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Birds of the West—book review

Birds of the West

An Artist’s Guide by Molly Hashimoto

This is an exquisite book! It would be a wonderful gift for either a bird lover or an artist. Author Hashimoto has illustrated this book with both watercolors and wood block prints. She discusses her techniques for both and using one of the thoughtful quotes in this book, she answers the question: which art medium is best for birds? “The impulse to paint comes neither from observation nor from the soul (which is probably blind) but from an encounter: the encounter between painter and model.” ~John Berger

Once she has discussed the technique, she divides the birds into locales: one’s backyard and the city, wetland and pond, shoreline and beach, meadow and grassland, desert, forest and Alpine and tundra.

Concentrating on the backyard as these are most familiar to me, her woodblocks of the robin and the rufous hummingbird reminded me that I had not yet seen a robin this year. They are always plentiful once our blueberries begin to bear fruit but have been strangely absent so far.

The hummingbird has been spotted quickly flitting from one bush to another and just recently discovered the hanging fuchsia basket that arrived in time for Mother’s Day. The Northern flicker is also captured in a wood block print; they have already been present in sight and in sound as they hammer away at some object trying to attract a female. An ordinary human like me would think that the flicker’s striking appearance would be enough, but female flickers want more!

The Great Blue Heron turns up in the shoreline and beach section and is illustrated as a dramatic wood block print with Mt. Rainier appropriately in the background. The Stellar Jay is in the forest and woodland section, but this is also a backyard favorite. We see them daily and hear them when we stray outside too early for their comfort.

The Black-capped Chickadee is portrayed amidst a colorful dahlia display. We were used to seeing them at our deck where the feeder was filled with black sunflower seeds and it didn’t matter how many folks were on the deck talking; their love of sunflower seeds outweighed the possible danger of humans.

These are a few of my favorites but she has so many more. And she lists other book resources and retail outlets for art materials. She teaches watercolor painting and printmaking workshops in Seattle and points farther north.

“I once had a sparrow alight on my shoulder for a moment while hoeing in a village garden, and I felt I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.” ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

~Diane Snell

Editor’s note: The Seward Park Audubon Center has a 2-day bird event June 15–16. Go to for more information and registration.

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