Birds of Napa County, by Herman Heinzel, Heyday Books, 2006, 132 pages, $12.95
The common image of Napa County is a world of wine, fine cuisine, and row upon row of grapevines. But Herman Heinzel’s Birds of Napa County might make a few tourists trade in their wineglasses for binoculars. This ornately illustrated but concisely worded field guide contains detailed watercolors that beautifully depict Napa’s diverse birdlife, over 300 species in all. Heinzel keeps the words to a minimum: “An illustration,” he writes, “tells so much more than a long, dry description.”
Heinzel proves that true, for the most part. He creatively portrays his subjects in action and in several poses, along with seasonal, regional, juvenile, breeding, and male and female versions of the same bird. While these demonstrate the diversity within some species, novice bird-watchers might find the multiple depictions confusing, since not all illustrations are clearly labeled. The guide does include the basics: a checklist for keeping track of birds spotted, a section on rare birds, and locator maps. There is also a brief but interesting section where Heinzel describes and demonstrates his multistep process for researching and illustrating birds.
Heinzel’s guide is inexpensive and easily tucked into a pocket or backpack, so it should be a useful resource for both locals and visitors looking to get beyond the vineyards and into the native habitats of this beautiful county. [Jessica Taekman]