The primary mission of the Great South Bay Audubon Society is to advocate for the conservation of habitats for native birds and other native wildlife on Long Island.

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Recommended Birding Books

GSBAS recommends "Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson" by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal

Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory PetersonMore information at Amazon.comWHY BIRDWATCHER? WHY NOW?

Roger Tory Peterson was a giant of his time whose legacy is, as his son Lee once said, "all-pervasive." He seemed to have lived several lifetimes during his nearly 88 years as the originator of the modern field guide, a masterful and evocative painter, a feverishly persistent and thorough photographer, a passionate filmmaker, a fluid and fluent author, a teacher of natural history for all grade and age levels, a life-long student of natural history, the most resourceful of scientists in his tireless sharing and synthesizing of information, a wise and dedicated conservationist from his earliest days, and a mentor and a hero to scores of people around the world.

Not enough can be said of Peterson's unprecedented legacy-- a legacy that may never be duplicated-- nor has enough been said.

Tragically, the present age seems dominated by cynics who are working to roll back the tide of the environmental advances of the 20th century-- preservation of critical habitats, preventing the degradation of natural resources, and the banning of harmful pesticides and other substances. Roger Tory Peterson was at the forefront of the conservation generation and among just a few in the world who could be considered its most effective spokesperson. We need somebody like him today more than ever, but if that's not possible we can at least celebrate his legacy. And what better way to do that than with publication of Birdwatcher: the Life of Roger Tory Peterson in celebration of both Peterson's Centenary Year of 2008 and the 75th anniversary of the publication of the first Peterson Guide (2009)?


Roger Tory Peterson began as a distracted, rebellious son of working class immigrants who, inspired by a woodpecker sleeping on a tree trunk that "burst to life" upon being touched, transformed himself into possibly the most important naturalist/scientist of the last hundred years -despite being completely self-taught.

As a teenage transplant from snow-belt city Jamestown to New York City, where he worked his way through art school, he ingratiated himself with a group of local boys who were similarly entranced by birds. They were known as the Bronx County Bird Club. Many of these boys went on to lives of prominence in bird study, whether it was through science, conservation activism, or photography, and influenced and morally supported each other for the remaining decades of their lives.

Still a mere youngster, Peterson conceptualized and single-handedly authored and illustrated the first practical, usable field guide to birds in world history, published to great acclaim in 1934.

Without any formal training as a teacher, he became one of America's premier teachers - after a few years of intuitively-conducted nature instruction at a summer camp and at an exclusive private school serving the sons of Boston Brahmins - when he accepted a job as the Education Director at the newly re-made National Association of Audubon Societies (soon to be the National Audubon Society).

Through his field guides, Peterson inspired the modern conservation movement. He managed, throughout his adult life, to variously stand at its cutting edge, or be its propeller, in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Around the world, Peterson was the most sought-after ornithologist and conservationist of his time. He was a dedicated participant in numerous international ornithological and conservation convocations. He struck up friendships with fellow legends Guy Mountfort, Sir Peter Scott, and Keith Shackleton, as well as masterminding the 1953 transcontinental trip with bosom-buddy James Fisher that turned into the classic adventure story, Wild America. He became a founding and loyal naturalist/lecturer for nature expedition impresario and great friend, the late, conservation-minded Lars-Eric Lindblad.

After conducting one of the earliest DDT studies while a sergeant in the Army Corps of Engineers during the Second World War, Peterson spoke out against the use of DDT and other pesticides for over two decades until its eventual banning in the United States. He secretly enabled the organizing of the most influential congress devoted to the topic, the Peregrine Conference of 1965. Even before that, he had enlisted young bird enthusiasts, living and studying near Peterson's home in Old Lyme, Connecticut, and personally mentored by him, to study the nesting success of DDT-threatened ospreys in the local marshes.

He accumulated approximately one million photographs that he took while studying his favorite animals, birds, the world over.

Besides co-authoring Wild America with James Fisher and, later, also writing The World of Birds with his British friend, Peterson authored several other bestselling books, such as: the award-winning Birds Over America, How to Know the Birds, the National Wildlife Federation-sponsored Wildlife in Color, the Time-Life volume The Birds, and Penguins. Another work, The Bird Watcher's Anthology, he meticulously edited and illustrated. Meanwhile, Peterson wrote innumerable columns and articles, relating his travels and conservation concerns, for numerous magazines, including Audubon, National Geographic, National Wildlife, International Wildlife, Nature, and Bird Watcher's Digest. (A collection of columns from the latter magazine was recently compiled for the 2007 Peterson volume, All Things Reconsidered.) Ever generous and supportive of colleagues and up-and-coming naturalist-writers, he authored well over 100 forewords, introductions, and prefaces to the books of others.

