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.
“Birder on Berry Lane weaves a remarkably rich tapestry, describing many birds’ lives around a single place and showing just how connected to them we can become. Robert Tougias proves that if we look, we can see so much more than we think, even in our own backyards.” Brian Sullivan eBird project leader, Cornell University Author of Better Birding—Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the Field
About the Author
Robert Tougias is the author of Birding Western Massachusetts and The Quest for the Eastern Cougar and writes nature articles for publications throughout the country. His column "Bird's Eye View" appears regularly in the New London Day Newspaper. He received his education in natural resources at the University of Massachusetts and has worked for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the US Department of Agriculture. He lives in rural Connecticut with his daughter and their dog, Zoey.
Nature writer Tougias (Birding Western Massachusetts) celebrates the avian visitors to his suburban Connecticut backyard in this affecting chronicle. He dispenses scientific information about birds’ life cycles, habitats sometimes imperiled by development, and identifying features, such as their distinctive calls—the sparrow’s trills, catbird’s meow, and owl’s hoots. However, for him, “birding isn’t just a matter of ticking off species one by one” but the source of “a great feeling of peace,” with the appearance of different species marking the passing of the year. He associates January with owls, and the red-shouldered hawk with March, a month he savors for the many signs of migration. April is “a waiting game” for the turn toward warm weather that will bring songbirds, but May goes quickly, “as if, in the single beat of my heart, the entire spring has slipped away,” while he observes new hatchlings quickly maturing to be ready to fly south with their parents at summer’s end. For November, he spotlights turkeys and grosbeaks as heralds of winter, while December allows Tougias to discuss bird survival strategies—huddling, fluffing, shivering—and also human cohabitation, as with the Carolina wren he discovered in his garage. Bird-loving readers will adore Tougias’s celebratory account of how wild animals can become an intrinsic part of one’s daily life. —Publishers Weekly
“Birder on Berry Lane is structured much like a bird creates a nest, using the seasons to create a foundation and intricate life histories of bird species to provide nesting material – a practical reference that both novice and avid birders can use to follow the seasonal ebb and flow of birds in the eastern US.” Michael Gregonis Wildlife Biologist, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
"Tougias takes us on a year long journey through his yard and surrounds with an important message: The wonders of nature are right in our backyards if we just take time to notice and observe. Szantyr’s illustrations really bring the tales to life!" Patrick Comins Executive Director, Connecticut Audubon Society
"What a delight. If you’ve ever stood in your yard staring at the treetops or hooting for owls, or have questioned the sanity of those who do, this is the book for you." Chris Elphick Ornithologist, Dept of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut
"In the expectant, highly attentive passages of Birder on Berry Lane, Robert Tougias takes great care in sharing his joy, engaging all of our senses as he brings us through a year of watching the birds in his neighborhood. He reminds us of what it means to really pay attention, to open up to the incredibly vibrant lives all around us, calling, fluttering, hopping, and wheeling above. And he reminds us of what it means to really know where we are, a knowledge that must be embraced if we intend to save this place, and ourselves." Jonathan Andersen Author of Augur, recipient of David Martinson-Meadowhawk Poetry Award, (Red Dragonfly Press 2018)