Featured Review

Discovering the Truth About Nature

Discovering the Truth About Nature

Let’s face it: children ask an astonishing number of questions, and children exposed to even a tiny bit of nature ask an exponentially larger number. Parents – or for that matter, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and anyone else with an interest in a child’s overall education and well-being – naturally want to be able to provide them with factual answers, or at least direct them to a reliable source where such answers can be found. The problem is that, when it comes to nature at least, for a large number of adults such answers are not always known for certain and in all-too-many cases a well-circulated myth is unknowingly held to be correct.

The challenge thus becomes how to replace these popular myths about nature with fact-based, easy-to-understand (and remember) answers. To be sure, it’s not an easy challenge to take up, but two who have, Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, have recently joined their talents together to produce a book that has the potential to do a great amount of good toward this cause: The Truth About Nature; A Family’s Guide to 144 Common Myths about the Great Outdoors. Keep reading…

Recent Book Reviews

A Very Important Message Indeed

A Very Important Message Indeed

When a female Passenger Pigeon – named Martha by those who tended to her daily needs at the Cincinnati Zoo – died in her cage on 1 September 1914, a species of bird that only a hundred years prior had numbered in the billions forever vanished from the face of the planet. Other bird species, to say nothing of numerous other species of flora and fauna, have been known to have gone extinct in living memory, but ever since the death of Martha, the extinction of Ecopistes migratorius has haunted human memory. Keep reading…

Birds Both Beautiful and Bewildering

Birds Both Beautiful and Bewildering

When it comes to bird families whose members are tricky to learn to identify, gulls and warblers would likely be near the top of most any bird watcher’s list. However while gulls do present the challenges of multi-year plumage cycles and frequent identity-confounding hybridizations, they are fairly large, often lethargic birds that can commonly be approached and observed for lengthy periods of time. Warblers, on the other hand, are very small feathered darts that even when they do perch to glean are rarely stationary for more than a second or two. Yet while a number of books have been published on learning to identify gulls, warblers have generally been treated as simply another family to puzzle out like the rest included in field guides. Keep reading…

Newly Noted Books

The Lost Elements

The Lost Elements

I’ll admit that when I received my advance copy of The Lost Elements; The Periodic Table’s Shadow Side from Oxford University Press, I thought that they had quite possibly achieved publishing Nerdvana. A history of the periodic table is one thing – but its “shadow side?” What dark secrets about it could there possibly be?

The Helm Guide to Bird Identification

The Helm Guide to Bird Identification

For those birds that are particularly tricky to distinguish from others due to their having a very similar appearance and often an overlapping geographic range (the “confusion species”), having the learnéd guidance of someone highly skilled in making such identifications is of inestimable value.

The Truth About Nature

The Truth About Nature

You’ll not find The Well-read Naturalist participating in many virtual book tours, so when I do, you can be sure it’s for a book that I think is well worth it.

John's Blog

Something New

Something New

Like most – if not, in fact, all – of you, I read much more widely than just books of natural history. And just as I do with those I read for review in The Well-read Naturalist, I write reviews of them as well. My problem has been that I haven’t been able to find an appropriate way to bring those reviews to a public readership.

The Well-equipped Naturalist

Opticron BGA Classic 7x36mm Binocular

Opticron BGA Classic 7x36mm Binocular

Smaller than a conventional full sized binocular but larger than both compact and the increasingly ubiquitous 32mm objective “mid-sized” models, the BGA Classic 7x36mm breaks from both the magnification and objective diameter conventions to provide a highly versatile binocular that is well-suited as both a primary a well as a “sidekick” model.

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Marginalia

Macdonald, Dee, and Lockhart at the LRB Bookshop

Macdonald, Dee, and Lockhart at the LRB Bookshop

Helen Macdonald, Tim Dee, and James Macdonald Lockhart recently gathered to discuss birds at the London Review Bookshop. Fortunately, for those unable to attend, it was recorded and can now be heard via podcast.

On the Importance of Nature to Mental Health

On the Importance of Nature to Mental Health

“I got into bird watching because I discovered I could be on a murder scene and there’d be birds. So I got these little binoculars I’d carry in my pocket because I had to have some connection to the natural world – or the sane world – if I was going to do this.”

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