Despite collecting nearly two dozen honorary degrees, winning an eye-popping array of national and international awards for every aspect of his work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and encouraging a myriad of protégés throughout his life, Peterson constantly fretted that he didn't write as well as some authors he admired or paint as well as some of his favorite artists. He remained insecure about his success to the point where he would revise various field guides again and again to the exclusion of some other pursuits in which he wanted to delve more, including "painterly painting" and further book writing. On the day he died, July 28, 1996, one month shy of his 88th birthday, he was in the middle of revising his Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America for the fourth time. (The book was published posthumously in 2002.)


After graduating magna cum laude with a journalism degree from Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications in 1982, Rosenthal attended Rutgers-Camden School of Law, from which she graduated With Honors in 1985. Subsequently, she was admitted to the bars of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In 1986, she married Stanley Shur, another Rutgers-Camden graduate. For the past 20 years, Rosenthal has been a civil servant, writing regulations for New Jersey state government, testifying before the state legislature about pending legislation affecting the civil service system, and serving as liaison to the State Attorney General's Office.

In 2002, Rosenthal inexplicably became bewitched by birds, since then reading everything about them that she could get her hands on and going on field trips - with New Jersey Audubon and other groups - whenever possible. Like many of her birding compatriots, while driving she pays more attention to starlings flitting overhead than to traffic signs and usually extracts more joy from a simple encounter with an immature grackle than from a more prolonged encounter with immature or mature humans. The Burlington, New Jersey, home she shares with her husband is surrounded by birdfeeders frequented by loyal patrons. Rosenthal's life list may be modest, but her admiration of even the most common of birds is unassailable.

Kathleen O' Connor recommends "How to Be a (BAD) Birdwatcher" by Simon Barnes. 

Kathleen says, "It's very short (quick read), but quite witty."

The inside flap of the book describes it as:
Look out the window. See a bird. Enjoy it. CONGRATULATIONS! You are now a bad birdwatcher.

In this refreshingly irreverent introduction to the subject, Simon Barnes makes birdwatching simple—and above all, enjoyable.

Anyone who has ever looked up at the sky or gazed out the window knows a thing or two about birds. Who doesn’t know the brisk purpose of a sparrow, the airy insouciance of the seagull, the dramatic power of the hawk? Birds are beautiful, you can encounter them anywhere, and they embody one of the primal human aspirations: flight.

Birdwatching starts, simply, with a habit of looking. You let birds into your life a little at a time. You remember bird names as you would the names of people you’ve enjoyed meeting. And if you share your looking and listening with other people, so much the better. Birdwatching might even help you get along with the father who never approved of anything you did—as it did for Barnes.

As Barnes shares his relaxed principles of birdwatching, he also shows us the power of place: the elation of spotting kingfishers in Kashmir, hawks over the Great Lakes, or the birds closest to home. And he shows how, no matter where you live, birds can connect you to the greater glory of life.

Funny, enthusiastic, and inspiring, How to Be a Bad Birdwatcher demonstrates why you don’t have to have fancy binoculars or lifetime checklists to discover a new world. So, begin the habit of looking. See that bird...Enjoy it!

GSBAS recommends:
"The Birder's Conservation Handbook: 100 North American Birds at Risk" by Jeffrey V. Wells.

Endorsements from the back cover of the book:

"This is truly a bird guide for the new millennium. Jeff Wells has given us a resource that gives us a more realistic and three-dimensional view of bird life. In this book we can see the birds as part of a bigger picture that includes their environment--and we can see that the picture includes us as well, with our responsibility for ensuring the survival of the birds that we all enjoy."-- Kenn Kaufman, author of Kingbird Highway

"At last ornithologists, birders, and conservation planners have between two covers an exhaustive and invaluable storehouse of information about the status of bird conservation in North America. Along with one hundred carefully chosen and exhaustively documented species accounts about birds at risk, the author has produced an outstanding overview and resource to bird conservation activity that should serve as a benchmark for many years to come."-- Wayne R. Petersen, coauthor of Birds of New England and Birds of Massachusetts

"Simply admiring birds isn't enough - birders everywhere need to be actively engaged in preserving them, and Birder's Conservation Handbook gives them the knowledge and the tools to do just that. Jeff Wells has done a remarkable job of assembling the most up-to-date information on one hundred of North America's most imperiled species, and of providing a road map for how the average birder can work for their protection. This book is a gold mine."-- Scott Weidensaul, author of Of a Feather and Living on the Wind

"This is an excellent book. It is well written and effectively organized, and the scholarship is very sound. The combination of an excellent general overview of North American bird conservation with detailed species accounts will greatly enhance birders' and non-birders' understanding and appreciation of conservation science."-- David Haskell, University of the South

"The Birder's Conservation Handbook is a gold mine of information on North America's rarest and most vulnerable birds. No other book provides as much information on the threats to each species, the conservation measures that have been taken thus far, and the steps that still need to be taken to ensure the well-being of these birds. I highly recommend it."-- David Wilcove, Princeton University

"An invaluable resource for birders and concerned citizens, giving us the cold hard facts on the alarming decline in dozens of species of birds and what is being done to save our beloved birds."-- Bridget Stutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds