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Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder

Updated: Sep 11, 2021

By Julia Zarankin

A delightful book of a woman who finds the meaning of life through birds.



Julia Zarankin became curious about birding at the age of thirty-five, but she never expect that it would change her life. Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder is Zarankin’s story of finding meaning in her life through birds. Zarankin learns more from birds than she ever anticipated. Not only would she eventually come to identify proudly as a birder, but birding would ultimately lead her to find love, uncover a new language and lay down her roots.


Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder was intriguing because I feel much the way Julia did about birding at the beginning of her book. I am curious, I wish I knew more, but I’m not real keen on that multi-pocketed khaki vest. This book really gave me an eye opening look at the realities of birding.

The book is not so much a story, as a collection of Zarankin’s life and bird experiences, hence the title. There are tidbits about the people she met while birding and unique birds sights. Her writing was casual, interesting and informative. It was easy to read and her descriptions of the birds and the areas she was birding were highly visual. She cleverly tied her life experiences, her marriage, and her relationships with her stories about birds and birding.

Zarankin’s descriptions of the bird characteristics that she came to admire and even envy were delightful. She shares about the confidence and proudness she saw in the the Ross’s goose, the soft and silky hair of the cedar waxwing and the beautiful singing voice of the wood thrush. Her litany of the admired and enviable traits for other birds was thoroughly enjoyable, and nudged me to pull out my old binoculars.

Zarankin also shares about the down and dirty side of birding. It’s not all about walking in a beautiful park and gazing skyward. She encounter freezing temperatures, landfills, early mornings, and sewer lagoons to find birds. This part actually cemented my birding decision. Despite the joy of new discoveries and surprising pleasures in spotting elusive birds shared by Zarankin, I just don’t think I can handle the sewage lagoons (or the multi-pockets khaki vest).

Nature enthusiasts, and readers who enjoy memoirs of self-discovery will truly appreciate Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder. Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I listened to the audio version of this book and thoroughly enjoyed the narration.

Publisher Dreamscape Media

Published January 5, 2021

Narrated Nan McNamara

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