Armchair Birding

Lately there have been quite a few slow birding days around here. Spring migration is happening, but the birds are still just trickling through in dribs and drabs rather than pouring in. But what is pouring, today at least, is the rain. So I thought I’d give you a taste of what a birder does when the weather and the birds don’t cooperate.

It’s called armchair birding. This can refer to actually watching birds from inside the house or, as I’m using it today, to reading bird books. Well, I guess I did watch the birds from inside too, but just for a few minutes. (Birds seen in my backyard: House Finch, American Goldfinch, Mourning Dove, House Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, and American Robin.)

Rain-spattered window and view of backyard - blog
Raindrops on the sunroom window, and a view of my azalea and Japanese Maple tree.

And I hit the jackpot at my local used bookstore this morning. They had posted on their Facebook page about having Birds of the Toledo Area by Lou Campbell, and I’d asked them to hold it for me. While I was there I innocently asked if they might have any other bird books. I walked out of there with almost $50 less in my pocket, but boy was it worth it!

Blog - Birds of the Toledo Area (800x723)
Birds of the Toledo Area, by Lou Campbell

One of their customers said that her grandmother was Patricia Eckhart, who did the illustrations for this book.  I’m tickled pink to get a copy of this out-of-print book with such a strong local connection to my new hometown. It’s signed by the author too. And, inside one of the other books I bought was this:

Newspaper article about Lou Campbell - Birds of Toledo Area author (594x800)
It’s a full-page (and more) article about Lou Campbell. The article is dated 1993, when Mr. Campbell was 94 years old. It refers to him as a local institution–the “Dean of Birding” and “Dean of Nature,” among many other accolades. He was a founding member of the Toledo Naturalists’ Association, wrote a nature column in the local paper for more than 30 years, and was the acknowledged authority on birds in this region for 60 years. I wish I’d been around to know this man!

Blog - The Birds of Ohio cover (594x800)
Oh my gosh, this book is a large and gorgeous hardcover.
Blog - The Birds of Ohio - sample illustration (594x800)
A sample of William Zimmerman’s illustrations from The Birds of Ohio. (Author Bruce Peterjohn)
Blog - A Sketchbook of Birds (800x594)
A Sketchbook of Birds, by Charles Tunnicliffe
Blog - Sketchbook of Birds - illustration of Curlew Sandpiper (800x594)
Curlew Sandpiper illustration by Charles Tunnicliffe, from the book above.

And a few more little treasures, including two Golden Guides to birds:

Blog - more bird books from NeverMore (800x594)

I can’t find a publication date in the smaller Golden Guide, but Wikipedia says it was published in 1949. It’s falling apart as I turn the pages, but I just love reading the species accounts and tips on birding, like this:

“Hunting with a gun is giving way to hunting with a camera. Only a few species of game birds may be shot, but you may photograph any bird. Bird photography offers thrills and hard work. Don’t begin until you really understand photography…..”

Times have sure changed, haven’t they? Today anyone can take great bird photos, sometimes even with a cell phone camera.

I have to confess, my intention in buying old field guides was to take them apart and use the pages for some art projects. But I don’t know if I can bear to do that now that I’ve got them in my hands. Well, maybe the one that’s already falling apart….after all, I only paid $3 for it. Maybe I’ll try to find another one in better condition to keep in my library.

So as I hunker down indoors today to wait out the rain, I’m having a great time investigating my new treasures. I wouldn’t mind if it rained all day tomorrow too. I’m also doing this:

Ahh, now this is a good day. I hope you’ve enjoyed your introduction to armchair birding.


  1. Those books are TREASURES!! What a delight to have them in your personal collection. And what a terrific idea to use some of those that are falling apart in art projects.
    I saw a summer tanager this evening on the very west edge of our pecan orchard property near the old river channel. What a surprise! I did not have my camera with me but FD and I both saw it fly right in front of us. Squee!!!


    • How exciting to see the Summer Tanager so close! I saw one last week here in Toledo but it was up higher in the trees. And I had a very close encounter with a Scarlet Tanager yesterday. It flew right past my face and landed in a shrub about 3 feet off the ground, where I got about a dozen nice photos of it. I think I’ll include one of those photos in my next “No Words, Just Birds” posts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So excited about your bird guide finds, Kim! Good work! A birder friend gave us a used copy of the Peterjohn book that he so kindly tracked down and it is a treasure we refer to often. Also, the larger Golden book is the one that I used when I started birding and still find to be an easy and handy guide. And, so good to know you found the Lou Campbell book. It’s a must for your bookshelf now that you are a Toledoan. We inherited an autographed copy from my father-in-law and pasted in it is a typewritten note from the finder who said, “These books are scarcer than hen’s teeth.” Still true after all these years!

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