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.
Not surprisingly, I’ve sported quite a few different field vests over the course of my years. My closet presently holds two Royal Robbins Field Guide vests that I quite like, Filson‘s Travel vest as well as their much coveted but long-since discontinued photojournalist vest (which I could likely now sell on eBay for twice what I paid for it), a truly exquisite Ventile® Country Innovation Kestrel (also sadly no longer available – though I doubt I shall ever be able to wear it out to the point of needing to replace it) and that same firm’s much lighter weight Venture. While I have tended to switch between these as conditions and whim dictate, over the past couple of years I have tended toward the Kestrel in the cooler months and the Venture in the warmer ones. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
It was with no small amount of wholly unintentional irony that I began reading Mark Essig’s Lesser Beasts; A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig while eating a ham sandwich. Such is the ubiquity of pigs. Yet for all the many ways the lives of modern humans have and to this day continue to intersect with the domesticated version of Sus scrofa, the European Wild Boar, most of us – even those who count ourselves naturalists – give little, if indeed any, thought to the natural history of the pig. Just as we do with most of the other creatures both wild and domestic that have long lived in close proximity to us, we too often fail to perceive just how much or for how long pigs have played important roles in the collective life of our own species. Perhaps that is why I found Essig’s book so utterly engrossing; it not only brought to my attention a wealth of information previously unknown to me, it helped me to understand just what amazing creatures pigs are. Keep reading…
Merriam Webster defines taxonomy as
1: the study of the general principles of scientific classification: systematics
2: classification; especially: orderly classification of plants and animals according to their presumed natural relationships
Many people, including a sizable portion of naturalists, might add a third definition:
3: the seemingly random attachment of names to plants and animals in a language no one speaks anymore; see also impenetrable, confusing Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
Kudos indeed to the folks at Bloomsbury Sigma for thinking of The Well-read Naturalist when rolling out the advance notices for Kathryn Harkup’s new book A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie. After all, what if not ingenious distillations of the natural world – as well as important clues to the identity of the culprit – were the classic poisons featured in Dame Agatha’s famous mystery novels?
Come September, Alvaro Jaramillo and Brian E. Small’s Field Guide to Birds of California will become the newest addition to the American Birding Association’s state field guide series from Scott & Nix.
With my preparations getting in to full swing for my upcoming journey to England and the Birdfair, it was fortuitous indeed that a copy of Mark Avery and Keith Betton’s “Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers” arrived from Pelagic Publishing.
To say that Pope Francis’ “Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality; On Care for Our Common Home” was shocking to many would be as remarkable an understatement as his words were a breath of fresh air to many who had never expected such a dramatic message of environmental conservation to come from such a place of global power as the pontificate of the Roman Catholic Church. Yet that is precisely what happened.
This December, a new field guide to over eight hundred of the plants, birds, butterflies, fish, and mammals which inhabit the arctic regions around the globe will be published by Princeton University Press: Sharon Chester’s “The Arctic Guide; Wildlife of the Far North.”
The first Robin (Erithacus rubecula) I ever saw was in the garden of the Natural History Museum. Even though it was a juvenile, I was thrilled to have finally seen one after reading about them for so many years. I finally saw one in adult plumage in Warnemunde, Germany some time later. It was truly a delight.
Sitting comfortably with a friend in two ancient chairs by the window at The Fox & Hounds in the Berkshire village of Theale, waiting for the rain to stop in order that we might continue with our plans of having a look at the waterfowl on Hosehill Lake, my friend casually declared “That’s the second time they’ve been up there.”
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.