The backyard nesting season is well underway here on the ridge. The first complete bluebird nest held five eggs on March 26. As I write this on Wednesday, I have three complete bluebird nests, one Carolina wren nest (five eggs), one phoebe nest (five eggs), and several more bluebird and chickadee nests that are ready to receive eggs.
So I was really anticipating the publication of Julie Zickefoose's latest book, "The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds" (2012, Houghton Mifflin, $28). It was published just a few weeks ago, and it does not disappoint.
Julie is an artist, writer, wildlife rehabilitator, radio commentator, mom, wife, and a personal friend. I've known her for nearly 20 years.
"The Bluebird Effect" is a collection of 25 essays describing her experiences with birds that have come under her care. Clearly she has the patience of Job. Among the patients she describes are bluebirds, chickadees, Carolina wrens, chimney swifts, phoebes, and a savannah sparrow.
In describing the book, Julie explains, "Each bird or animal I help as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator leaves a big mark on my heart and an inevitable trail of tracks across my thoughts." "The Bluebird Effect" is a record of those marks and tracks.
The title of the book refers to one particular bluebird that her husband rescued from a sharp-shinned hawk attack. She formed an uncommon bond that lasted for almost seven years with this particular bird. To read this chapter is to understand the nature of an "uncommon bond" with a bird.
One chapter is devoted to ivory-billed woodpeckers, a bird with which Julie obviously has no personal experience. It's wonderful to simply enjoy Julie's take on this probably extinct species. It also offers one of my favorite illustrations in the book (p. 245). It shows a male ivory-bill delivering a large grub to two hungry nestlings at the nest hole while the female flies by in the background.
Speaking of illustrations, the book includes more than 300 paintings and pencil drawings. Many of the drawings are mere sketches, but the color paintings are stunning. I'm actually considering buy a second copy so I can remove and frame some of the color plates.