Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Titles



 1) Crump, Marty. Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder's Fork and Lizard's Leg: The Lore and Mythology of Amphibians and Reptiles. 2015. The University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 320 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Frogs are worshipped for bringing nourishing rains, but blamed for devastating floods. Turtles are admired for their wisdom and longevity, but ridiculed for their sluggish and cowardly behavior. Snakes are respected for their ability to heal and restore life, but despised as symbols of evil. Lizards are revered as beneficent guardian spirits, but feared as the Devil himself.
     In this ode to toads and snakes, newts and tuatara, crocodiles and tortoises, herpetologist and science writer Marty Crump explores folklore across the world and throughout time. From creation myths to trickster tales; from associations with fertility and rebirth to fire and rain; and from the use of herps in folk medicines and magic, as food, pets, and gods, to their roles in literature, visual art, music, and dance, Crump reveals both our love and hatred of amphibians and reptiles—and their perceived power. In a world where we keep home terrariums at the same time that we battle invasive cane toads, and where public attitudes often dictate that the cute and cuddly receive conservation priority over the slimy and venomous, she shows how our complex and conflicting perceptions threaten the conservation of these ecologically vital animals.
     Sumptuously illustrated, Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder’s Fork and Lizard’s Leg is a beautiful and enthralling brew of natural history and folklore, sobering science and humor, that leaves us with one irrefutable lesson: love herps. Warts, scales, and all.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction on the subject.


2) Mabey, Richard. The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination. 2015. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 374 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Cabaret of Plants is a masterful, globe-trotting exploration of the relationship between humans and the kingdom of plants by the renowned naturalist Richard Mabey.
     A rich, sweeping, and wonderfully readable work of botanical history, The Cabaret of Plants explores dozens of plant species that for millennia have challenged our imaginations, awoken our wonder, and upturned our ideas about history, science, beauty, and belief. Going back to the beginnings of human history, Mabey shows how flowers, trees, and plants have been central to human experience not just as sources of food and medicine but as objects of worship, actors in creation myths, and symbols of war and peace, life and death.
     Writing in a celebrated style that the Economist calls “delightful and casually learned,” Mabey takes readers from the Himalayas to Madagascar to the Amazon to our own backyards. He ranges through the work of writers, artists, and scientists such as da Vinci, Keats, Darwin, and van Gogh and across nearly 40,000 years of human history: Ice Age images of plant life in ancient cave art and the earliest representations of the Garden of Eden; Newton’s apple and gravity, Priestley’s sprig of mint and photosynthesis, and Wordsworth’s daffodils; the history of cultivated plants such as maize, ginseng, and cotton; and the ways the sturdy oak became the symbol of British nationhood and the giant sequoia came to epitomize the spirit of America.
     Complemented by dozens of full-color illustrations, The Cabaret of Plants is the magnum opus of a great naturalist and an extraordinary exploration of the deeply intertwined history of humans and the natural world.
RECOMMENDATION: A well received title on the subject.


3) Zimmerman, Dale. Turaco Country: Reminiscences of East African Birding. 2015. Sky Island Press. Hardbound: 783 pages. Price: $82.50 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Dale Zimmerman's singular memoir details a half-century of ornithological investigations in East Africa, at a time when Africa's fabled wildlife and wild habitats flourished beneath the snows of Kilimanjaro. Set against the political backdrop of the shift from colonial to African rule, Turaco Country documents a field ornithologist's quintessentially African experience, capturing the sights, scents and sounds of a vanishing world.
     In 1961, Dale Zimmerman set off for Africa, armed with a degree in Botany, years of study of African avifauna, and a keen passion for wild nature. Thus began an adventure that would span a half-century. In the ensuing years, while Dr. Zimmerman was Professor of Biology at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, he continued to explore birdlife on all continents, but always returned to Africa. An acclaimed artist as well as scientist, he co-authored and co-illustrated two field guides, Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania and Birds of New Guinea.
     Zimmerman's first step into Africa led to immersion in the misty Kakamega Forest, where he unraveled mysteries surrounding its little-investigated birdlife. Often with his wife Marian (also an ornithologist and a botanist) and young son Allan (later himself a fine naturalist), he found adventure aplenty among the lions, elephants, hornbills, and exquisite turacos.
     Generously spiced with photographs taken by the Zimmermans and their friends, Turaco Country sparkles with a life that is uniquely African.
RECOMMENDATION: A very detailed and well illustrated memoir.

Monday, December 14, 2015

New Title



1) Turner, Angela. Swallow. 2015. Reaktion Books. Paperback: 208 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Known as heralds of spring and beautiful, elegant flyers, swallows are among the most beloved of familiar birds. Because they return with the spring, swallows, as Angela Turner explains, have long been associated with the renewal of life, love, fidelity, and fertility, while their ability to travel incredible distances has given them associations with freedom and speed. That freedom, however, hasn’t kept them from becoming familiar figures in towns and cities. They often seem to even seek out human company—for example, barn swallows are known for nesting in our buildings and purple martins in our back yards.
     Destruction of their natural habitat, however, has proved dangerous to some species of swallow, and recent years have seen some populations dwindling to the point of near-extinction. Turner outlines the reasons for these declines as part of her engaging account of the natural and cultural history of this beloved bird.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with a serious interest in these species.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Best Bird Books of 2015

The following are my picks for the best bird books of 2015:

 

BEST BOOK:

 

 

 1) Forshaw, Joseph and William Cooper. Pigeons and Doves in Australia. 2015. CSIRO Publishing. Hardbound: 332 pages. Price: $185.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Possibly the most successful urban birds, pigeons and doves in the Order Columbiformes are one of the most easily recognised groups. They are an ancient and very successful group with an almost worldwide distribution and are most strongly represented in tropical and subtropical regions, including Australia. In most species simple plumage patterns feature mainly grey and brown with black, white or dull reddish markings, but the highly colourful fruit-doves include some of the most beautiful of all birds.
     From dense rainforests of north Queensland, where brilliantly plumaged Superb Fruit-Doves Ptilinopus superbus are heard more easily than seen, to cold, windswept heathlands of Tasmania, where Brush Bronzewings Phaps elegans are locally common, most regions of Australia are frequented by one or more species. For more than a century after arrival of the First Fleet, interest in these birds focused on the eating qualities of larger species. In addition to contributing to declines of local populations in some parts of Australia, excessive hunting brought about the extinction of two species on Lord Howe Island and another species on Norfolk Island.
     In Pigeons and Doves in Australia, Joseph Forshaw and William Cooper have summarised our current knowledge of all species, including those occurring on Christmas, Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands, and with superb artwork have given readers a visual appreciation of the birds in their natural habitats. Historical accounts of extinct species are also included. Detailed information on management practices for all species is presented, ensuring that Pigeons and Doves in Australia will become the standard reference work on these birds for ornithologists and aviculturists.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone who's a fan of Cooper's artwork. Also for anyone that collects bird family monographs or has a serious interest in the birds of Australia.

