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An unexpected and belated mid-life love affair with birds and nature and finally discovering one’s place in the world – Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder illuminates the joyful experience of a new discovery and the surprising pleasure to be found while standing still on the edge of a lake at six a.m.

When Julia Zarankin saw her first red-winged blackbird at the age of thirty-five, she didn’t expect that it would change her life. Recently divorced and auditioning hobbies during a stressful career transition, she stumbled on birdwatching, initially out of curiosity for the strange breed of humans who wear multi-pocketed vests, carry spotting scopes and discuss the finer points of optics with disturbing fervour. What she never could have predicted was that she would become one of them. Not only would she come to identify proudly as a birder, but birding would ultimately lead her to find love, uncover a new language and lay down her roots.

With crashing bird populations in North America (29% reduction in bird populations since 1970) Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder  is a timely story of finding meaning in midlife through birds. The book follows the peregrinations of a narrator who learns more from birds than she ever anticipated, as she begins to realize that she herself is a migratory species: born in the former Soviet Union, growing up in Vancouver and Toronto, studying and working in the United States and living in Paris. Coming from a Russian immigrant family of concert pianists who believed that the outdoors were for “other people,” Julia Zarankin recounts the challenges and joys of unexpectedly discovering one’s wild side and finding one’s tribe in the unlikeliest of places.


Everyone who loves birds has arrived at their interest by a unique route, but few can describe their journey with the eloquence that Julia Zarankin brings to this sparkling memoir. With humour and poignancy, she tells a deeply personal story that manages to shine a light on universal themes.

Kenn Kaufman

- author of A Season on the Wind and Kingbird Highway


Julia Zarankin is a writer and self-proclaimed birdsplainer with a particular fondness for sewage lagoons. Her writing has appeared in The WalrusOrion MagazineThreepenny ReviewAntioch ReviewBirding MagazineMaisonneuveThe New QuarterlyOntario Nature and The Globe and Mail. Zarankin’s essays are also featured in several anthologies. She won the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival nonfiction prize and has been first runner-up for PRISM International’s nonfiction prize, a finalist for the TNQ Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest and twice longlisted for the CBC Nonfiction Prize. Julia also leads adventurous souls on tours around the world and teaches courses to lifelong learners about Russian and European culture and literature.

Her birding/life aspirations: “To sport the hairdo of a Cedar Waxwing, acquire the wardrobe of a Northern Flicker and develop the confidence of a Ross’s Goose.” She lives in Toronto, ON.

For more information on the book please visit:; for more information on Julia Zarankin:

 TYPE Books is happy to provide signed copies for Toronto book lovers. Please visit and @typebooks  for more information on purchasing books. For book sales outside of Toronto please contact your favourite local bookseller or online retailer.


Join Birds Canada for an engaging evening of birds, stories, and music, featuring  Julia Zarankin in conversation with Charles Spearin and Birds Canada President Steven Price, along with surprise musical guests, on Thursday September 17, 2020 at 7:00 pm via Zoom and Facebook Live. Register at:

This launch event is part of the Toronto Lit Up programme which is designed to spotlight new works and empower Toronto’s writers. Toronto Lit Up is funded by the Toronto Arts Council and spearheaded by Toronto International Festival of Authors.


Julia Zarankin

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