Each year, dozens of new volumes are added to the ever-expanding library of books written to help bird watchers and naturalists become more adept at, as well as increase their enjoyment of, their respective crafts. From field guides and natural histories to personal reflections and how-to guides, the range of titles is indeed rich and varied. The problem is that among all these books there has long been a space left void – a space just waiting for a guide to the instruments so crucial to the pursuit of modern bird watching and other naturalist studies: sport optics.
Strange as it may seem to an an area of activity so nose-deep in books, no single volume dedicated to explaining the design, use, and operational intricacies of sport optics – binoculars and spotting scopes – to a general audience has been published in English. Yet it is indeed true; or at least it was, that prior to the release of Alan R. Hale’s recently published Sport Optics; Binoculars, Spotting Scopes & Riflescopes no explanatory book on the subject was available to the general public. (Should you be wondering why, in addition to binoculars and spotting scopes, rifle scopes were included, the simple explanation is that most all firms in the sport optics industry include all three of these types of optical instruments in their product lines due to the many technical similarities they share; however for those perhaps troubled by such an inclusion, the riflescope oriented chapters can be skipped if desired without a significant loss of understanding of the other two types of products discussed.) Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
While some practice bird watching as a solitary activity, a far greater number consider the opportunity for the relaxed sociability it offers to make it ideal for pursuit in either pairs or small groups. Not surprisingly, uncountable friendships have been established through as well as strengthened around it. Some of these – such as that between Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher – have become famous throughout the bird watching community thanks to the friends committing their field activities to writing. Now in this same great tradition, Colin Rees and Derek Thomas have done likewise with their recently published book Birds of a Feather; Seasonal Changes on Both Sides of the Atlantic. Keep reading…
Look at a perched Gyrfalcon; they are pure muscle just waiting to be put into motion. Peregrine Falcons have a dark, brooding look; even in full sunlight they still give the feeling of being partially in shadow. Merlins are compact packages of energy and ferocity; ever on the very verge of flight. American Kestrels are, well… to be honest, they’re cute. When perched on a utility wire strung along a roadway, their boldly delineated blue gray, reddish brown, and white plumage combine with their small size, round heads and stubby beaks to give them as much the appearance of an anime character as a highly effective avian predator. Yet make no mistake; American Kestrels are every bit as masterful hunters as their larger relations. Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
Not long ago I reported that Frederick Law Olmsted: Plans and Views of Public Parks was soon to be published by Johns Hopkins University Press. However in doing so I neglected also to mention the recent publication by this same publisher of the ninth volume in their definitive series cataloging Olmsted’s papers.
Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
So begins that best known of Middle English songs “Sumer is icumen in.” Not surprisingly in a song celebrating the emergence of the land from the darkness and cold of winter, the call of the cuckoo figures prominently.
You know the old saying, “Everybody talks about the weather…” The problem is that while everybody does indeed talk about it, far fewer actually understand it beyond the level of the daily forecast – including me. Which is why I was so excited when I saw the announcement of the publication by Bloomsbury of Alan Watts’ The Weather Handbook; An Essential Guide to How Weather is Formed and Develops under the Adlard Coles Nautical imprint.
For those who are either already fascinated by them, or those who are simply curious to learn a bit more about some of the world’s most widely and notoriously misunderstood mammals, news of the forthcoming publication of M. Brock Fenton’s and Nancy Simmons’ “Bats; A World of Science and Mystery” by The University of Chicago Press should come as very welcome news indeed.
As this week seems to be shaping up to be one devoted to new field guides, it’s well worth noting that in May of this year, Johns Hopkins University Press will be publishing Leslie Day’s new Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City.
Even though it’s only February, I’m beginning to hear my local birds becoming far more vocal each morning; which tells me that it’s time to think about the spring migration. It’s also time to begin thinking about new field guides – the most recent example of which to arrive on my desk being the new The Stokes Essential Pocket Guide to the Birds of North America.
Now that – as my grandpa was fond of saying – the kitty is out of the burlap, I thought I should take a few paragraphs to explain my new forthcoming adventure. As some of you may have already learned, as of the first of March I will take up the position of product manager for sports optics with Celestron. Needless to say, I am absolutely delighted, as well as deeply honored, to have been offered this opportunity. However as it is a full-time position that will require a substantial amount of travel, the question has already been asked of me “what will become of The Well-read Naturalist.”
The Well-equipped Naturalist
I carry a bag when I’m in the field. I carry a bag when I’m running errands around town. I carry a bag more or less whenever I leave the house for anything more than to walk the dog or take my evening stroll. Ideally, so that I need not worry about being without some item of my essential kit as a result of switching between different bags for different activities, I very much prefer the bag I carry for all these diverse purposes to be the same bag.
Most every hunter or angler I ever met had every bit as deep an interest in one area of natural history of another as any other naturalist of my acquaintance. Indeed, were it not for such famous hunters and anglers of years past, we would not have some of the important collections in natural history museums that we do today.
While each episode of Palaeocast is a delightful sojourn in itself into the world of paleontology, I was particularly happy to discover that Episode 18: Trilobites devotes the better part of an hour to an interview with none other than Professor Richard Fortey of the Natural History Museum.