Monday, September 29, 2014
Friday, September 26, 2014
1) Baldassarre, Guy. Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America: revised and updated. 2014. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 1027 pages (in 2 volumes). Price: $69.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America has been hailed as a classic since the first edition was published in 1942. A must-have for professional biologists, birders, waterfowl hunters, decoy collectors, and wildlife managers, this fully revised and updated [fourth] edition provides definitive information on the continent’s forty-six species. Maps of both winter and breeding ranges are presented with stunning images by top waterfowl photographers and the acclaimed original artwork of Robert W. (Bob) Hines.
Originally authored by F. H. Kortright and later revised by Frank Bellrose, this latest edition, which has been meticulously updated by renowned waterfowl biologist Guy Baldassarre, continues the legacy of esteemed authors. Each species account contains in-depth sections on: • identification• distribution• migration behavior• habitat• population status• breeding biology• rearing of young• recruitment and survival• food habits and feeding ecology • molts and plumages• conservation and management
To facilitate identification, the species accounts also include detailed illustrations of wings. An appendix contains comparative illustrations of ducklings, goslings, and cygnets.
This edition of Ducks, Geese, and Swans consists of two volumes, printed in full color, and packaged in a slipcase, along with a CD containing references and additional maps.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in the waterfowl of North America.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
1) Garner, Martin. Birding Frontiers Challenge Series: Autumn. 2014. Birding Frontiers. Paperback: 132 pages. Price: £16.99 ($37.67 U.S.) which includes postage.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This is the first in the series focusing on the season of autumn. Most birders go out into the field knowing roughly what might be encountered in a given season and not needing all the information on all species pertaining to the whole year. So the Challenge Series begin with a number of autumn 'challenges'. Over 40 taxa are covered in 18 Chapters ranging from Hen and Northern Harriers, Wilson's and Common Snipe, Pallid and Common Swift and Siberian and Common Chiffchaff, to potential vagrants like Sharp-shinned Hawk and Yellow-streaked Warbler. There are the new splits such as Cabot's and Sandwich Tern, 3 Subalpine Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroats and 6 stonechat taxa. Each ID challenge is presented in a concise and accessible form with accompanying photos, illustrations and sonograms where appropriate.
An introductory section explain the genesis and concept of a series of books. The idea is to produce a series of books at the cutting edge of identification discoveries. Some of the material is new and relatively untested. A challenge is laid down to readers. Go out and test these ideas. Watch birds closely and more carefully and make your own discoveries.
The author is acutely aware that people have different learning styles. Not everyone reads books with the same ease and enthusiasm. Besides presenting pithy, easily followed displays of relevant information the author wanted the option to offer video tutorials, sound files, more photos and updates. QR codes answered that desire. With the proliferation of tablets and smart phones, much more material pertinent to each chapter plus fresh discoveries will be available on dedicated web space via the QR codes at the start off each chapter.
RECOMMENDATION: European birders will find this book very useful! North American birders will find it useful in helping to identify European vagrants here. The book can be ordered here: http://birdingfrontiers.com/new-challenge-series-book/
Monday, September 22, 2014
1) Cronin,Thomas W., Sönke Johnsen, N. Justin Marshall & Eric J. Warrant. Visual Ecology. 2014. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 405 pages. Price: $69.50 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Visual ecology is the study of how animals use visual systems to meet their ecological needs, how these systems have evolved, and how they are specialized for particular visual tasks. Visual Ecology provides the first up-to-date synthesis of the field to appear in more than three decades. Featuring some 225 illustrations, including more than 140 in color, spread throughout the text, this comprehensive and accessible book begins by discussing the basic properties of light and the optical environment. It then looks at how photoreceptors intercept light and convert it to usable biological signals, how the pigments and cells of vision vary among animals, and how the properties of these components affect a given receptor’s sensitivity to light. The book goes on to examine how eyes and photoreceptors become specialized for an array of visual tasks, such as navigation, evading prey, mate choice, and communication.
A timely and much-needed resource for students and researchers alike, Visual Ecology also includes a glossary and a wealth of examples drawn from the full diversity of visual systems.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in the subject.
2) Wilson, Edward O.. The Meaning of Human Existence. 2014. Liveright. Hardbound: 208 pages. Price: $23.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: How did humanity originate and why does a species like ours exist on this planet? Do we have a special place, even a destiny in the universe? Where are we going, and perhaps, the most difficult question of all, "Why?"
In The Meaning of Human Existence, his most philosophical work to date, Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson grapples with these and other existential questions, examining what makes human beings supremely different from all other species. Searching for meaning in what Nietzsche once called "the rainbow colors" around the outer edges of knowledge and imagination, Wilson takes his readers on a journey, in the process bridging science and philosophy to create a twenty-first-century treatise on human existence—from our earliest inception to a provocative look at what the future of mankind portends.
