Monday, November 27, 2006

'Club George - The Diary of a Central Park Birdwatcher' by Bob Levy

ISBN: 0312341679
Format: Hardcover, 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Price: $24.95

Club George is the heartwarming story of George, the extraordinary Red-winged Blackbird who ignites the author’s interest in all things bird. New York's Central Park might be the last place you would expect to see a variety of wildlife but soon you learn differently. The park is a migration stop for many species of birds, and through the book you get to experience the variety for yourself. Not to mention George.

'The mention of Red-winged Blackbirds struck a chord with her. She turned and said, "You’re ‘George’ aren’t you?” I corrected her saying, “I’m Bob, but I’m a fan of George if that’s what you mean." She explained she did not mean to say that my name was George, but that she knew me to be one of George’s admirers.'

With that, you follow Bob Levy’s transformation from your average Joe into an experienced birdwatcher. You get to peek over his shoulder as he feeds George for the first time, while he comes to know the Downy Woodpeckers Morton and Mary, and meets Canada Geese, Mallards, American Robins, Common Grackles, Northern Cardinals, Nighthawks, Black-crowned Night Herons, and many others.

Throughout the book there are wonderful black and white photographs of the subjects that are written about with such wonder and enthusiasm. It was wonderful to be able to put a face to a name with George, as well as a few other individuals Mr. Levy befriended along the way.

My favorite story about George was when he stole the yellow cake. Mr. Levy had gone out to his usual spot to watch George and found it crowded with other visitors. Not all were there to see George; in fact most were oblivious to the bird perched on his favorite spot. A man with a small baby in a papoose was there. In the man’s hand was a piece of plastic-wrapped yellow pound cake that he waved back and fourth.

George was trained on it, little eyes focused on his goal. The man, still oblivious to George, unwrapped the cake and George seized the moment. He flew in, landing on the cake, digging his beak and claws into the object and flew away again with a large chunk of it. That is a bird with gumption.

Club George: The Diary of a Central Park Bird-Watcher is much more than just a diary about one man or about one bird for that matter. It is full of information for the beginner bird watcher, helpful tips and hints sandwiched between wonderfully funny moments of a life enriched by birds. Mr. Levy has done his research completely and knows exactly what direction to point you in if he lacks an answer. He has such a passion for the avian world that by just picking up this book, it will rub off on you as well. Become a member of Club George; it’s an experience not to be missed.

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