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Birds Of The West Book Review: 
New Ways To Admire
Your Feathered Friends
On The Trail

By Diane Spicer

This book review from Hiking For Her highlights a May 2019 release from Mountaineers Books:

Birds of the West: An Artist's Guide by Molly Hashimoto

Cover of Birds of the West: An Artist's Guide by Molly HashimotoCover provided by Mountaineers Books

Hiking For Her received a copy of this book from Mountaineers Books in exchange for an unpaid review.

There is no affiliate relationship between us.

But we certainly share a love of great books for hikers, so let's get started on this Birds of the West book review.

Quick facts in this
Birds of the West book

Because you can't pick up the book and leaf through it right at this moment, let me give you the pertinent facts:

  • 176 pages
  • Hardback, 7 inches x 9 inches 
  • 140 color illustrations
  • $22.95 at the time of this review (May 2019)

If you love the feel of a "real" book in your hands, you'll admire the size and shape of this high quality publication.

The colors and variety of illustrations on the silky smooth pages will make you smile when you get a chance to leaf through and examine it for yourself.

Let's take a closer look

Molly's book begins with paintings and stories of backyard and city dwelling birds, alerting you to the flashes of color and sound you enjoy on your daily walks.

  • A bit of an avian appetizer before you hit the trail and begin to feast your senses on wilder bird encounters.

And be ready for some surprises in your "tame" neighborhood!

Did you know that a powerful Cooper's hawk might be visiting your backyard bird feeder at this very moment?

  • Molly shares an amusing story about her aging cat, who got the surprise of its life one day in her yard.

Useful divisions for hikers:
birds are discussed by habitat

The contents of this book are divided into bird habitats, which nicely mirrors the variety of hiking trails all of us hikers enjoy:

  • Wetland and pond
  • Shoreline and beach
  • Meadow and grassland
  • Desert and sagebrush
  • Forest and woodland
  • Alpine and tundra

I found myself gravitating toward learning about the birds in areas I don't often explore, such as desert and sagebrush.

Which areas are you intrigued by? Plenty of bird life, regardless of the terrain!

Birds of the West book review:
don't rush!

I place this book in the "savor, linger, enjoy" category of books for nature lovers.

It's delightful to slow down and look at inhabitants of the natural world through the softer lens of this artist's guide.

This beautiful book is not meant to be thrown into your backpack as a field guide to birds.

Instead, brew a cup of comfort and turn each page of the book slowly as you play the "do I know this bird?" game with yourself.

  • Nearly 100 Western birds are shared with you on the pages of this book. 
  • There are bound to be (minuscule book pun) birds you've never encountered before, and others you can discover anew through Molly's lovely presentations.

Nice little extra touches
to enjoy

A great deal of thought and care went into this book, as you will see immediately when you open the cover.

But this book gives you much more than Molly's beautiful art!

Enriching words

Quotes and passages from writers like Henry David Thoreau and John Muir are sprinkled throughout the book, but not the "loved to death" ones you see plastered all over social media.

Let me share a lovely example:

 "I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment ... and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn."


Science nerds are not neglected in this artsy book!

  • Genus & species for each bird is noted, along with habitat facts such as expected location, food sources, and behavior quirks.

More tantalizing information

The illustrations alone would have made this book enjoyable.

But I wasn't expecting an opportunity to expand my vocabulary.

At the beginning of each new habitat you'll find a short list of plants and terrain descriptors.

An example of fun with words in the Birds of the West forest and woodland section:

  • thicket
  • bosk
  • coppice
  • timberland
  • grove
  • stand

All of these words can be used to describe vegetation patterns in lower elevation bird habitats.

I've never seen them used to describe wooded hiking trails.

Starting today, I've resolved to work these words into trail descriptions, just to liven things up for myself and my readers.

I'm especially eager to use "coppice", now that I've looked up its meaning ;)

This book is perfect for...

...hikers who are artists, and artists who are birders.

What about the rest of us, the non-artsy folks who notice and enjoy birds while on a hike?

Many of us cannot draw a realistic rough sketch of a favorite hiking destination, let alone capture the personality of one bird.

Thank goodness for cameras!

If you're a hiker who longs to record bird life along the trail with something much more tactile and intimate than the lens of a camera, why not use Molly's guide as a jumping off point?

Let's take a peek at the resources she gives you in this book.

Make your own bird art
using Molly's techniques

This author eases you into a transition from passive viewer to active artist by presenting various techniques for making your own bird art.

She demonstrates and highlights the advantages and materials for each technique she has mastered:

  • block prints
  • watercolor & pencil sketches
  • egg tempera
  • etching
  • relief prints
  • gestural drawings

She also includes lists of resources and supplies, plus further reading, to encourage and support your aspirations.

The sidebars in her book are especially useful, filled with easy to follow tips and suggestions for capturing the characteristics of each bird species.

Canadian jay (camp robber) perched on a hiking pole with a bright blue sky in backgroundI'm inspired to use Molly's instructions to create a pencil sketch of this inquisitive Canada jay (camp robber), also known as Perisoreus canadensis

Birds of the West
book review conclusions

While I have a personal list of favorite birds I watch and listen for as the seasons change, it never occurred to me to try drawing them. 

  • This book surprised me by opening a window into a new dimension of trail time.

I wholeheartedly recommend giving Birds of the West: An Artist's Guide a chance to surprise you with a fresh awareness of birds.

Molly's personal encounters, paired with her delightful artwork of feathered creatures, promise many enjoyable hours seeing the world through her eyes and fingertips.

  • You'll come to appreciate her keen eye and knack for pulling you deeply into a bird's daily life.

And allow for the possibility of one more surprise:

  • You might be inspired to make your own bird art.

This lovely book will also make a thoughtful surprise for a trail buddy or aspiring artist, wrapped up with some art supplies to make it even more special. 

Bonus for you: a trip to the magical world of an art supply store to buy white gouache and 5B pencils. 

  • Almost as much fun as shopping for hiking gear, I dare say!

More details about purchasing this book are available here

Hiking For Her reviews Birds of the West: An Artist's Guide #hikingbooks #birding #bookreview #birdingbook #hiking #backpackingIsn't this a lovely painting of a short eared owl?

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Birds of the West Book Review