 

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS: 

 

 

1) Davies, Nick. Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature. 2015. Bloomsbury. Hardbound: 289 pages. Price: $27.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The familiar call of the common cuckoo, “cuck-oo,” has been a harbinger of spring ever since our ancestors walked out of Africa many thousands of years ago. However, for naturalist and scientist Nick Davies, the call is an invitation to solve an enduring puzzle: how does the cuckoo get away with laying its eggs in the nests of other birds and tricking them into raising young cuckoos rather than their own offspring?
     Early observers who noticed a little warbler feeding a monstrously large cuckoo chick concluded the cuckoo's lack of parental care was the result of faulty design by the Creator, and that the hosts chose to help the poor cuckoo. These quaint views of bad design and benevolence were banished after Charles Darwin proposed that the cuckoo tricks the hosts in an evolutionary battle, where hosts evolve better defenses against cuckoos and cuckoos, in turn, evolve better trickery to outwit the hosts.
     For the last three decades, Davies has employed observation and field experiments to unravel the details of this evolutionary “arms race” between cuckoos and their hosts. Like a detective, Davies and his colleagues studied adult cuckoo behavior, cuckoo egg markings, and cuckoo chick begging calls to discover exactly how cuckoos trick their hosts. For birding and evolution aficionados, Cuckoo is a lyrical and scientifically satisfying exploration of one of nature's most astonishing and beautiful adaptations.  

RECOMMENDATION: If you enjoyed the authors' Cuckoos, Cowbirds and Other Cheats, you should enjoy this book.

 

2) Robb, Magnus and the Sound Approach. Undiscovered Owls. 2015. The Sound Approach. Hardbound: 308 pages. Price: £39.95 ($59.50 U.S.).
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Explore the twilight world of owls that you can hear in your garden, the park or woods with this lyrical investigation into their sounds. Listen to previously unpublished digital stereo recordings of the owls of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, illustrated with annotated sonagrams. Enjoy paintings and photographs, often of the individuals recorded. Learn how to research into evolution, behaviour and sounds invite us to recognise a dozen new owl species.

     Share the thrill of closing in on a huge fish owl found only a handful of times before, the rarest owl in our region. Travel to rugged desert mountains, where the authors chanced upon a previously undiscovered owl, the first new Arabian bird species for nearly 80 years. Learn to listen like an owl and maybe you could find the next one.
     Brought to you by the team of obsessives that produced Petrels night and day. 
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with a serious interest in Old World owls! The book is available here:  http://soundapproach.co.uk/product/undiscovered-owls/ and in North America here:  http://www.buteobooks.com/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=BBBAO&Product_Code=14512&Category_Code=NYP
 
 
 
3) Weidensaul, Scott. Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 333 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This comprehensive work covering all the owls of North America, including Mexico and the Caribbean, is the newest addition to the trusted Peterson Reference Guide series.
     Owls are perhaps the most intriguing of all birds — instantly recognizable and endlessly fascinating. Whether viewed as symbols of wisdom or bad omens, these unusual birds have had a hold on human imagination for millennia. 
     Heard more often than seen, many owls are best identified by vocalizations; this is the only owl guide to include access to a collection of recordings. It is also the only North American owl book to include the Caribbean, covering 39 species of owls, including many little-known tropical species. 
     With detailed information about identification, calls, habitat, nesting, and behavior, this Reference Guide has the most up-to-date information about natural history, biology, ecology, migration, and conservation status. It is heavily illustrated with hundreds of color photos, and includes the most accurate color range maps ever presented, showing breeding, wintering, and migration routes. 
     This is a definitive work, useful for serious birders and ornithologists but accessible for the non-exempt.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in the owls of the region.
 
 
 
4) Winkler, David W., Shawn M. Billerman, and Irby J. Lovette. Bird Families of the World: An Invitation to the Spectacular Diversity of Birds. 2015. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 599 pages. Price: about $94.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Here in one volume is a synopsis of the diversity of all birds. Scheduled for publication in 2015, between the two volumes of the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, this volume distills the voluminous detail of the 17-volume Handbook of Birds of the World into a single book. Based on the latest systematic research and summarizing what is known about the life history and biology of each group, this volume will be the best single-volume entry to avian diversity available. Whether you are a birder with an interest in global bird diversity, or a professional ornithologist wishing to update and fill-in your comprehensive knowledge of avian diversity, this volume will be a valuable addition to your library.
     An interest in birds is a life-enriching pursuit; the sheer diversity of birds means there are always stunning new species to see and novel facets of their lives to explore. Yet the grand diversity of birds is also a challenge, as it is easy to become disoriented amidst a group that contains more than 10,000 species that vary in nearly all of their most conspicuous attributes. Learning avian diversity requires a mental map to help us organize our experiences and observations. The scientific classification of birds provides exactly this framework, grouping together into Orders and Families birds that are most closely related to one another, and thereby linking species that share distinguishing traits. For those interested in learning about the tremendous diversity of birds world-wide, the best way to start is to learn the families, and this volume is a guide and invitation to do so.
     This book has been designed to serve both as a text for ornithology courses and as a resource for serious bird enthusiasts of all levels. Technical terminology is much reduced, and all scientific terms used are defined in a glossary. Introductory material describes the scope and concepts behind the classification used and gives suggestions about how best to use the book. The bulk of the volume is a family-by-family account of the birds of the world. For each family there is a distribution map with the breeding, non-breeding and year-round ranges of each family, a short text “teaser” to invite the reader to learn more, standardized descriptions of the appearance, relationships and similar species to each family’s members, their life history and conservation status. Each account includes a review of recent ideas about the relationships of the family to other families and relationships within it. The work is liberally illustrated by photographs from bird enthusiasts around the globe as well as paintings of one species from each of the genera in each family. It will be a beautiful and serviceable guide.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated overview to bird families. Would be a useful companion volume to the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World set.

