AT THE LIBRARY: Make some new friends with books from the library

During the quarantine I’ve been practicing these past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to make a number of new friends: two hairy woodpeckers, five barn swallows and a bee.

I’m not delusional because of isolation.  I just watched what was happening around me.

Every morning before work, I fill bird feeders in my yard. 

When I step out the back door in the morning, cardinals, starlings and blue jays wing toward a fence post feeder tray. 

I fill five different feeders.  One is a woodpecker feeder visited by hairy, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers. 

The breakfast club is a pair of hairy woodpeckers. They used to flee at the sight of me, but now I’m just the caterer. 

Five young barn swallows were first surprised, but during the course of a week became comfortable with my cat Matilda and me. 

The bee.  The bee is something else. 

At lunch, or the end of the day when I replenish the water in a tall bird bath, the bee — same bee, chubby, dusty brown and yellow stripes — perches on the edge of the bath, waits while I refill it and drinks. 

You don’t need to put yourself in danger to relieve your boredom.  You just need to look.

Most people have interests they put off because they are too busy, or don’t have the time to travel to exotic climes to “observe nature.”  Nature right out your door is just as interesting and just as natural as it is in a rain forest or at the top of the Rockies. 

Not convinced?  Try Alexandra Horowitz’s “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes” (call No. 158.1 Horo).  She describes all the wonders she and her dog discover in one city block. 

The library has hundreds of natural history books, including bird, insect, animal and plant identification guides that can help you get started.  Not only are these books instructive, the pictures are fascinating.

For starters, try a couple of books by Rodale Press author Sally Roth.  Her “Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible: The A-to-Z Guide To Feeders, Seed Mixes, Projects And Treats” (call No. 639.9 Roth) will tell you how to attract birds by putting out the proper foods and it is also a beautiful bird guide.   

Another Sally Roth book in the library is “The Gardener’s Weather Bible: How to Predict and Prepare for Garden Success in Any Kind of Weather” (call No. 635 Roth).  That book will teach you how to predict weather by observing daily atmospheric conditions. 

Roth is an entertaining writer, too.

Readers of adventure and exploration literature know the beginning of the saga is always about preparing for the expedition.  You can prepare for your backyard or neighborhood expedition by going to and opening the library’s catalog in the “Books and More” link at the top of the page.

Enter your subject, keywords about your subject or titles or authors if you know them. Find the materials you need and put them on hold by using the curbside request form or by calling the library.

If you need help finding materials, call the library or if you like, contact me at and I’ll be happy to help you. 

Clark County is a beautiful place to live.  You will appreciate it even more when you get to know the animals, birds, insects and plants here.

The great American naturalist John Burroughs said, “If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends and nature. And the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature.”

Make some new friends with a little help from the library.

John Maruskin is director of adult services at the Clark County Public Library. He can be reached at