Saturday, January 7, 2017

New Titles



1) Johnson, Oscar and Susan Scott. Hawai‘i’s Kōlea: The Amazing Transpacific Life of the Pacific Golden-Plover. 2016. University of Hawaii Press. Paperback: 61 pages. Price: $16.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Oscar “Wally” Johnson, the undisputed world expert on Pacific Golden-Plovers, and Susan Scott, a popular-science writer, have combined their knowledge and enthusiasm to create a book for everyone who admires the exceptional birds called "Kōlea" in Hawaiian. With easy-to-understand yet scientifically accurate text and outstanding color photographs, Hawai`i's Kōlea: The Amazing Transpacific Life of the Pacific Golden-Plover is a handy, reliable source of information for both general readers and ornithology specialists.
     Although the Pacific Golden-Plover is a member of the shorebird group, Kōlea spend most of their time inland, favoring open space with short vegetation. This makes Hawai`i’s cemeteries, golf courses, and backyard lawns prime real estate for these migratory birds. Each year Kōlea fly thousands of miles nonstop from Alaska and return to the same spot in the Islands, whether a condominium courtyard, a busy beach park, or a strip of grass in downtown Honolulu. As a result, many Hawai`i residents get to know individual birds, calling them “my Kōlea.” In turn, urban plovers often grow tame around people, an endearing trait uncommon in other birds. Their human admirers see city Kōlea as charming, alert, and personable―qualities that, together with their grace and beauty, have made them arguably Hawai`i’s favorite bird.
     Observing the birds gives rise to countless questions: “When do the birds leave Hawai`i? When do they return? Do they have chicks in the Islands? How long does it take them to fly to Alaska?” To answer these and other questions, the authors have gathered together just about every detail researchers know about Pacific Golden-Plovers. If you marvel at the remarkable birds that prance through your park, strut in your street, and rest on your rooftop, this book will make you love Kōlea even more.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in this species!


2) Helen Czerski. Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life. 2017. W. W. Norton. Hardbound: 275 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Take a look up at the stars on a clear night and you get a sense that the universe is vast and untouchable, full of mysteries beyond comprehension. But did you know that the key to unveiling the secrets of the cosmos is as close as the nearest toaster?
     Our home here on Earth is messy, mutable, and full of humdrum things that we touch and modify without much thought every day. But these familiar surroundings are just the place to look if you’re interested in what makes the universe tick. In Storm in a Teacup, Helen Czerski provides the tools to alter the way we see everything around us by linking ordinary objects and occurrences, like popcorn popping, coffee stains, and fridge magnets, to big ideas like climate change, the energy crisis, or innovative medical testing. She guides us through the principles of gases (“Explosions in the kitchen are generally considered a bad idea. But just occasionally a small one can produce something delicious”); gravity (drop some raisins in a bottle of carbonated lemonade and watch the whoosh of bubbles and the dancing raisins at the bottom bumping into each other); size (Czerski explains the action of the water molecules that cause the crime-scene stain left by a puddle of dried coffee); and time (why it takes so long for ketchup to come out of a bottle).
     Along the way, she provides answers to vexing questions: How does water travel from the roots of a redwood tree to its crown? How do ducks keep their feet warm when walking on ice? Why does milk, when added to tea, look like billowing storm clouds? In an engaging voice at once warm and witty, Czerski shares her stunning breadth of knowledge to lift the veil of familiarity from the ordinary. You may never look at your toaster the same way.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in physics.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Title