 

 

Monday, December 7, 2015

New Titles




1) Winkler, David W., Shawn M. Billerman, and Irby J. Lovette. Bird Families of the World: An Invitation to the Spectacular Diversity of Birds. 2015. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 599 pages. Price: about $94.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Here in one volume is a synopsis of the diversity of all birds. Scheduled for publication in 2015, between the two volumes of the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, this volume distills the voluminous detail of the 17-volume Handbook of Birds of the World into a single book. Based on the latest systematic research and summarizing what is known about the life history and biology of each group, this volume will be the best single-volume entry to avian diversity available. Whether you are a birder with an interest in global bird diversity, or a professional ornithologist wishing to update and fill-in your comprehensive knowledge of avian diversity, this volume will be a valuable addition to your library.
     An interest in birds is a life-enriching pursuit; the sheer diversity of birds means there are always stunning new species to see and novel facets of their lives to explore. Yet the grand diversity of birds is also a challenge, as it is easy to become disoriented amidst a group that contains more than 10,000 species that vary in nearly all of their most conspicuous attributes. Learning avian diversity requires a mental map to help us organize our experiences and observations. The scientific classification of birds provides exactly this framework, grouping together into Orders and Families birds that are most closely related to one another, and thereby linking species that share distinguishing traits. For those interested in learning about the tremendous diversity of birds world-wide, the best way to start is to learn the families, and this volume is a guide and invitation to do so.
     This book has been designed to serve both as a text for ornithology courses and as a resource for serious bird enthusiasts of all levels. Technical terminology is much reduced, and all scientific terms used are defined in a glossary. Introductory material describes the scope and concepts behind the classification used and gives suggestions about how best to use the book. The bulk of the volume is a family-by-family account of the birds of the world. For each family there is a distribution map with the breeding, non-breeding and year-round ranges of each family, a short text “teaser” to invite the reader to learn more, standardized descriptions of the appearance, relationships and similar species to each family’s members, their life history and conservation status. Each account includes a review of recent ideas about the relationships of the family to other families and relationships within it. The work is liberally illustrated by photographs from bird enthusiasts around the globe as well as paintings of one species from each of the genera in each family. It will be a beautiful and serviceable guide.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated overview to bird families. Would be a useful companion volume to the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World set.


 2) Wootton, David. The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution. 2015. Harper. Hardbound: 769 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: We live in a world made by science. How and when did this happen? The Invention of Science tells the story of the extraordinary intellectual and cultural revolution that gave birth to modern science, and mounts a major challenge to the prevailing orthodoxy of its history.
     Before 1492, all significant knowledge was believed to be already available; there was no concept of progress, as people looked to the past, not the future, for understanding. David Wootton argues that the discovery of America demonstrated that new knowledge was possible: indeed, it introduced the very concept of discovery and opened the way to the invention of science.
     The first crucial discovery was Tycho Brahe’s nova of 1572: proof that there could be change in the heavens. The invention of the telescope in 1608 rendered the old astronomy obsolete. Evangelista Torricelli’s experiment with the vacuum in 1643 led directly to the triumph of the experimental method in the Royal Society of Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton. By 1750, Newtonianism was being celebrated throughout Europe.
     This new science did not consist simply of new discoveries or methods. It relied on a new understanding of what knowledge may be, and with this came a fresh language: discovery, progress, fact, experiment, hypothesis, theory, laws of nature. Although almost all these terms existed before 1492, their meanings were radically transformed, and they became tools to think scientifically. Now we all speak this language of science that was invented during the Scientific Revolution.
    This revolution had its martyrs (Bruno, Galileo), its heroes (Kepler, Boyle), its propagandists (Voltaire, Diderot), and its patient laborers (Gilbert, Hooke). The new culture led to a new rationalism, killing off alchemy, astrology, and the belief in witchcraft. It also led to the invention of the steam engine and to the first Industrial Revolution. Wootton’s landmark work changes our understanding of how this great transformation came about, and of what science is.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of science.



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New Titles




1) Burt, William. Water Babies: The Hidden Lives of Baby Wetland Birds. 2015. The Countryman Press. Hardbound: 205 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Never-before-seen photographs of baby birds of the marshlands from a noted birding photographer
     Naturalist William Burt is known for seeking out wild places and elusive birds—and none fit the bill quite so well as the creatures featured in this book. This may well be his break out book, featuring the downy young of the wetlands, whose images are full of character and appeal. Most of these birds have never been captured on film until now. From the comic-monster herons to the fuzzy ducklings and stick-legged sandpipers, these tots have personality and spunk. In the wetlands, they come together, drawn by one essential need: for water. These babies then, are birds that get their feet wet; this book is one for bird lovers, naturalists, photographers, and animal lovers.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of William Burt's photography will want this book!









2) Williams, Wendy. The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion. 2015. Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hardbound: 304 pages. Price: $26.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Horses have a story to tell, one of resilience, sociability, and intelligence, and of partnership with human beings. In The Horse, the journalist and equestrienne Wendy Williams brings that story brilliantly to life.
     Williams chronicles the 56-million-year journey of horses as she visits with experts around the world, exploring what our biological affinities and differences can tell us about the bond between horses and humans, and what our longtime companion might think and feel. Indeed, recent scientific breakthroughs regarding the social and cognitive capacities of the horse and his ability to adapt to changing ecosystems indicate that this animal is a major evolutionary triumph.
     Williams charts the course that leads to our modern Equus-from the protohorse to the Dutch Warmbloods, Thoroughbreds, and cow ponies of the twenty-first century. She observes magnificent ancient cave art in France and Spain that signals a deep respect and admiration for horses well before they were domesticated; visits the mountains of Wyoming with experts in equine behavior to understand the dynamics of free-roaming mustangs; witnesses the fluid gracefulness of the famous Lipizzans of Vienna; contemplates what life is like for the sure-footed, mustachioed Garrano horses who thrive on the rugged terrain of Galicia; meets a family devoted to rehabilitating abandoned mustangs on their New Hampshire farm; celebrates the Takhi horses of Mongolia; and more. She blends profound scientific insights with remarkable stories to create a unique biography of the horse as a sentient being with a fascinating past and a finely nuanced mind.
     The Horse is a revealing account of the animal who has been at our side through the ages, befriending us and traveling with us over the mountains and across the plains. Enriched by Williams's own experience with horses, The Horse is a masterful work of narrative nonfiction that pays tribute to this treasure of the natural world.
 RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for horse lovers!

Friday, November 27, 2015

New Title



1) Armistead, George L. and Brian L. Sullivan. Better Birding: Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the Field. 2015. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 318 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Better Birding reveals the techniques expert birders use to identify a wide array of bird species in the field—quickly and easily. Featuring hundreds of stunning photos and composite plates throughout, this book simplifies identification by organizing the birds you see into groupings and offering strategies specifically tailored to each group. Skill building focuses not just on traditional elements such as plumage, but also on creating a context around each bird, including habitat, behavior, and taxonomy—parts so integral to every bird’s identity but often glossed over by typical field guides. Critical background information is provided for each group, enabling you to approach bird identification with a wide-angle view, using your eyes, brain, and binoculars more strategically, resulting in a more organized approach to learning birds.
     Better Birding puts the thrill of expert bird identification within your reach.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated guide that's best for intermediate level birders.

