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Man's hobby is 'for the birds'

Book explains Hagerstown man's fascination with birds

Book explains Hagerstown man's fascination with birds

September 24, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

In his latest book, local author J.L. "Herb" Taylor explains why he traveled to Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador, and why he visited Kenya, Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand just to watch the birds.

"I've seen over 2,000 species of birds in my lifetime," said Taylor, 78, of Hagerstown. "It's a fascination because birds are beautiful."

"It's for the Birds: Nature Tour Adventures" (2006, Trafford Publishing), recounts Taylor's journeys during bird-watching trips around the world. The 93-page book includes a 10-page photo spread and a list of references for other bird enthusiasts. The book is written vignette-style, highlighting what Taylor considered his most notable birding ventures.

Of all the places he's visited (he can't remember all of them), Taylor said Kenya is his favorite.

"In the time we were there, we had seen more than 300 species of birds," he said.

In a recent interview, Taylor reflected on a passage recounting the 21 days he spent touring the Kenyan countryside. There, he saw, among other birds, the Eurasian thick-knee, the cut throat waxbill and an augur buzzard. But the shoe-billed stork stood out as the most unusual bird he has ever seen. The shoe-billed stork is an extremely rare bird native to Africa's marshy regions. According to Taylor in his book, encountering the bird during his trip was unexpected, as "it was not listed as a possibility in this area." The shoe-billed stork has blue-grey plumage with a thick, puffy-looking bill that some say resembles the shape of a shoe.

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While he said the book would be his first and his last, Taylor said he'll continue his weekly bird-watching ventures in Pennsylvania, where he counts hawks and occasionally spots a bald eagle or two.

When he isn't bird-watching, he's hanging out with his friends at American Legion Post 42 in Hagerstown (they meet daily for lunch) and indulging in his other hobby, airplanes - though he's not a pilot. Taylor joined the U.S. Air Force when he was 20 and was an airplane mechanic in Asia during the Korean War. He also worked at Fairchild Aircraft, just north of Hagerstown.

"It's For the Birds" is on sale for $12 at Books N Things at Longmeadow Shopping Center, 1525 Potomac Ave., Hagerstown.

By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

J.L. "Herb" Taylor of Hagerstown says he is fascinated by birds and has traveled around the world to watch them. He has written a book called "It's for the Birds: Nature Tour Adventures."

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