1) Bewell, Alan. Natures in Translation: Romanticism and Colonial Natural History. 2016. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 393 pages. Price: $60.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For many critics, Romanticism is synonymous with nature writing, for representations of the natural world appear during this period with a freshness, concreteness, depth, and intensity that have rarely been equaled. Why did nature matter so much to writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? And how did it play such an important role in their understanding of themselves and the world?
     In Natures in Translation, Alan Bewell argues that there is no Nature in the singular, only natures that have undergone transformation through time and across space. He examines how writers―as disparate as Erasmus and Charles Darwin, Joseph Banks, Gilbert White, William Bartram, William Wordsworth, John Clare, and Mary Shelley―understood a world in which natures were traveling and resettling the globe like never before. Bewell presents British natural history as a translational activity aimed at globalizing local natures by making them mobile, exchangeable, comparable, and representable.
     Bewell explores how colonial writers, in the period leading up to the formulation of evolutionary theory, responded to a world in which new natures were coming into being while others disappeared. For some of these writers, colonial natural history held the promise of ushering in a "cosmopolitan" nature in which every species, through trade and exchange, might become a true "citizen of the world." Others struggled with the question of how to live after the natures they depended upon were gone. Ultimately, Natures in Translation demonstrates that―far from being separate from the dominant concerns of British imperial culture―nature was integrally bound up with the business of empire.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of nature writing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

New Title


1) Behrens, Ken and Keith Barnes. Wildlife of Madagascar. 2016. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 344 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Indian Ocean island of Madagascar is one of the world's great natural treasures and ecotourism destinations. Despite being an island, it is home to nearly an entire continent's variety of species, from the famous lemurs to a profusion of bizarre and beautiful birds, reptiles and amphibians. Wildlife of Madagascar is a compact and beautifully illustrated photographic guide, and an essential companion for any visitor or resident. With an eye-catching design, authoritative and accessible text and easy-to-use format, it provides information on identification, distribution, habitat, behaviour, biology and conservation for all the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies likely to be seen.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in Malagasy wildlife.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

New Titles



1) Alvarez, Walter. A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves. 2016. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 246 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Famed geologist Walter Alvarez expands our view of human history by revealing the cosmic, geologic, and evolutionary forces that have shaped us.
     One in a million doesn’t even come close.
     Not when we’re talking about the odds that you would happen to be alive today, on this particular planet, hurtling through space. Almost fourteen billion years of cosmic history, over four billion years of Earth history, a couple million years of human history, the rise and fall of nations, the unbroken string of generations necessary to lead to you―it’s staggering to consider. Yet behind everything in our world, from the phone in your pocket to even the force of gravity itself, lies a similarly grand procession of highly improbable events.
     This panoramic viewpoint has captured the imagination of historians and scientists alike, and together they’ve created a new field―Big History―that integrates traditional historical scholarship with scientific insights to study the full sweep of our universe and its past. Famed geologist Walter Alvarez―best known for the impact theory explaining dinosaur extinction―has championed a science-first approach to Big History, and A Most Improbable Journey is one of the first Big History books to be written by a scientist rather than a historian. Alvarez brings his unique expertise and infectious curiosity to give us a new appreciation for the incredible occurrences―from the Big Bang to the formation of supercontinents, the dawn of the Bronze Age, and beyond―that have led to our improbable place in the universe.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Big History.


2) Cameron, Robert. Collins New Naturalist Library: Slugs and Snails. 2016. William Collins. Paperback: 508 pages. Price: $28.27 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Slugs and snails are part of the great Phylum Mollusca, a group that contains creatures as varied as the fast-moving squid or the sedentary clams, cockles and mussels. The largest group, however, are the gastropods, animals originally with a single foot and a single coiled shell. They are the only group of molluscs to have representatives living on land as well as in the sea and freshwaters. This book is about the slugs and snails that live on land. For creatures living on land they are bizarre: snails carry a huge weight of shell; both snails and slugs move slowly relative to their potential enemies; and most are not well camouflaged. Their wet bodies are at the mercy of dry weather and their movement is very wasteful of energy and water. Despite all this, they are found from the tundra through to deserts, and on all continents apart from Antarctica. They have reached the most remote oceanic islands and undergone amazing evolutionary developments. In terms of species, they outnumber all land vertebrates. As pests, slugs and snails are all too familiar. The damage that they can cause in our gardens and to agricultural crops can be considerable and they are remarkably tenacious and thus difficult to control. In this long-anticipated New Naturalist volume, Robert Cameron introduces us to this remarkable group of gastropods. While dealing with the natural history of slugs and snails of the British Isles it also ventures across the world to explore the wide range of structures and ways of life of slugs and snails, particularly their sometimes bizarre mating habits, which in turn help to illuminate the ways in which evolution has shaped the living world. Snails can be and have been used to explore important ideas in evolutionary biology, in biogeography and in ecology, and Cameron draws out these explorations, looking specifically at the role of evolution in determining how our understanding of snails has developed over the years.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those that collect the New Naturalist series.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Best Bird Books of 2016