Monday, November 23, 2015

New Title



1) Hoch, Greg. Booming from the Mists of Nowhere: The Story of the Greater Prairie-Chicken. 2015. University of Iowa Press. Paperback: 126 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For ten months of the year, the prairie-chicken’s drab colors allow it to disappear into the landscape. However, in April and May this grouse is one of the most outrageously flamboyant birds in North America. Competing with each other for the attention of females, males gather before dawn in an explosion of sights and sounds—“booming from the mists of nowhere,” as Aldo Leopold wrote decades ago. There’s nothing else like it, and it is perilously close to being lost. In this book, ecologist Greg Hoch shows that we can ensure that this iconic bird flourishes once again.
      Skillfully interweaving lyrical accounts from early settlers, hunters, and pioneer naturalists with recent scientific research on the grouse and its favored grasslands, Hoch reveals that the prairie-chicken played a key role in the American settlement of the Midwest. Many hungry pioneers regularly shot and ate the bird, as well as trapping hundreds of thousands, shipping them eastward by the trainload for coastal suppers. As a result of both hunting and habitat loss, the bird’s numbers plummeted to extinction across 90 percent of its original habitat. Iowa, whose tallgrass prairies formed the very center of the greater prairie-chicken’s range, no longer supports a native population of the bird most symbolic of prairie habitat.
     The steep decline in the prairie-chicken population is one of the great tragedies of twentieth-century wildlife management and agricultural practices. However, Hoch gives us reason for optimism. These birds can thrive in agriculturally productive grasslands. Careful grazing, reduced use of pesticides, well-placed wildlife corridors, planned burning, higher plant, animal, and insect diversity: these are the keys. If enough blocks of healthy grasslands are scattered over the midwestern landscape, there will be prairie-chickens—and many of their fellow creatures of the tall grasses. Farmers, ranchers, conservationists, and citizens can reverse the decline of grassland birds and insure that future generations will hear the booming of the prairie-chicken.
RECOMMENDATION: A readable introduction to the species.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Title




1) Wilson, Joseph S. and Olivia J. Messinger Carril. The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees. 2015. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 288 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Bees in Your Backyard provides an engaging introduction to the roughly 4,000 different bee species found in the United States and Canada, dispelling common myths about bees while offering essential tips for telling them apart in the field.
     The book features more than 900 stunning color photos of the bees living all around us—in our gardens and parks, along nature trails, and in the wild spaces between. It describes their natural history, including where they live, how they gather food, their role as pollinators, and even how to attract them to your own backyard. Ideal for amateur naturalists and experts alike, it gives detailed accounts of every bee family and genus in North America, describing key identification features, distributions, diets, nesting habits, and more.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with a serious interest in the bees of the region.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New Title



1) Hancock, Peter & Ingrid Weiersbye. Birds of Botswana. 2015. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 398 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Here is the ultimate field guide to Botswana’s stunningly diverse birdlife. Covering all 597 species recorded to date, Birds of Botswana features more than 1,200 superb color illustrations, detailed species accounts, seasonality and breeding bars, and a color distribution map for each species. Drawing on the latest regional and national data, the book highlights the best birding areas in Botswana, provides helpful tips on where and when to see key species, and depicts special races and morphs specific to Botswana. This is the first birding guide written by a Botswana-based ornithologist and the only one dedicated specifically to Botswana.
     Portable and easy to use, Birds of Botswana is the essential travel companion for anyone visiting this remarkable country.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in the birds of Botswana.

Friday, November 13, 2015

New Titles



1) Forshaw, Joseph and William Cooper. Pigeons and Doves in Australia. 2015. CSIRO Publishing. Hardbound: 332 pages. Price: $185.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Possibly the most successful urban birds, pigeons and doves in the Order Columbiformes are one of the most easily recognised groups. They are an ancient and very successful group with an almost worldwide distribution and are most strongly represented in tropical and subtropical regions, including Australia. In most species simple plumage patterns feature mainly grey and brown with black, white or dull reddish markings, but the highly colourful fruit-doves include some of the most beautiful of all birds.
     From dense rainforests of north Queensland, where brilliantly plumaged Superb Fruit-Doves Ptilinopus superbus are heard more easily than seen, to cold, windswept heathlands of Tasmania, where Brush Bronzewings Phaps elegans are locally common, most regions of Australia are frequented by one or more species. For more than a century after arrival of the First Fleet, interest in these birds focused on the eating qualities of larger species. In addition to contributing to declines of local populations in some parts of Australia, excessive hunting brought about the extinction of two species on Lord Howe Island and another species on Norfolk Island.
     In Pigeons and Doves in Australia, Joseph Forshaw and William Cooper have summarised our current knowledge of all species, including those occurring on Christmas, Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands, and with superb artwork have given readers a visual appreciation of the birds in their natural habitats. Historical accounts of extinct species are also included. Detailed information on management practices for all species is presented, ensuring that Pigeons and Doves in Australia will become the standard reference work on these birds for ornithologists and aviculturists.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone who's a fan of Cooper's artwork. Also for anyone that collects bird family monographs or has a serious interest in the birds of Australia.


2) Lish, James W.. Winter's Hawk: Red-tails on the Southern Plains. 2015. University of Oklahoma Press. Paperback: 166 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Every autumn, thousands of migrating Red-tailed Hawks arrive on the southern Great Plains to spend the winter, and Oklahoma is one of the best places to observe this amazing phenomenon. Above the prairie, as Oscar Hammerstein wrote, they make “lazy circles in the sky,” but not for entertainment, theirs or ours. Author Jim Lish draws on more than forty years’ experience as a professional biologist and ornithologist to present almost two hundred color photographs of Red-tails and relate important lessons in southern Great Plains biodiversity, underscoring the place of the Red-tailed Hawk in Oklahoma’s tallgrass prairie ecology. 
     Winter’s Hawk introduces the reader to the hawk’s biology, social behavior, and useful role in limiting destructive rodent populations. In sharing many anecdotes from his long experience in the field, Lish describes the hunting techniques  of Red-tails, their competition with other raptors, and their behavior in the presence of human observers. He describes the subtle differences in plumage, and other characteristics between the various subspecies of Red-tailed Hawks that winter here. His account of their behavior includes intergenerational warfare, in which young Red-tails are frequently the losers. Detailed and scientifically accurate, this informal, jargon-free account will appeal to birders, sportsmen, naturalists, and falconers as well as biologists.
     Red-tails can see ultraviolet light, which enables them to easily locate trails left by rodents. Cotton rats are by far their most important winter food, but they also eat carrion, large snakes, medium-sized mammals, and smaller birds. The main motive for the birds’ behavior, Lish reminds us, is survival, and he includes birds’-eye views of the hazards Red-tails face: foot injuries, damage to feathers, starvation, electrocution, and illegal shooting.
      A treasure trove of rich descriptive writing and astonishing photographs, Winter’s Hawk inspires readers to help preserve these magnificent birds of prey so that future generations may see a Red-tail standing sentinel over a field or circling above it.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to the winter ecology of this species.
 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

