top of page

Learning to Write from the Audubon Bird Guides

I've finally settled on the "voice" of my new book. Or at least I've set the bar.

My model is The Audubon Guide to North American Birds. Its description of Abert's Towhee is downright poetic:

Along streams in the desert Southwest, a sharp pinging note in the thickets announces the presence of Abert's Towhee. If an observer tries to approach, a pair of these towhees may stay just ahead and out of sight, calling in an odd squealing duet when pressed too closely. When undisturbed, they feed on the ground under dense bushes, scratching among the leaf-litter. Many southwestern "specialty birds" have extensive ranges in the tropics, but this towhee barely gets across the border into northwestern Mexico.

"Along streams in the desert Southwest" ... "a sharp pinging note in the thickets announces"..."a pair"..."may stay just ahead and out of sight"... "an odd squealing duet" ... "scratching among the leaf-litter." This towhee "barely gets across the border."

I am there, walking along that stream in the desert. I can hear those little birds pinging and scratching.

Processes like power law distribution and phase transition are not animals but if I dig a bit, they do have personalities.

Then it's a matter of placing the reader in an environment or environments. Conveying a "feel" for what the process is and how it behaves. Making it a personal experience. All without hesitating to approach the poetic.

The challenge will be to not settle for anything less.

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page