Merriam Webster defines “longheaded” as “having unusual foresight.” Oxford goes a bit further with having or showing foresight and good judgment” – although it cites the usage of the word as now dated (make of that and its implications upon our times what you will). However dated or not, the qualities that when assembled together earn a person the designation of long-headed are laudatory ones indeed. Mind you, they may not serve well in the most sought-after and highly compensated occupations of today, where the ephemeral and the transitory are often prized above the well-considered and the enduring. However in times past when people did things not only for the moment but for the future – indeed, when they thought more of how the future would remember their works than how they would be understood in the present – being long-headed would stand a person very well indeed.
The founders of our great libraries and museums were long-headed. Those who laid out the nation’s roadways and railways were long-headed. It would take years, even decades, for their plans to reach fruition. Yet even more than these, those few who literally sought to change the landscape of the nation itself required a degree of long-headedness beyond all others, for they knew that the more grand their plans, the less likely they would ever see the results of their labors within their lifetimes. And of these, the most remarkably long-headed of all was Frederick Law Olmsted. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
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. Keep reading…
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…
Newly Noted Books
“In addition to acorns and grains, pigs happily devour that which most disgusts us – rotting garbage, feces, carrion, even human corpses. Of all the animals commonly eaten by humans, the pig is the only one that will return the favor.”
Nick Baker has been a very busy “bug boy” recently. Not only was his Nick Baker’s Bug Book: Discover the World of the Mini-beast! recently published in England by Bloomsbury as part of The Wildlife Trusts series (with U.S. publication forthcoming this June), his Nick Baker’s British Wildlife: A Month-by-Month Guide was also reissued this past February […]
There was a time when I would have begun any essay or notice pertaining to Bill Oddie with a reference to the title of the much-beloved comedy in which he famously appeared. However after reading the forward of his new book I have come to realize jut how unjust to all the work he has done since that time such persistent references have by now become.
Long before John James Audubon began to chronicle the wildlife of North America in his paintings, Mark Catesby had already undertaken such a project and as a result produced The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands.
This most recent addition to the superb Princeton Pocket Guide series provides information on all the world’s 501 species of shark and should provide hours of both informative reading as well as browsing for both the casual and the serious naturalist alike.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, the activities of the U.S. Forest Service were not just the doings of some far off bureaucrats in Washington D.C.; they were the stuff of daily conversation around the restaurants and coffee shops of the hundreds of small towns populated by people who drew their existence from the vast tracts of forests that blanket the region.
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.