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November 29, 2013

Vermont Photographer Publishes Book 'For the Birds'

WrenCharlotte photographer P. Brian Machanic has produced an 82-page volume titled This Book Is for the Birds, but of course the book is really for bird lovers.

Machanic notes in a preface that there are some "50-60 million" birders in the United States, that is, obsessed individuals "whose affliction for monitoring things avian is all consumptive, leading to forays afield at ungodly hours, while being viciously attacked by the biting insects which birds are supposed to eat." The author admits he is not one of these people:

I'm more of a bird-watcher sort, which means that I enjoy sleeping in once a month, and stop looking for nighthawks when the thunder and lightning starts. I have only a couple of well-worn bird field guides, the second of which was purchased when I thought I'd lost the first.

What Machanic is afflicted with, however, is "a penchant for spending hours and hours at a time waiting for that perfect shot" — that is, with his camera. (The detail at right is from "House Wren.") The right photograph, he imagines, might catapult him into "the Bird Watchers' Hall of Fame and allow me to generously dip into the multi-billion-dollar industry devoted to supplying every imaginable need of the birding world."

BirdbookThis Book Is for the Birds is filled with such tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating prose, making Machanic sound like an amiable guy you wouldn't mind slogging through a marsh with — and then going out for a beer. Or perhaps for a glass of prosecco like the one on the back of the book's jacket, photographed with a hummingbird in full, zillion-miles-a-minute flutter.

Following the preamble, Machanic gets on with the book's real purpose: showcasing his photographs of birds that "grace the Eastern portion of the United States." Each image is nearly a full page in size, and comes with a description that reveals the author knows more about birds than he lets on.

He brings out the colors with the aid of an enhancing filter, and, in the case of very small birds, sometimes uses a colored or white matte board behind the subject to eliminate the clutter surrounding it.

Machanic doesn't claim his volume is encyclopedic, but, with pictures and text for birdies from the American Goldfinch to the Yellow-crowned Night Heron — yes, in alphabetical order — the collection gives avian aficionados some 40 specimens to admire.

The birds' descriptions are straightforward and informative, but Machanic enlivens them with personalized observations such as this bit of trivia:

While the hen Green-wing has mastered a muted "quack," the drake simply whistles as he does his duck things. He's cool!

A retired ophthalmologist, Machanic has pursued his passion for the natural world all his life, he says in an author bio. In 1990, he founded Nature's Eye Studio, from which he sells his wildlife and scenic images. Photography has taken him far from the eastern U.S. — including to the Arctic and Antarctic — and put his eye-doctor's vision to excellent use.

This Book Is for the Birds, Shires Press, 82 pages. $29.95. The book is available at many locally owned bookstores as well as Barnes & Noble, and on Amazon.

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