New Title



1) Garrigues, Richard. Photo Guide to Birds of Costa Rica. 2015. Comstock/Cornell. Paperback: 256 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Few ecosystem destinations are as abundant in their biodiversity as Costa Rica. Having the right field guides in hand can make all the difference when you're enjoying the country’s birdlife. Photo Guide to Birds of Costa Rica, which features 549 excellent photographs, is designed to be equally useful for two distinct sets of readers. First are birders new to birding—or new to birding in Costa Rica—who want a guide to the birds that one is most likely to see, as well as to a few of the rarer species that one would hope to encounter. It treats more than 40 percent (365) of the species known from Costa Rica but is a guide to at least 75 percent of the birds commonly seen in a week or so of birding. The book will also be welcomed by experienced birders in search of a companion volume to The Birds of Costa Rica, second edition, an illustrated guide to all the birds of Costa Rica. The photographs in the species accounts in Photo Guide to Birds of Costa Rica are accompanied by names, measurements, field marks, habitat and behavior, voice, status and distribution, and range maps.
RECOMMENDATION: A useful supplement to the author's The Birds of Costa Rica.

Friday, November 6, 2015

New Title




1) Crease, Robert P. and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber. The Quantum Moment: How Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty. 2014 (2015). W.W. Norton. Paperback: 333 pages. Price: $17.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The fascinating story of how quantum mechanics went mainstream.
      The discovery of the quantum—the idea, born in the early 1900s in a remote corner of physics, that energy comes in finite packets instead of infinitely divisible quantities—planted a rich set of metaphors in the popular imagination.
     Quantum imagery and language now bombard us like an endless stream of photons. Phrases such as multiverses, quantum leaps, alternate universes, the uncertainty principle, and Schrödinger's cat get reinvented continually in cartoons and movies, coffee mugs and T-shirts, and fiction and philosophy, reinterpreted by each new generation of artists and writers.
     Is a "quantum leap" big or small? How uncertain is the uncertainty principle? Is this barrage of quantum vocabulary pretentious and wacky, or a fundamental shift in the way we think?
     All the above, say Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber in this pathbreaking book. The authors—one a philosopher, the other a physicist—draw on their training and six years of co-teaching to dramatize the quantum’s rocky path from scientific theory to public understanding. Together, they and their students explored missteps and mistranslations, jokes and gibberish, of public discussion about the quantum. Their book explores the quantum’s manifestations in everything from art and sculpture to the prose of John Updike and David Foster Wallace. The authors reveal the quantum’s implications for knowledge, metaphor, intellectual exchange, and the contemporary world.        Understanding and appreciating quantum language and imagery, and recognizing its misuse, is part of what it means to be an educated person today.
     The result is a celebration of language at the interface of physics and culture, perfect for anyone drawn to the infinite variety of ideas.
RECOMMENDATION:This title is now available in paperback.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

New Title



1) Naylor, Ernest. Moonstruck: How Lunar Cycles Affect Life. 2015. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 229 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Throughout history, the influence of the full Moon on humans and animals has featured in folklore and myths. Yet it has become increasingly apparent that many organisms really are influenced indirectly, and in some cases directly, by the lunar cycle. Breeding behaviour among some marine animals has been demonstrated to be controlled by internal circalunar biological clocks, to the point where lunar-daily and lunar-monthly patterns of Moon-generated tides are embedded in their genes. Yet, intriguingly, Moon-related behaviours are also found in dry land and fresh water species living far beyond the influence of any tides.
     In Moonstruck, Ernest Naylor dismisses the myths concerning the influence of the Moon, but shows through a range of fascinating examples the remarkable real effects that we are now finding through science. He suggests that since the advent of evolution on Earth, which occurred shortly after the formation of the Moon, animals evolved adaptations to the lunar cycle, and considers whether, if Moon-clock genes occur in other animals, might they also exist in us?
RECOMMENDATION: A readable overview on the subject.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Title




1) Spotila, James R. and Pilar Santidrián Tomillo (editors). The Leatherback Turtle: Biology and Conservation. 2015. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 219 pages. Price: $70.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Weighing as much as 2,000 pounds and reaching lengths of over seven feet, leatherback turtles are the world’s largest reptile. These unusual sea turtles have a thick, pliable shell that helps them to withstand great depths—they can swim more than one thousand meters below the surface in search of food. And what food source sustains these goliaths? Their diet consists almost exclusively of jellyfish, a meal they crisscross the oceans to find.
     Leatherbacks have been declining in recent decades, and some predict they will be gone by the end of this century. Why? Because of two primary factors: human redevelopment of nesting beaches and commercial fishing. There are only twenty-nine index beaches in the world where these turtles nest, and there is immense pressure to develop most of them into homes or resorts. At the same time, longline and gill net fisheries continue to overwhelm waters frequented by leatherbacks.
     In The Leatherback Turtle, James R. Spotila and Pilar Santidrián Tomillo bring together the world’s leading experts to produce a volume that reveals the biology of the leatherback while putting a spotlight on the conservation problems and solutions related to the species. The book leaves us with options: embark on the conservation strategy laid out within its pages and save one of nature’s most splendid creations, or watch yet another magnificent species disappear.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with a serious interest in the species.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

New Titles




1) Kritsky, Gene. The Tears of Re: Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt. 2015. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 133 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: According to Egyptian mythology, when the ancient Egyptian sun god Re cried, his tears turned into honey bees upon touching the ground. For this reason, the honey bee was sacrosanct in ancient Egyptian culture. From the art depicting bees on temple walls to the usage of beeswax as a healing ointment, the honey bee was a pervasive cultural motif in ancient Egypt because of its connection to the sun god Re. Gene Kritsky delivers the first book to examine the relationship between the honey bee and ancient Egyptian culture, through the lenses of linguistics, archeology, religion, health, and economics. Kritsky delves into ancient Egypt's multifaceted society, and traces the importance of the honey bee in everything from death rituals to trade. In doing so, Kritsky brings new evidence to light of how advanced and fascinating the ancient Egyptians were.
     This richly illustrated work appeals to a broad range of interests. For archaeology lovers, Kritsky delves into the archaeological evidence of Egyptian beekeeping and discusses newly discovered tombs, as well as evidence of man-made hives. Linguists will be fascinated by Kritsky's discussion of the first documented written evidence of the honeybee hieroglyph. And anyone interested in ancient Egypt or ancient cultures in general will be intrigued by Kritsky's treatment of the first documented beekeepers. This book provides a unique social commentary of a community so far removed from modern humans chronologically speaking, and yet so fascinating because of the stunning advances their society made. Beekeeping is the latest evidence of how ahead of their times the Egyptians were, and the ensuing narrative is as captivating as every other aspect of ancient Egyptian culture.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of beekeeping.


2) Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. 2015. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 331 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Matsutake is the most valuable mushroom in the world—and a weed that grows in human-disturbed forests across the northern hemisphere. Through its ability to nurture trees, matsutake helps forests to grow in daunting places. It is also an edible delicacy in Japan, where it sometimes commands astronomical prices. In all its contradictions, matsutake offers insights into areas far beyond just mushrooms and addresses a crucial question: what manages to live in the ruins we have made?
      A tale of diversity within our damaged landscapes, The Mushroom at the End of the World follows one of the strangest commodity chains of our times to explore the unexpected corners of capitalism. Here, we witness the varied and peculiar worlds of matsutake commerce: the worlds of Japanese gourmets, capitalist traders, Hmong jungle fighters, industrial forests, Yi Chinese goat herders, Finnish nature guides, and more. These companions also lead us into fungal ecologies and forest histories to better understand the promise of cohabitation in a time of massive human destruction.
     By investigating one of the world’s most sought-after fungi, The Mushroom at the End of the World presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in fungal economics.

Monday, October 26, 2015

New Titles



1) Deeming,  D. Charles and S. James Reynolds (editors).  Nests, Eggs, and Incubation: New ideas about avian reproduction. 2015. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 296 pages. Price: $110.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Nests, Eggs, and Incubation brings together a global team of leading authorities to provide a comprehensive overview of the fascinating and diverse field of avian incubation. Starting with a new assessment of the evolution of avian reproductive biology in light of recent research, the book goes on to cover four broad areas: the nest, the egg, incubation, and the study of avian reproduction. New research on nest structures, egg traits, and life history is incorporated, whilst contemporary methodologies such as self-contained temperature probes and citizen science are also discussed. Applied chapters describe how biological knowledge can be applied to challenges such as conservation and climate change. The book concludes by suggesting priorities for future research.
     This book builds upon the foundations laid down by Charles Deeming's 2001 work Avian Incubation (now freely available for download), much of which remains relevant today. Read in conjunction with this previous volume, it provides an up to date and thorough review of egg biology, nest function, and incubation behaviour, which will be an essential resource for students of avian biology as well as professional and field ornithologists.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in the subject.


2) Nicolson, Adam. Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides. 2015. Picador. Paperback: 401 pages. Price: $20.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In 1937, Adam Nicolson's father answered a newspaper ad for a small cluster of three islands-The Shiants (Gaelic meaning "holy" or "enchanted")-which lie east of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Sheer black cliffs drop five hundred feet into the cold, dark, rip currents of the Minch, lounging seals crowd at their feet and thousands upon thousands of sea birds swarm overhead in the sky. Nicolson inherited the islands when he was twenty-one and in this spellbinding and luminous book, he recalls his keenly deep connection to the wild, windswept, and yet enchantingly beautiful property. Not merely a haven of solitude, the islands, with a centuries-old past haunted by restless ghosts and tales of ancient treasure, came to be for Nicolson his heartland and a "sea room"-a sailing term he uses to mean "the sense of enlargement that island life can give you."
      In passionate, prismatic prose, Sea Room celebrates this extraordinary landscape, exploring Nicolson's complicated relationship to the paradoxes of island life and the wonder of revelatory engagement with our natural world.
RECOMMENDATION: This edition has been updated with a new afterword.

Friday, October 23, 2015

New Title



1) Rogers, Kara. The Quiet Extinction: Stories of North America's Rare and Threatened Plants. 2015. The University of Arizona Press. Paperback: 239 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In the United States and Canada, thousands of species of native plants are edging toward the brink of extinction, and they are doing so quietly. They are slipping away inconspicuously from settings as diverse as backyards and protected lands. The factors that have contributed to their disappearance are varied and complex, but the consequences of their loss are immeasurable.
      With extensive histories of a cast of familiar and rare North American plants, The Quiet Extinction explores the reasons why many of our native plants are disappearing. Curious minds will find a desperate struggle for existence waged by these plants and discover the great environmental impacts that could come if the struggle continues.
      Kara Rogers relates the stories of some of North America's most inspiring rare and threatened plants. She explores, as never before, their significance to the continent's natural heritage, capturing the excitement of their discovery, the tragedy that has come to define their existence, and the remarkable efforts underway to save them. Accompanied by illustrations created by the author and packed with absorbing detail, The Quiet Extinction offers a compelling and refreshing perspective of rare and threatened plants and their relationship with the land and its people.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in botany or conservation biology.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

New Titles



1) Alexievich, Svetlana.Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster. 2006 (2015). Picador. Paperback: 236 pages. Price: $16.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of Europe. Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal accounts of the tragedy. Journalist Svetlana Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the meltdown---from innocent citizens to firefighters to those called in to clean up the disaster---and their stories reveal the fear, anger, and uncertainty with which they still live. Comprised of interviews in monologue form, Voices from Chernobyl is a crucially important work, unforgettable in its emotional power and honesty.
RECOMMENDATION: The author just won the Nobel Prize in Literature.


2) Toft, Catherine A. and Timothy F. Wright. Parrots of the Wild: A Natural History of the World’s Most Captivating Birds. 2015. University of California Press. Hardbound: 345 pages. Price: $39.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Parrots of the Wild explores recent scientific discoveries and what they reveal about the lives of wild parrots, which are among the most intelligent and rarest of birds. Catherine A. Toft and Tim Wright discuss the evolutionary history of parrots and how this history affects perceptual and cognitive abilities, diet and foraging patterns, and mating and social behavior. The authors also discuss conservation status and the various ways different populations are adapting to a world that is rapidly changing. The book focuses on general patterns across the 350-odd species of parrots, as well as what can be learned from interesting exceptions to these generalities.
     A synthetic account of the diversity and ecology of wild parrots, this book distills knowledge from the authors’ own research and from their review of more than 2,400 published scientific studies. The book is enhanced by an array of illustrations, including nearly ninety color photos of wild parrots represented in their natural habitats. Parrots of the Wild melds scientific exploration with features directed at the parrot enthusiast to inform and delight a broad audience.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with a serious interest in parrots.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Title



1) Tuttle, Merlin. The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures with the World's Most Misunderstood Mammals. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 271 pages. Price: $26.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A lifetime of adventures with bats around the world reveals why these special and imperiled creatures should be protected rather than feared.
      From menacing moonshiners and armed bandits to charging elephants and man-eating tigers, Merlin Tuttle has stopped at nothing to find and protect bats on every continent they inhabit. Enamored of bats ever since discovering a colony in a cave as a boy, Tuttle saw how effective photography could be in persuading people not to fear bats, and he has spent his career traveling the world to document them.
     Few people realize how sophisticated and intelligent bats are. Tuttle shares research showing that frog-eating bats can identify frogs by their calls, that vampire bats have a social order similar to that of primates, and that bats have remarkable memories. Bats also provide enormous benefits by eating crop pests, pollinating plants, and carrying seeds needed for reforestation. They save farmers billions of dollars annually and are essential to a healthy planet.
   Sharing highlights from a lifetime of adventure and discovery, Tuttle takes us to the frontiers of bat research and conservation and forever changes the way we see these poorly understood yet fascinating creatures.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in bats.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