The following are my picks for the best bird books of 2016:

 

BEST BOOK:

 

 

1) Reeber, Sébastien.Waterfowl of North America, Europe, and Asia: An Identification Guide. 2015. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 656 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This is the ultimate guide for anyone who wants to identify the ducks, geese, and swans of North America, Europe, and Asia. With 72 stunning color plates (that include more than 920 drawings), over 650 superb photos, and in-depth descriptions, this book brings together the most current information on 84 species of Eurasian and North American waterfowl, and on more than 100 hybrids. The guide delves into taxonomy, identification features, determination of age and sex, geographic variations, measurements, voice, molt, and hybridization. In addition, the status of each species is treated with up-to-date details on distribution, population size, habitats, and life cycle. Color plates and photos are accompanied by informative captions and 85 distribution maps are also provided. Taken together, this is an unrivaled, must-have reference for any birder with an interest in the world's waterfowl.
 

RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in waterfowl. I especially like the treatment of hybrids.

 

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

 

 

1) Clement, Peter and Chris Rose. Robins and Chats. 2015. Helm. Hardbound: 688 pages. Price: $90.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Robins and chats are a diverse group of birds comprising both highly colourful and visible species, such as the robin-chats of Africa, as well as some of the most skulking and elusive birds, such as the shortwings of Asia. Many species, like the well-known Nightingale, are renowned songsters, some are even familiar garden birds, but a good number are highly sought-after for their extreme rarity or simply because they are hard to see.
     This authoritative handbook, part of the Helm Identification Guides series, looks in detail at the world's 175 species of robins and chats. This large group passerines was formerly considered to be part of the thrush family (Turdidae), but is now usually treated as a separate family, Muscicapidae, together with the Old World flycatchers. The vast majority of species are Eurasian or African, with only a handful of species straying into the New World or Australasia. The Australian Robins, although superficially similar, have long been regarded as a separate family and are not included in this book. 
     Robins and Chats discusses the identification and habits of these birds on a species-by-species basis, bringing together the very latest research with accurate range maps, more than 600 colour photographs, and 62 superb colour plates that illustrate age and racial plumage differences. This authoritative and sumptuous book will be indispensable for all chat enthusiasts, and will surely remain the standard reference on the subject for many years to come.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those that collect bird family monographs or have an interest in these species.

 


2) Shunk, Stephen. Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 298 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: From the iconic Woody Woodpecker to the ubiquitous Northern Flicker, woodpeckers have long captivated our attention. Their astonishing anatomy makes them one of the most specialized bird families in the world, and their keystone ecological roles in our forests and woodlands makes them some of the most important birds on the continent.
     This comprehensive and authoritative guide to the natural history, ecology, and conservation of North America’s 23 woodpecker species goes far beyond identification. It explores their unique anatomy and their fascinating and often comical behaviors; it covers each species’ North American conservation status; and it showcases over 250 stunning photographs of woodpeckers in their natural habitats, plus easy-to-read figures and range maps. This reference guide is an essential addition to every birder's library.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in North American woodpeckers!


