In bird watching, there are certain species that are casually referred to as “invisible;” not because they’re difficult to see, but because they’re either so commonly seen or of such little interest to most observers as to go unnoticed. Both the American Robin and the American Crow fall into this category, as does the Rock Pigeon. For those doing a good bit of their bird watching near water, the Double-crested Cormorant often also becomes “invisible” – or if noticed, often only in passing and with some disappointment due to it being mistaken for a more “desirable” bird such as a loon or a grebe.
For many fishermen and commercial aquaculturists (fish farmers) however, the Double-crested Cormorant is all too visible – as well as too plentiful. Being one of if not the most effective of all the fish-eating birds inhabiting North America, the Double-crested Cormorant is the very bane of their existence; a malevolent creature worthy of being fought at any opportunity and by any means necessary. Yet somewhere between invisible and infernal lies the reality of this, in truth, unusual and fascinating bird – and it is this very truth that conservation biologist Linda R. Wires seeks to explain to the reading public through her very enlightening book The Double-Crested Cormorant: Plight of a Feathered Pariah. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
One of the most valuable bits of advice – so it has been proven to me by experience – that I received back when I first took up bird watching was “always look at the ducks.” The logic was that ducks, being – like crows and gulls – so commonly seen by most people in the course of their daily lives, become practically invisible; they are passively seen but not actively noticed. Thus if one can train him or herself to always look for and pay attention to them, one can greatly improve one’s overall field craft in regard to all birds. Keep reading…
Think about modern London. What types of animals do you associate with it? Rats, mice, and pigeons most likely. Pet dogs and cats, as well as their stray and feral relatives. Some ducks, geese and swans in the parks. Perhaps a few horses for the police and the royal family’s ceremonial purposes. But what about pigs, sheep, and cows – in vast herds, driven through the streets each week? Or something more exotic – bears, for example, paraded through neighborhoods for the entertainment of any who cared to stop and watch their performances. Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
During certain times of the year at the northernmost tip of the Willamette Valley where I make my home, it seems that no telephone wire next to an open field is complete without an American Kestrel perched upon it.
With the recent report that NASA’s Curiosity Rover is sending back information regarding not just evidence of ancient lakes once having existed on Mars, I thought it might be a good time to point out that Ocean Worlds; The Story of Seas on Earth and Other Planets by Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams is scheduled to be published by Oxford University Press this coming January.
Of all the projects I’ve seen the American Birding Association enter into over the years, their recent partnering with Scott & Nix Publishing to create a new series of state-level field guides to birds is by far, in my humble opinion at least, the most beneficial to the bird watching community.
J.B.S. Haldane famously said that, judging from His works, God must have an inordinate fondness for beetles, and if The Book of Beetles: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred of Nature’s Gems is any indication, so does its author Patrice Bouchard.
Like many readers of The Well-read Naturalist, I have long been drawn not only to books on natural history subjects themselves but to other works as well – memoirs, novels, etc. – written by authors who live or lived in close touch with nature. Needless to say, Ms. Ingalls Wilder was indeed such an author.
In the world of natural history books, few things elicit more excitement than a new edition of a much-respected classic work. Thus when I opened a recently-arrived package from Mountain Press and discovered in it a freshly printed copy of Marli Miller’s Roadside Geology of Oregon, Second Edition I was rendered nearly speechless.
I was twelve when I first saw The Nutcracker performed. It was a community production presented in the high school auditorium by The Little Ballet Theater, the local ballet school in my hometown. The Sugarplum Fairy was portrayed by a girl in my class named Tricia. To be perfectly honest, she was the entire reason why the twelve-year-old son of a commercial fisherman in a Pacific Northwest fishing and logging town paid for a ticket and sat through the entire performance of the first ballet he had ever seen and about which he previously knew nothing more than that the name of it sounded very much like something he dreaded happening during dodgeball in P.E.
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.
You’ve likely heard many times that Benjamin Franklin would have preferred the Wild Turkey as the official bird of the United States rather than the American Bald Eagle. Unfortunately, the manner in which the story is now generally told somewhat misrepresents the purpose of the letter from which quotes used to support it are commonly taken.
For those who might be wishing to commemorate this anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s first edition of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, I highly recommend doing so with a copy of David N. Reznick’s The Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species close at hand.