Feature

Author of the week: David Sibley

The &ldquo;rock star&rdquo; of Ameri&shy;can bird-watching has just released a book that he hopes will do for trees what <em>The Sibley Guide to Birds</em> did for the avian kingdom.&nbsp;

The “rock star” of Ameri­can bird-watching is ready for an encore, said Joanne Kaufman in The Wall Street Journal. David Sibley, the self-trained avian expert whose signature field guide has sold 750,000 copies since its 2000 debut, has just released a book that he hopes will do for trees what The Sibley Guide to Birds did for his original passion. Sibley, 47, admits that it was hard, at first, to focus on sketching leaves and branches instead of taking field notes on the creatures flitting among them. “I’d try to study trees, but then I’d run off this way or that way to track a bird I heard calling,” he says. “But trees got more and more interesting the more I learned.”

Such intrepid curiosity has been the driving force behind Sibley’s entire career. The son of an ornithologist, Sibley began drawing birds at 7 and during his adolescence would rise long before school started so he could get out on a bike to spot more. Later, he dropped out of Cornell to free more time for his obsession. That simple urge to make order of the many living things around him held strong as he progressed with work on The Sibley Guide to Trees. Immersion in the subject “all begins with figuring out what the name is,” he says. “There’s a lot of satisfaction going out and recognizing a lot of different species,” he added. “You get more and more connected to the cycle of the seasons and life in the natural world. That’s something we all sort of instinctually crave.”

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