3) Walther, Michael. Extinct Birds of Hawaii. 2016. Mutual Publishing. Hardbound: 238 pages. Price: $21.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Extinct Birds of Hawai'i captures the vanishing world of unique bird species that has  slipped away in the Islands mostly due to human frivolity and unconcern. Richly illustrated, including paintings by Julian P. Hume (many painted specifically for this volume), it enables us to enjoy vicariously avian life unique to Hawai'i that exists no longer.  
Extinct Birds of Hawai'i also sends a powerful message: Although Hawai'i is well-known for its unique scenic beauty and its fascinating native flora, fauna, bird and marine life, it is also called the extinction capital of the world. The Islands' seventy-seven bird species and sub-species extinctions account for approximately fifteen percent of global bird extinctions during the last seven-hundred years. On some islands over eighty percent of the original land bird species are now extinct.
     With the many agents of extinction still operating in the Islands' forests, Hawai'i's remaining native land birds are at a high risk of being lost forever. Many birdwatchers, nature lovers, and eco-tourists are unaware of the tremendous loss of species that has occurred in this remote archipelago. Extinct Birds of Hawai'i shows the bird life that has been lost and calls attention to the urgent need for preservation action.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated guide to these species. A must have for those with an interest in Hawaiian birds or bird extinctions.


4) Zickefoose, Julie. Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 338 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in bird nests, or what happens after a fledgling leaves the nest, come along on Julie’s sensitive exploration of often-uncharted ornithological ground.
     This beautiful book is as much an art book as it is a natural history, something readers have come to expect from Julie Zickefoose. More than 400 watercolor paintings show the breathtakingly swift development of seventeen different species of wild birds. Sixteen of those species nest on Julie's wildlife sanctuary, so she knows the birds intimately, and writes about them with authority. To create the bulk of this extraordinary work, Julie would borrow a wild nestling, draw it, then return it to its nest every day until it fledged. Some were orphans she raised by hand, giving the ultimate insider’s glimpse into their lives. In sparkling prose, Julie shares a lifetime of insight about bird breeding biology, growth, and cognition.
      As an artist and wildlife rehabilitator, Julie possesses a unique skill set that includes sketching and painting rapidly from life as well as handling delicate hatchlings. She is uniquely positioned to create such an opus, and in fact, nothing like it has ever been attempted. Julie has many fans, and she will gain many more with this unparalleled work.
RECOMMENDATION: This is Zickefoose's best book to date!

 

Friday, December 9, 2016

New Title


1) Montgomery, David R. and Anne Biklé. The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health. 2016. W.W. Norton. Paperback: 309 pages. Price: $16.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A riveting exploration of how microbes are transforming the way we see nature and ourselves―and could revolutionize agriculture and medicine.
     Prepare to set aside what you think you know about yourself and microbes. Good health―for people and for plants―depends on Earth’s smallest creatures. The Hidden Half of Nature tells the story of our tangled relationship with microbes and their potential to revolutionize agriculture and medicine, from garden to gut.
     When David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé decide to restore life into their barren yard by creating a garden, dead dirt threatens their dream. As a cure, they feed their soil a steady diet of organic matter. The results impress them. In short order, the much-maligned microbes transform their bleak yard into a flourishing Eden. Beneath their feet, beneficial microbes and plant roots continuously exchange a vast array of essential compounds. The authors soon learn that this miniaturized commerce is central to botanical life’s master strategy for defense and health.
     They are abruptly plunged further into investigating microbes when Biklé is diagnosed with cancer. Here, they discover an unsettling truth. An armada of bacteria (our microbiome) sails the seas of our gut, enabling our immune system to sort microbial friends from foes. But when our gut microbiome goes awry, our health can go with it. The authors also discover startling insights into the similarities between plant roots and the human gut. We are not what we eat. We are all―for better or worse―the product of what our microbes eat.
     This leads to a radical reconceptualization of our relationship to the natural world: by cultivating beneficial microbes, we can rebuild soil fertility and help turn back the modern plague of chronic diseases. The Hidden Half of Nature reveals how to transform agriculture and medicine―by merging the mind of an ecologist with the care of a gardener and the skill of a doctor.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in microbes.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

New Title



1) Sidles, Connie (editor). Caring for Birds and Nature: 100 Years of Seattle Audubon. 2016. Seattle Audubon Society. Hardbound: 184 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Connie Sidles' latest book is an in-depth look at the first 100 years of Seattle Audubon with historic photos, interviews, and moving stories about our history of working to protect birds and nature in Washington. Every copy signed by the editor.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Washington State ornithological/environmental history.