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.
Kate Davis, founder of Raptors of the Rockies, has spent decades photographing these smallest of North American falcons, and in her American Kestrel; Pint-sized Predator, she teams up with fellow photographer Rob Palmer to present a truly captivating as well as highly informative portrait of the lives of her subjects. Relying as much on brilliant photography every bit as much as clearly written text to explain the life history of the species, the book is exceptionally approachable for even the most novice bird watcher. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
When taking up Jan Zalasiewicz’ and Mark Williams’ Ocean Worlds; The Story of Seas on Earth and Other Planets be prepared to go deep – deep into the oceans, deep into the Earth, deep into space, and even deep into time itself. For as the authors make very clear, an understanding of the Earth’s oceans requires not just learning about their present existence but their past ones as well. And if one is to understand the history of the planet’s oceans, an understanding of not just when they came to be but how is also necessary; which in turn requires examining the existence of water itself, not just on Earth but throughout the universe. Keep reading…
Not so very long ago I needed to know what the primary language spoken in Tanzania is. I could have turned on the computer, waited for it to go through its start-up protocols, opened a browser and called up Google, in the search field of which I could have entered something like “primary language in Tanzania,” and when the results came up began to sort through them for a site that might have the correct answer to my question. Or, I could have opened my World Almanac to the country profile for Tanzania, where I would read that it is Kiswahili, but that the primary language used in official government business and higher education is English. (In case you’re wondering, I did the latter.) Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
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.
Of all the effects commonly noted in discussions of global climate change, ocean acidification and its effects on the shells of the myriad creatures dwelling within them to be found in the seas is generally high on the list. But for as ubiquitous as seashells are to us today, how much do most of us really know about them?
If you’re anything like me, you find the stories behind the names of species of significant value in acquiring an understanding of those species themselves. Indeed, in many cases, a knowledge of both the former and the latter can shed otherwise imperceivable light upon them both.
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.