'Happiness is a Rare Bird,' by Gene Walz

"Happiness is a Rare Bird"

By Gene Walz

Turnstone Press

When asked about birding, “I tell people it’s like art appreciation. Birds are like mobile works of art,” Gene Walz says in the preface to “Happiness is a Rare Bird.” The book is one of the finalists in the Creative Nonfiction category for a High Plains Book Award.

Walz takes us slogging through ice and snow, walking through blackness, navigating slippery trails, and simply looking outside in his yard where he lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and where many of his sightings occur. He also travels to various corners of the world with fellow birders,

All occur in a series of essays that share his birding experiences. The subtitle of the book tells it best: “Living the Birding Life.” While not a manual or traditional bird book, it opens the eyes and ears of the reader to those works of art that Walz takes time to describe for us.

Walz encourages joining with other birders, keeping a list, jotting down observations and sharing bird stories. He reminds us that “local knowledge can be crucial for finding birds.”

Essays range from those on searching for rare birds to seeking out those “once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” with travel adventures to match the descriptions of the birds. The cover photo of the Cock of the Rock, described in one of the essays on rare birds, draws the reader in.

For Walz, and perhaps for the reader of his essays, birding ultimately brings happiness — as it did to Emily Dickinson, Walz reminds us, in her poem “Hope.”

Susan Lubbers is a community volunteer.

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Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.