Mar 29, 2008

I Went to the Woods

The Adventures of a Bird Photographer
by Ronald Austing

This short autobiographical book relates some experiences of famous bird photographer, Ron Austing. From a young age Austing was interested in raptors and climbed trees with friends to capture and identify owls and hawks. Then he began taking pictures of them. Before long he was consumed with a desire to capture images of birds in flight. It was a long tedious search for the right cameras and equipment. Eventually he began selling his photos, and made a goal of photographing some 200 local bird species. Much of the book describes Austing's methods of catching and releasing birds, and how he set up to get his pictures. Besides the photography aspect, I Went to the Woods describes the behavior of owls, hummingbirds, kingfishers, red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons. Austing also briefly tells how a variety of injured or orphaned wildlife lived in his home (as he was also a park ranger), and advocates wildlife protection.

I found most interesting the chapter that described how he caught wild falcons. One method involved fitting a pigeon with a harness to which were tied (by hand!) forty or so small slip nooses, then throwing it out the window of a moving car upon driving past a falcon. The pigeon was on a long line, like a leash. When the falcon grabbed the pigeon, its talons would get stuck in the nooses, and it was caught. That's what I love about this book: curious facts about falconry, bird behavior, nature photography, that I never would have dreamed of.

This book was really interesting, and of a very straightforward writing style. I missed many of the references involving photography (having never developed my own film) but enjoyed all the aspects of wildlife observation and avian beauty.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 143 pages, 1963

1 comment:

Nymeth said...

wow, you read such interesting books, Jeane! I'm trying to read more non-fiction, and your blog is an endless source of suggestions. Thanks!