visit his backyard, as well as the impact of development and climate change on bird migration. As the months pass and the seasons change, readers follow Tougias as he steadfastly observes the natural world on Berry Lane. Yet, while the context is Tougias' backyard, he takes his reader far beyond in understanding birds and nature. While writing the book, Tougias consulted the Cornell Ornithology and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The book includes a list of suggested resources, an appendix of the birds living on Berry Lane, and a section for note taking as well. 

Birder on Berry Lane is punctuated with pencil drawings created by artist Mark Szantyr. They help readers to identify the birds discussed in the book. The cover is especially attractive and features a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The simple hand-drawn property maps of Tougias’ Connecticut home at the beginning of the book are charming. Throughout the book, Tougias keeps the reader interested in learning more. I felt like I was right alongside Tougias, observing nature at it's own pace. Tougias adeptly applies his keen powers of observation to capture the beauty and rhythm of the natural world. 

Robert Tougias is a wildlife and conservation writer. He is the author of Birding Western Massachusetts and Quest for the Eastern Cougar. He also writes a newspaper column on birding and lives in southeastern Connecticut.

Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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