Book Review Archives

Chasing Wings: Birding Exploits and Encounters

By: Richard Modlin
Reviewed by: H. F. Lippincott
Hartside Publishing, 2008
$16.95, Paperback

A retired marine biologist who is also an occasional bird watcher, Richard Modlin has collected his birding field notes from all over the world along with meticulous lists of birds for each section. I’m not a birder, but I’ve carted around my youthful Peterson bird guide—Modlin calls him "the Audubon of our time"—all my life, even though I never use it. Yet I soon got caught up in Modlin’s book, and I highly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in the subject, especially young people. Informal scientific books of this quality are all too rare.

Although Modlin has lived in North Alabama all his professional life, he’s originally from the southern shore of Lake Erie. Swamps there are still the habitat of a rich bird life and a major stop for migratory birds. Other places he has birded are Cape Canaveral, Dauphin Island, Belize, Arizona (apparently a major magnet for birders), and as far afield as Sweden, Kenya, and the Seychelles, where his professional life has taken him. He and his wife (also a scientist) have a bird-spotting station in their back yard.

Rather than a mind-numbing list of all the birds mentioned in the book, Modlin has split the lists among the various geographical areas, complete with Latin names. Despite this scientific rigor, he has a lively, informal style that should have a wide appeal. Sept. 2009

Editor’s note: Chasing Wings was selected as a finalist for a ForeWord Magazine 2008 Book of the Year Award in Nature Writing.

H. F. Lippincott is a retired teacher of languages.