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October 2022

A Hard-to-find 'Birds of the West Indies'

In my several years of researching and writing about the real James Bond, I have found only one edition of the nearly 70 years of Birds of the West Indies next to impossible to get -- the 1985 fifth edition published by  Collins.

Although it has one of the most striking covers of the later editions, it has caught the eye of collectors for another reason: It is featured in the 2002 Bond film “Die Another Day," when Pierce Brosnan's  007 examines this edition of the Birds of the West Indies in a Havana hotel (with the real Bond's name crossed out).

James Bond poses as a birdman in a memorable sequence with Halle Berry.

When the binoculars-toting 007 meets Jinx (played by Halle Berry), he makes a typical movie Bond quip.

“I’m just here for the birds,” he explains. “Ornithologist.”

Every time I tried to buy a copy online, I received a different edition -- even when I sent a photo of the cover of the edition I sought. Eventually, I gave up.

Imagine my surprise last weekend when I visited NJ Audubon's Scherman-Hoffman Sancturay last weekend and found a pristine copy of that very edition in the gift shop's used books section.

Sometimes, when you wait long enough, good things come your way.





Today Is James Bond Day

Wright Rosate Spoonbill. IMG_9924
Today is James Bond Day, marking the premiere of  "Dr. No"  in 1962.

For those keeping score, Ian Fleming's 007 book of the same name had some excellent birding references.

In Dr. No, the sixth 007 novel, several birders, lots of birds and tons of bird guano play a major role. Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of Commander John Strangways, the head of MI6 Station there, and his secretary Mary Trueblood.

Upon his arrival, 007 learns that the disappearances are tied to mysterious goings-on on Crab Key, a British territory owned by Dr. Junius No. Half the island is an Audubon sanctuary for Roseate Spoonbills (above), and the other half is a guano mine.

When one of the wardens dies from bad burns sustained on the key, the Audubon Society goes to investigate, but their plane crash-lands on the island, killing the pilot and the two Audubon staffers.

The U.S. military looks into the crash but finds nothing suspicious. Bond eventually gets involved, and (spoiler alert again), Dr. No gets his due for killing that colony of beautiful spoonbills when 007 buries Dr. No alive with a load of the bird droppings -- far more poetic than the justice Dr. No received in the 1962 movie of the same name, when Bond boiled him alive in a nuclear reactor.

 The episode was inspired by a 1956 expedition that Fleming and his pal Ivar Bryce made to the southernmost Bahamas island of Inagua, near the northeast coast of Cuba. Wrote Bryce in his memoir, You Only Live Once:

“The remainder of Inagua is a large lagoon, a hundred square miles in area surrounded by impenetrable mangroves. No man lives there, but it is home to myriad upon myriad of water birds: flamingos, Louisiana herons, American egets, roseate spoonbills, stilts and a score of other species are there by the thousand.”