Overview -Feather Brained

Photos - Feather Brained

Blurbs and Reviews - Feather Brained

Bob Tarte - Feather Brained

Bill Holm - Feather Brained

The Soul of Birding

By Bill Holm

Bill HolmLiterarily every day, at least one fan asks me, “What’s it like to be a Book Character?” I tell them to shut up and let me eat my Cobb salad in peace. What the heck do they think it’s like? For one thing, I’m a figment of the clouded imagination of Bob Tarte, so I’m behind the 8-ball from the get-go. For another thing, my milieu in Tarte’s latest memoir noir, Feather Brained, is the cutthroat world of birding, where a single misidentified chirp can be the difference between grudging admiration and open disdain. I don’t fit into this world, but somehow, thanks to Bob and Feather Brained, I transformed into a humble seeker of the Chestnut-Sided and the Prothon.

See, it’s all about seeing. And feeling. It’s all about the birds. Not the birders. We are groupies, hangers-on, helpless to resist the charms of a Chickadee. At the core of birding is an emotional connection. Rather than stop to list or digitize a bird, I stop to simply see and feel. When I see Golden-Crowned Kinglets dance and dangle on white pine branches, I’m part of something otherwise inaccessible, a mystery in my own back yard.

Still, it’s nice to know a bird’s name. I love birding field guides and am adept at using them to misidentify common ducks. Good binoculars are nice, too, and aren’t too much of a pain to lug around. If you want to take photos, I don’t want to see you setting up a tripod that blocks the path.

So, really, to be a happy birder, just stop and look upward. Stand there. See. Get to know the birds, their patterns, their habits, their games. Let them flit around your brain. If you don’t remember a bird’s name or recognize its call, it doesn’t matter, because you watched the bird.

You may not know that in addition to me, there’s a flesh-and-bone Bill Holm. He’s a writer because he can do nothing else, and is not nearly as good a birder as Book Character Bill Holm. Both the real Bill Holm and I are married to Marcia Davis, who’s a better writer than both of us put together. What’s more, she can identify birds by their cheeps and chirrs. Bob does that, too. I identify a bird by the look in its eye.


Bill and Swallow 3Book Character Bill Holm gets ready in case he spots a bird.

Bill and Swallow 2He patiently waits, alert to any cheep or flutter.

Bill and Swallow 1Book Character Bill Holm nails it! He is among the top birders in North America.

Swallow Without BillHe later identifies the bird as "a swallow of some sort."


Feather Brained Logo