Heritage, Volume 18, Number 1, Winter 2000 Page: 33
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JOHN PETERSON, BOOK REVIEW EDITOR
Great Birds of Texas
John P. O'Neill, edited by Suzanne Winckler,
University of Texas Press, 1999
Reviewed by John A. Peterson
My kids and I recently camped at a
nearby state park. Cottonwoods along the
river were blazing yellow, brilliant against
the serene and subtle tones of grassland and
desert. Above, the autumn silence was
punctuated by the guttural rattle of sandhill
cranes, heard from a mile away, then nearer
as their great sweeping columns passed
overhead. Their awkward name in English
doesn't capture their beauty in flight or
their greatness. In Spanish their name is
more evocative, las grullas, more mystify
ing, capturing their elegant greyness.
My fourth grade daughter Alexandria
chose to write her weekly "probe", a
school assignment, on the cranes. She
searched through birding field guides and
encyclopedias, found a wealth of prosaic
description, but only stilted and sterile
portraits to illustrate her project. She was
disappointed. These weren't the cranes
that had startled our vision. Then this
book arrived in the mail, with its vivid
portrayal of two cranes on the prairie, and
an accompanying narrative by John
Graves, who wrote:
"They are a reassurance, cranes. The
survival of large and visible natural force
into a time when survivals of that kind
have grown far less certain than they once
were. I am no priest or anything like one,
but I find myself invoking a blessing on
these great gray birds when they show up,
every spring and fall. May they endure."
"Great Birds of Texas" celebrates those
species of bird life in Texas that provoke
such epiphanies. Neotropical ornithologist
John P. O'Neill contributes eloquent
portraits of nearly 50 birds that are native
to Texas. The illustrations are not only scientifically
accurate, but also, in the selection
of detail and in the depiction of posture
and sometimes action of the birds, are
evocative of the contexts within which we
personally encounter these birds.
Editor Winckler and O'Neill conterpose
the portraits with text from writers on the
natural world. Some, like the excerpt from
John Graves, are soliloquies; most are scientific
or natural history narratives. Nearly
all recount a personal encounter with the
species that moved the writer.
Time to get your Bonafide Origin
IREAL Texas Calendar!
Begins March 2"N, 2000
Mail to: Roger Moore & More
12535 Hwy. 71 West
Austin, TX 78736
512/263-6943 or fax 512/263-6933
HERITAGE * 33 * WINTER 2000
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 18, Number 1, Winter 2000, periodical, Winter 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45388/m1/33/: accessed April 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.