Continuing his groundbreaking examination of our "Anthropocene Epoch," which he began with The Social Conquest of Earth, described by the New York Times as "a sweeping account of the human rise to domination of the biosphere," here Wilson posits that we, as a species, now know enough about the universe and ourselves that we can begin to approach questions about our place in the cosmos and the meaning of intelligent life in a systematic, indeed, in a testable way.
Once criticized for a purely mechanistic view of human life and an overreliance on genetic predetermination, Wilson presents in The Meaning of Human Existence his most expansive and advanced theories on the sovereignty of human life, recognizing that, even though the human and the spider evolved similarly, the poet's sonnet is wholly different from the spider's web. Whether attempting to explicate "The Riddle of the Human Species," "Free Will," or "Religion"; warning of "The Collapse of Biodiversity"; or even creating a plausible "Portrait of E.T.," Wilson does indeed believe that humanity holds a special position in the known universe.
The human epoch that began in biological evolution and passed into pre-, then recorded, history is now more than ever before in our hands. Yet alarmed that we are about to abandon natural selection by redesigning biology and human nature as we wish them, Wilson soberly concludes that advances in science and technology bring us our greatest moral dilemma since God stayed the hand of Abraham.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of Wilson's other writings should enjoy this book.
Monday, September 15, 2014
1) Fuller, Errol. The Passenger Pigeon. 2014. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 177 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: At the start of the nineteenth century, Passenger Pigeons were perhaps the most abundant birds on the planet, numbering literally in the billions. The flocks were so large and so dense that they blackened the skies, even blotting out the sun for days at a stretch. Yet by the end of the century, the most common bird in North America had vanished from the wild. In 1914, the last known representative of her species, Martha, died in a cage at the Cincinnati Zoo.
This stunningly illustrated book tells the astonishing story of North America's Passenger Pigeon, a bird species that--like the Tyrannosaur, the Mammoth, and the Dodo--has become one of the great icons of extinction. Errol Fuller describes how these fast, agile, and handsomely plumaged birds were immortalized by the ornithologist and painter John James Audubon, and captured the imagination of writers such as James Fenimore Cooper, Henry David Thoreau, and Mark Twain. He shows how widespread deforestation, the demand for cheap and plentiful pigeon meat, and the indiscriminate killing of Passenger Pigeons for sport led to their catastrophic decline. Fuller provides an evocative memorial to a bird species that was once so important to the ecology of North America, and reminds us of just how fragile the natural world can be.
Published in the centennial year of Martha's death, The Passenger Pigeon features rare archival images as well as haunting photos of live birds.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in this species.
2) Goodman, Steven M. and William L. Jungers. Extinct Madagascar: Picturing the Island's Past. 2014. University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 206 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The landscapes of Madagascar have long delighted zoologists, who have discovered, in and among the island’s baobab trees and thickets, a dizzying array of animals, including something approaching one hundred species of lemur. Madagascar’s mammal fauna, for example, is far more diverse, and more endemic, than early explorers and naturalists ever dreamed of. But in the past 2,500 or so years—a period associated with natural climatic shifts and ecological change, as well as partially coinciding with the arrival of the island’s first human settlers—a considerable proportion of Madagascar’s forests have disappeared; and in the wake of this loss, a number of species unique to Madagascar have vanished forever into extinction.
In Extinct Madagascar, noted scientists Steven M. Goodman and William L. Jungers explore the recent past of these land animal extinctions. Beginning with an introduction to the geologic and ecological history of Madagascar that provides context for the evolution, diversification, and, in some cases, rapid decline of the Malagasy fauna, Goodman and Jungers then seek to recapture these extinct mammals in their environs. Aided in their quest by artist Velizar Simeonovski’s beautiful and haunting digital paintings—images of both individual species and ecosystem assemblages reproduced here in full color—Goodman and Jungers reconstruct the lives of these lost animals and trace their relationships to those still living.
Published in conjunction with an exhibition of Simeonovski’s artwork set to open at the Field Museum, Chicago, in the fall of 2014, Goodman and Jungers’s awe-inspiring book will serve not only as a sobering reminder of the very real threat of extinction, but also as a stunning tribute to Madagascar’s biodiversity and a catalyst for further research and conservation.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the paleontology of Madagascar.
