An Enchantment of Birds

An Enchantment of Birds: Memories from a Birder's Life
-by Richard Cannings

ISBN-10: 1553652355
ISBN-13: 978-1553652359

A flock of praise for An Enchantment of Birds

Biologist, naturalist, and bird enthusiast Richard Cannings’ celebrated oeuvre isn’t just for the birds. Whether you are a devout birdwatcher with binoculars and field book in hand, or someone who just enjoys learning more about the winged beauties that frequent the feeder outside your window, Cannings’ beautifully written compilation of memorable sightings and stories of birds native to North America will delight and divert bird aficionados of any degree.

Harmoniously and skilfully, Cannings complements a delightful menagerie of personal encounters with his fine-feathered friends, with specifications of their niches, habitats spanning the Atlantic to Pacific coasts, identifying characteristics, patterns of behaviour, remarkable details of anatomy, and function in the ecosystem.

From the Preface, where he recounts the beginnings of his fascination (“Once the spell has been cast, you forever experience the world differently, eyeing forests as if you were a woodpecker looking for nesting snags…”), to his childhood memories of early morning meadowlark songs drifting through his window, along with family hikes through woodlands and prairies, Cannings speaks candidly and affectionately about his lifetime love of birds and nature in general. “Whatever the origins of this interest, it is indeed an enchantment”, Cannings writes.

These charming anecdotes and reminisces, while comprehensive, are a refreshing contrast to a birder’s guidebook detailing every statistic in deliberate textbook fashion. Its pages offer an up-close perspective and glimpse into the lives of these enchanting creatures. In addition, beautifully rendered sketches from illustrator Donald Gunn serve as a striking and almost-poetic complement to Cannings’ expressive meditations on these wonders of wildlife.

Whether it is a rare sighting of the remarkably plumed white-headed woodpecker, the majestic bald eagle, and the flammulated owl (“one of those creatures that you do not see unless you go looking for them”), or the frequently sighted crow, bluebird and chickadee, Cannings’ lyrical scrutiny brings these marvels of creation from the page in startling familiarity and clarity. Other birds captured between the pages of Enchantment, include the pygmy nuthatch, calliope hummingbird, evening grosbeak, bohemian waxwing, white-tailed ptarmigan, tufted puffin, and northern gannet, to mention just a few.

The author expresses his hope that “their stories will touch you as well and perhaps begin to cast a spell that will last a lifetime.” Without a doubt, Richard Cannings’ informative, yet delicately tender, labour-of-love, An Enchantment of Birds, will be sure to do just that — not unlike the subjects of his very own musings.

—Reviewed for Douglas & McIntyre Publishing


  1. If you enjoyed this book then you may enjoy a book I really enjoyed, it's called Red-tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park written by Marie Winn. This is what says about the book

    " Review
    Nature perseveres in the strangest places, even slap-bang in the middle of Manhattan. Marie Winn, a Wall Street Journal columnist, chronicles the inspiring tale of a pair of red-tailed hawks that take up residence in the posh Fifth- Avenue neighbourhood bordering Central Park, home to such celebrities as Mary Tyler Moore and Woody Allen. Feeding on an abundance of rats and pigeons, the hawks decide to stick around the hustle and bustle of the city for the breeding season and commence construction of their nest on a building ledge overlooking the park. Meanwhile, an eclectic bunch of binocular-wielding nature lovers convene daily to watch the birds' progress, all the while getting to know each other as secret sharers in the city's little-known haven for natural life. "The Regulars", as they call themselves, are as integral to the story as the hawks, and make for a fascinating, urbane counterpoint to the instinct-driven birds that must overcome all sorts of adversity to raise their young. A backdrop to this ongoing soap opera is the park itself. Winn portrays in charming detail an abundance of life within Central Park that might surprise even denizens of the city, simultaneously depicting the determined amateur naturalists who pursue the area's plants and animals with gleeful dedication.

    The true-life mystery of a pair of red-tailed hawks who, in the spring of 1992, built a nest on a high ledge of a building on New York City's Fifth Avenue. The author chronicles the adventures not only of the hawks, but also of Central Park's other wildlife residents and of the birdwatchers."

    Trust me Bev, you will enjoy it

  2. Wow, thanks for that suggestion Rob. I will definitely have to look into that one. :)