New Title



1) Tkaczyk, Filip A.. Tracks & Sign of Reptiles & Amphibians: A Guide to North American Species. 2015. Stackpole Books. Paperback: 468 pages. Price: $39.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Library Journal wrote that Mammal Tracks & Sign "will set the standard for years to come and is essential to anyone interested in tracking this continent's mammals." This new book in the Tracks & Sign series aims to set the same standard for reptile and amphibian tracking. It's an invaluable resource for both beginning and experienced trackers.

  • Features over 600 color photos, line drawings, and range maps to illustrate and describe the tracks and sign left by reptiles and amphibians
  • Covers frogs, snakes, lizards, turtles, salamanders, and more
  • Includes detailed information for quick identification of digs and burrows, nests and eggs, sheds, and scats  

  • RECOMMENDATION:Like the other books in this series, naturalists will want it in their library.

    New Title



    1) Weidensaul, Scott. Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 333 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This comprehensive work covering all the owls of North America, including Mexico and the Caribbean, is the newest addition to the trusted Peterson Reference Guide series.
         Owls are perhaps the most intriguing of all birds — instantly recognizable and endlessly fascinating. Whether viewed as symbols of wisdom or bad omens, these unusual birds have had a hold on human imagination for millennia. 
         Heard more often than seen, many owls are best identified by vocalizations; this is the only owl guide to include access to a collection of recordings. It is also the only North American owl book to include the Caribbean, covering 39 species of owls, including many little-known tropical species. 
         With detailed information about identification, calls, habitat, nesting, and behavior, this Reference Guide has the most up-to-date information about natural history, biology, ecology, migration, and conservation status. It is heavily illustrated with hundreds of color photos, and includes the most accurate color range maps ever presented, showing breeding, wintering, and migration routes. 
         This is a definitive work, useful for serious birders and ornithologists but accessible for the non-exempt.
    RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in the owls of the region.
    This comprehensive work covering all the owls of North America, including Mexico and the Caribbean, is the newest addition to the trusted Peterson Reference Guide series.

    Owls are perhaps the most intriguing of all birds — instantly recognizable and endlessly fascinating. Whether viewed as symbols of wisdom or bad omens, these unusual birds have had a hold on human imagination for millennia.

    Heard more often than seen, many owls are best identified by vocalizations; this is the only owl guide to include access to a collection of recordings. It is also the only North American owl book to include the Caribbean, covering 39 species of owls, including many little-known tropical species.

    With detailed information about identification, calls, habitat, nesting, and behavior, this Reference Guide has the most up-to-date information about natural history, biology, ecology, migration, and conservation status. It is heavily illustrated with hundreds of color photos, and includes the most accurate color range maps ever presented, showing breeding, wintering, and migration routes.

    This is a definitive work, useful for serious birders and ornithologists but accessible for the non-expert.
    - See more at: http://www.hmhco.com/shop/books/Peterson-Reference-Guide-to-Owls-of-North-America-and-the-Caribbean/9780547840031#sthash.rRdIOP91.dpuf
    Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean - See more at: http://www.hmhco.com/shop/books/Peterson-Reference-Guide-to-Owls-of-North-America-and-the-Caribbean/9780547840031#sthash.rRdIOP91.dpuf
    Scott Weidensaul
    Scott Weidensaul
    Scott Weidensaul
    Scott Weidensaul
    Scott Weidensaul

    Saturday, October 3, 2015

    New Title



    1) Turner, Tom. David Brower: The Making of the Environmental Movement. 2015. University of California Press.  Hardbound: 308 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In this first comprehensive authorized biography of David Brower, a dynamic leader in the environmental movement over the last half of the twentieth century, Tom Turner explores Brower's impact on the movement from its beginnings until his death in 2000.
         Frequently compared to John Muir, David Brower was the first executive director of the Sierra Club, founded Friends of the Earth, and helped secure passage of the Wilderness Act, among other key achievements. Tapping his passion for wilderness and for the mountains he scaled in his youth, he was a central figure in the creation of the Point Reyes National Seashore and of the North Cascades and Redwood national parks. In addition, Brower worked tirelessly in successful efforts to keep dams from being built in Dinosaur National Monument and the Grand Canyon.
         Tom Turner began working with David Brower in 1968 and remained close to him until Brower’s death. As an insider, Turner creates an intimate portrait of Brower the man and the decisive role he played in the development of the environmental movement. Culling material from Brower’s diaries, notebooks, articles, books, and published interviews, and conducting his own interviews with many of Brower’s admirers, opponents, and colleagues, Turner brings to life one of the movement's most controversial and complex figures.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of the environmental movement in North America.

    Thursday, October 1, 2015

    New Title



    1) Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Gerrit Vyn. The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature. 2015. Mountaineers Books. Hardbound: 208 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For 100 years, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has researched the lives of birds, educating the public and striving for protection of species and habitat. But the Lab does more than just study-it celebrates birds through song and image, and connects people to birds, opening thousands of eyes to the natural world around us.
         An intimate yet stunning exploration of North American species, The Living Bird shares our joyful and complex relationship with birds. Through imagery and thoughtful essays, award-winning photographer Gerrit Vyn, along with leading naturalists and bird enthusiasts, takes readers on a visual and experiential journey, revealing the essence of the century-long work done by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
         Barbara Kingsolver remembers herself as a reluctant birder until, years later, she exalts in a special birding trip with her father. From this evocative beginning, Scott Weidensaul then delves into the secret lives of birds: How do flocks of birds manage to migrate thousands of miles? What determines who mates with whom? And what is the purpose of all those pretty feathers and glorious melodies? In her essay, Lyanda Lynn Haupt finds inspiration in our everyday birds as they connect us to the natural world, and she describes how citizen science-sharing daily observations via ebird, for example-has enriched her own understanding of everything around us. Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology John W. Fitzpatrick considers the threats birds face today, and some of the failures-and successes-of the past. While too many species have been driven to extinction, others have made remarkable recoveries thanks to human action. Jared Diamond underscores that it is in our hands to preserve the living birds around us.
         Throughout, Vyn's remarkable photographs of birds, both familiar and exotic, bring the exhilaration of migratory Whooping Cranes, the fragility of the endangered Spoon-Billed Sandpiper, and the wide-eyed beauty of Great Horned Owls alive on the page. From enjoying Black-capped Chickadees or Yellow Warblers in a backyard birdbath to spotting a Pileated Woodpecker in the woods to admiring the powerful soar of a Gyrfalcon, the appeal of watching and listening to birds leads us into a greater understanding of their environment-and of ours.
    RECOMMENDATION: A nicely illustrated coffee table book.