My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here: http://www.scilogs.com/maniraptora/birdbooker-report-338/
Friday, September 12, 2014
1) Trotta, Roberto. The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is. 2014. Basic Books. Hardbound: 85 pages. Price: $16.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: From the big bang to black holes, from dark matter to dark energy, from the origins of the universe to its ultimate destiny, The Edge of the Sky tells the story of the most important discoveries and mysteries in modern cosmology—with a twist. The book's lexicon is limited to the thousand most common words in the English language, excluding physics, energy, galaxy, or even universe. Through the eyes of a fictional scientist (Student-People) hunting for dark matter with one of the biggest telescopes (Big-Seers) on Earth (Home-World), cosmologist Roberto Trotta explores the most important ideas about our universe (All-there-is) in language simple enough for anyone to understand.
A unique blend of literary experimentation and science popularization, this delightful book is a perfect gift for any aspiring astronomer. The Edge of the Sky tells the story of the universe on a human scale, and the result is out of this world.
RECOMMENDATION: It's basically cosmology made easy.
Monday, September 8, 2014
De Roy, Tui, Mark Jones & Julie Cornthwaite. Penguins: The Ultimate Guide. 2014. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 240 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Penguins are perhaps the most beloved birds. On land, their behavior appears so humorous and expressive that we can be excused for attributing to them moods and foibles similar to our own. Few realize how complex and mysterious their private lives truly are, as most of their existence takes place far from our prying eyes, hidden beneath the ocean waves. This stunningly illustrated book provides a unique look at these extraordinary creatures and the cutting-edge science that is helping us to better understand them. Featuring more than 400 breathtaking photos, this is the ultimate guide to all 18 species of penguins, including those with retiring personalities or nocturnal habits that tend to be overlooked and rarely photographed.
A book that no bird enthusiast or armchair naturalist should do without, Penguins includes discussions of penguin conservation, informative species profiles, fascinating penguin facts, and tips on where to see penguins in the wild.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to penguins.
My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here: http://www.scilogs.com/maniraptora/birdbooker-report-337/
Saturday, September 6, 2014
1) Pickrell, John. Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds. 2014. Columbia University Press. Hardbound: 215 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The discovery of stunning, feathered dinosaur fossils coming out of China since 2006 suggest that these creatures were much more bird-like than paleontologists previously imagined. Further evidence—bones, genetics, eggs, behavior, and more—has shown a seamless transition from fleet-footed carnivores to the ancestors of modern birds.
Mixing colorful portraits with news on the latest fossil findings and interviews with leading paleontologists in the United States, China, Europe, and Australia, John Pickrell explains and details dinosaurs’ development of flight. This special capacity introduced a whole new range of abilities for the animals and helped them survive a mass extinction, when thousands of other dinosaur species that once populated the Earth did not. Pickrell also turns his journalistic eye toward the stories behind the latest discoveries, investigating the role of the Chinese black market in trading fossils, the controversies among various dinosaur hunters, the interference of national governments intent on protecting scientific information, and the race to publish findings first that make this research such a dynamic area of science.
RECOMMENDATION: A readable introduction to the subject.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
1) McMullan, Miles and Lelis Navarrete. Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador: Including the Galápagos Islands. 2013. Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco. Paperback: 207 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador is the first book to cover both Ecuador and the Galápagos islands, and includes 50 mainland species not included in previous guides for Ecuador.
Plates are arranged to show illustrations, maps, text, fieldnotes as well as information on endemism and threat status in a single information cell. Emphasis is placed on quick comparison of species in the field, with notes focusing on those features most useful in identification. The format is designed with outdoor use in mind. The maps show the distribution in Ecuador, while information on the Galápagos is given as a birdlist in an appendix at the end of the book.
Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador is designed to have a broad appeal among both serious birders and beginners and dabblers, and so increase awareness of the birds of this accessible country. A percentage of the proceeds from the sales of this book will go toward conservation efforts in Ecuador.
RECOMMENDATION: For birders that don't want to lug around the larger The Birds of Ecuador by Ridgely et al.. This title is available in the U.K. from NHBS here: http://www.nhbs.com/fieldbook_of_the_birds_of_ecuador_tefno_194879.html
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Welcome to Subirdia presents a surprising discovery: the suburbs of many large cities support incredible biological diversity. Populations and communities of a great variety of birds, as well as other creatures, are adapting to the conditions of our increasingly developed world. In this fascinating and optimistic book, John Marzluff reveals how our own actions affect the birds and animals that live in our cities and towns, and he provides ten specific strategies everyone can use to make human environments friendlier for our natural neighbors.
Over many years of research and fieldwork, Marzluff and student assistants have closely followed the lives of thousands of tagged birds seeking food, mates, and shelter in cities and surrounding areas. From tiny Pacific wrens to grand pileated woodpeckers, diverse species now compatibly share human surroundings. By practicing careful stewardship with the biological riches in our cities and towns, Marzluff explains, we can foster a new relationship between humans and other living creatures—one that honors and enhances our mutual destiny.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of Marzluff's writings should enjoy this book.