Let's say you'd like to know more about the Central Oregon outdoors. Before you head out on your next adventure, you might drop a field guide for birds into your backpack. Plus one or two for wildflowers. Then one more for mammals, and another for trees and shrubs.
Or you could take just one book. That is, if you'd enjoy a single guide that provides entertaining overviews and full-color photos of more than 350 plants and animals found within an hour's drive of Bend. "The Nature of Bend," by local author LeeAnn Kriegh, hit area bookstores in June and has been lightening the load on backpacks ever since.
And it fills a pressing need. Kevin Lair, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited, puts it this way: "People have been asking for this for the 16+ years our store has been here, and finally it exists—a comprehensive guide to our flora and fauna!"
"The Nature of Bend" is the only guide you'll find that focuses solely on the plants and animals of Central Oregon. In fact, it's so localized that listings detail not only general habitat but also specific trails, forest roads, parks, and even hotel parking lots where each species can be found.
And here's what I love about this book, compared to more typical field guides: it's funny. It's great to know scientific facts, but what really draws you in is finding out specifically just how disgusting turkey vultures are (for one example). Kriegh has a breezy, conversational writing style that's more like sitting over a beverage with a really smart friend, than reading a textbook.
She says the lighthearted tone is intended to help readers connect with each species. "If you tell me that a bird is called a Yellow-rumped Warbler, it's a migrant, and it lays a certain number of eggs each spring, I'll forget all that in about 10 minutes," she says. "But if you tell me the bird's nickname is 'butter butt' and then you show me why, I'll remember it forever, and I'll laugh every time I see it."
Kriegh emphasizes that she's not a biologist, botanist, "or an –ist of any kind." She has run a copywriting business for the past dozen years and wrote "The Nature of Bend" with the help of more than 30 naturalists and 40 photographers, including well-known local professionals such as Mike Putnam and Bruce Jackson.
Working with those pros—all quite willing to share their accumulated knowledge and skills—lets her function as a (literate, amusing) bridge between the experts and the audience.
And readers can put their newfound knowledge to fun use. In the back of the book there are a dozen different scavenger hunts, in locations ranging from Suttle Lake to LaPine State Park. Each quest features a target list of 50 plants and animals, arranged by degree of difficulty, that can be found at each location.
And the great thing? If you have trouble finding any of the species, you only need the one book to find the answers.
The Nature of Bend is available at area booksellers and other retailers including Newport Market and Wild Birds Unlimited, as well as online at NatureofBend.com.