    Monday, September 28, 2015

    New Title



    1) Prothero, Donald R.. The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution. 2015. Columbia University Press. Hardbound: 389 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Every fossil tells a story. Best-selling paleontology author Donald R. Prothero describes twenty-five famous, beautifully preserved fossils in a gripping scientific history of life on Earth. Recounting the adventures behind the discovery of these objects and fully interpreting their significance within the larger fossil record, Prothero creates a riveting history of life on our planet.
         The twenty-five fossils portrayed in this book catch animals in their evolutionary splendor as they transition from one kind of organism to another. We witness extinct plants and animals of microscopic and immense size and thrilling diversity. We learn about fantastic land and sea creatures that have no match in nature today. Along the way, we encounter such fascinating fossils as the earliest trilobite, Olenellus; the giant shark Carcharocles; the "fishibian" Tiktaalik; the "Frogamander" and the "Turtle on the Half-Shell"; enormous marine reptiles and the biggest dinosaurs known; the first bird, Archaeopteryx; the walking whale Ambulocetus; the gigantic hornless rhinoceros Paraceratherium, the largest land mammal that ever lived; and the Australopithecus nicknamed "Lucy," the oldest human skeleton. We meet the scientists and adventurers who pioneered paleontology and learn about the larger intellectual and social contexts in which their discoveries were made. Finally, we find out where to see these splendid fossils in the world's great museums.
         Ideal for all who love prehistoric landscapes and delight in the history of science, this book makes a treasured addition to any bookshelf, stoking curiosity in the evolution of life on Earth.
    RECOMMENDATION: A readable introduction to paleontology focused on animals.

    Friday, September 25, 2015

    New Title



    1) Berta, Annalisa (editor). Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide. 2015. The University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 288 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The eighty-nine cetacean species that swim our seas and rivers are as diverse as they are intelligent and elusive, from the hundred-foot-long, two-hundred-ton blue whale to the lesser-known tucuxi, ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, and diminutive, critically endangered vaquita. The huge distances these highly migratory creatures cover and the depths they dive mean we catch only the merest glimpses of their lives as they break the surface of the water. But thanks to the marriage of science and technology, we are now beginning to understand their anatomy, complex social structures, extraordinary communication abilities, and behavioral patterns. In this beautifully illustrated guide, renowned marine mammalogist Annalisa Berta draws on the contributions of a pod of fellow whale biologists to present the most comprehensive, authoritative overview ever published of these remarkable aquatic mammals.
         Opening with an accessible rundown of cetacean biology—including the most recent science on feeding, mating, and communication—Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises then presents species-specific natural history on a range of topics, from anatomy and diet to distribution and conservation status. Each entry also includes original drawings of the species and its key identifiers, such as fin shape and color, tooth shape, and characteristic markings as they would appear both above and below water—a feature unique to this book.
         Figures of myth and—as the debate over hunting rages on—figures of conflict since long before the days of Moby-Dick, whales, dolphins, and porpoises are also ecologically important and, in many cases, threatened. Written for general enthusiasts, emergent cetacean fans, and biologists alike, this stunning, urgently needed book will serve as the definitive guide for years to come.
    RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated reference book (not a field guide) to the World's cetaceans.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2015

    New Titles



    1) Alexander, David E.. On the Wing: Insects, Pterosaurs, Birds, Bats and the Evolution of Animal Flight. 2015. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 210 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Ask anybody what superpower they wished to possess and odds are the answer just might be "the ability to fly." What is it about soaring through the air held up by the power of one's own body that has captivated humans for so long? David Alexander examines the evolution of flight in the only four animals to have evolved this ability: insects, pterosaurs, birds, and bats. With an accessible writing style grounded in rigorous research, Alexander breaks new ground in a field that has previously been confined to specialists. While birds have received the majority of attention from flight researchers, Alexander pays equal attention to all four groups of flyers-something that no other book on the subject has done before now. In a streamlined and captivating way, David Alexander demonstrates the links between the tiny 2-mm thrip and the enormous albatross with the 12 feet wingspan used to cross oceans.
         The book delves into the fossil record of flyers enough to satisfy the budding paleontologist, while also pleasing ornithologists and entomologists alike with its treatment of animal behavior, flapping mechanisms, and wing-origin theory. Alexander uses relatable examples to draw in readers even without a natural interest in birds, bees, and bats. He takes something that is so off-limits and unfamiliar to humans-the act of flying-and puts it in the context of experiences that many readers can relate to. Alexander guides readers through the anomalies of the flying world: hovering hummingbirds, unexpected gliders (squirrels, for instance), and the flyers that went extinct (pterosaurs). Alexander also delves into wing-origin theory and explores whether birds entered the skies from the trees down (as gliders) or from the ground up (as runners) and uses the latest fossil evidence to present readers with an answer.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with a semi-technical interest in the topic.


    2) Duellman, William E.. Marsupial Frogs: Gastrotheca and Allied Genera. 2015. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 407 pages. Price: $120.00 U.S.
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This scientific masterpiece reveals many aspects of the lives of marsupial frogs and closely allied genera. Native to Central and South America, these amphibians differ from other frogs in that they protect their eggs after oviposition by either adhering them to the female’s back or placing them in a specialized dorsal pouch (thus the common name, marsupial frog). During mating, the male typically collects the eggs from the female with his feet—often one at a time and always out of water—fertilizes them, and then tucks them into the female’s pouch or attaches them to her back. In some species these eggs hatch as tadpoles, but most emerge as miniatures of the adults. Even among the tadpoles there is remarkable divergence, with some behaving in the typical manner (feeding and metamorphosing), whereas others forego all feeding until they metamorphose.
          In Marsupial Frogs, William E. Duellman’s synthesis of all that is known about the unique family Hemiphractidae is largely based on decades of his own careful laboratory and field study. He reveals the diversity of exotic color patterns and the frogs' geographic distributions by providing more than 200 photographs, illustrations, and maps. This exceptional tome should find its way into the libraries of serious herpetologists, tropical biologists, and developmental biologists.
         Included in this book are:
    • A molecular phylogeny of the family Hemiphractidae• A thorough osteological analysis• A review of external morphological features• An overview of the evolution of reproductive modes• A biogeographic synthesis• Keys to genera and species• Diagnosis and thorough description of each species of marsupial frog• Colored physiographic maps depicting species distributions.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in these species.