When it comes to spectator sports, birding ranks somewhere in between bass fishing and reading. For while the watching and tallying of birds can be enjoyable, relaxing, invigorating, and even emotionally and spiritually restorative, the watching of others watching birds is anything but. Which is quite likely why, despite birding being the preferred hobby of quite literally millions, perhaps even tens of millions, of people all around the world; other than in England – where natural history is a part of the national culture in a way that it is no where else – you will not see birding represented in any significant way in the popular media.
And if watching people watch birds is tedious, reading about people watching birds all too often proves itself even more so. While there have been some genuinely noteworthy books about birding (Peterson’s and Fisher’s comes quickly to mind), most of these tend to wrap the activity up with another topic – bird conservation, for example, or as part of a larger autobiography (a la Phoebe Snetsinger). Thus when the advance reading copy of Neil Hayward’s then forthcoming Lost Among the Birds; Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year, I was admittedly less than enthusiastic to begin reading it. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
As an increasingly regular – but not nearly so frequent as I would like – visitor to the British Isles, I find myself in the unusual position of having attained a familiarity with its avifauna that is marginally comfortable but all-to-easily diminished between visits. Thus whenever my feet find themselves once again on British soil and my eyes drift toward a passing bird, I am still more or less a beginning birder until all that I learned during my previous visit returns to my conscious mind. Keep reading…
Far more difficult than teaching a cat a trick or eating only one potato chip is the challenge of explaining to someone that the Brown Recluse spider he or she claimed to have recently seen was, in fact, very likely not one. There’s just something about this species that has taken hold of our imaginations; something that, despite all reason and evidence to the contrary, causes sometimes even the entomologically-savvy amongst us to see them far more often and in far more places than we know their populations or their geographic range to be. Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
Come this November, a new field guide will be added to the illustrious Peterson Field Guides series: the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America. Written by by Jesse Fagan and Oliver Komar, this new guide will provide species accounts for more than eight hundred birds that are found in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
To say that the Mesozoic fossils that have been discovered in the Jehol region of China are remarkable is to greatly understate the matter; they are breath-taking. And among all the fossils found, few can rival those of the early birds discovered there.
The American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis, is found from east Texas, throughout much of the gulf coast states – including all of Louisiana and Florida – in portions of Missouri, and to the eastern halves of Georgia and both Carolinas; however it is those in Texas that biologist Louise Hayes has been studying since 1985.
When it comes to iconic British animals, four immediately spring to mind – my mind, at least – the fox, the hedgehog, the dormouse, and the badger. The first of these is, most regrettably, the subject of scorn and the target of hunters, the next two are unrestrainedly beloved, but the last is a bit of a conundrum, being both legally protected and at the same time the subject of a government-directed extermination campaign.
With the recent publication of Tim Lenton’s “Earth System Science; A Very Short Introduction,” I was made aware that there was a field of study that sought to explain the proverbial big picture in a perspective so large and all-encompassing that even ecology is only a part.
The fact that Oxford University Press seeks out world-renowned experts in their fields to write the volumes of the press’ Very Short Introductions series is not surprising. However what really makes the extra bit of difference is that the authors also have to be an exceptionally skilled writers, capable of explaining often complex subjects clearly and succinctly to a general but admittedly curious readership, in order to make the grade.
Unlike James Taylor, I will soon be going to California not only in my mind but in an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737. I’ll be there for a week to attend to some business for Celestron in Los Angeles and to speak at the San Diego Bird Festival. Thus in keeping with my preferred practice of taking along a book or two with relevance to my destination, I’m planning to pack copies of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of California by Alvaro Jaramillo and the recently published third edition of Insects of the L.A. Basin by Charles L. Hogue and James N. Hogue in my shoulder bag.
The Well-equipped Naturalist
For as long as I’ve ventured afield in search of whatever nature might wish to show me, I’ve gone fully vested. That is to say, I’ve worn a field vest. Not that I have anything against day packs or shoulder bags, mind you; I just find that vests (or as my British friends call them, waistcoats) allow me to carry what I need in a way that allows me easy access to all of it while still letting me move about with a feeling of being unencumbered.
Darrin Lunde does such a superb job of presenting his new book The Naturalist; Theodore Roosevelt, a Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History in this recent podcast from the American Museum of Natural History that I scarcely think there’s any more I could write in a review that wold make you even more […]
Recently, when I downloaded the latest Quirks & Quarks podcast, to my great delight I learned that Dr. Roland Kays was to be discussing his work with camera traps as well as his recently published book on the subject “Candid Creatures; How Camera Traps Reveal the Mysteries of Nature” from Johns Hopkins University Press.