Field Notes From An Unintentional Birder, a memoirby Julia Zarankin
Copyright 2020, Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

Many, maybe most, birders who are passionate about birds and who go on to write books on the subject, started birding as a youngster or young adult.  They become confident, assured, and talented in their field and go on to great things.  Their books inspire us, teach us, fill us with dreams and in the end often leave us knowing that we will never quite measure up.  

Julia Zarankin stumbled into birding as an adult.  She did not really want to be “a birder”.  She had no talent for discerning subtle differences in plumage, was tone-deaf and terrible at learning bird songs (despite being the daughter of two concert pianists) and was NOT an outdoor type of person, afraid of just about every living thing.  Nevertheless, she persevered with the hobby and birding became everything to her.  But this book is not just about why or how she became a birder, or about birds, or any of the myriad subjects you might expect of a book with this title.  It is about how birding helped her understand and adapt to her complicated upbringing.  A wry, humorous, sometimes poignant tale of a girl, born in the USSR and growing up in many countries.  Julia was insecure and unsure of what she wanted in life.  Birds helped her find her way. 

Julia describes herself as a “lifelong beginning birder”.  She helps us see and accept our own foibles, all the while laughing at ourselves.  Whether you are simply curious about birds and birding, a newbie in the birding community, another lifelong beginning birder or an experienced and advanced birder who still, on occasion, “misidentifies things with gusto”, you will find yourself in the pages of this book.  And you will know that you do measure up.  Do yourself a favor and read this book.

Guest reviewer Laura Dornan is a member of the Canton Audubon Society. We thank Laura and CAS for their kind permission to republish this review.

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