Thursday, April 27, 2017

New Title



1) Haupt, Lyanda Lynn. Mozart's Starling. 2017. Little, Brown. Hardbound: 277 pages. Price: $27.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: On May 27th, 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart met a flirtatious little starling in a Viennese shop who sang an improvised version of the theme from his Piano Concerto no. 17 in G major. Sensing a kindred spirit in the plucky young bird, Mozart bought him and took him home to be a family pet. For three years, the starling lived with Mozart, influencing his work and serving as his companion, distraction, consolation, and muse.
     Two centuries later, starlings are reviled by even the most compassionate conservationists. A nonnative, invasive species, they invade sensitive habitats, outcompete local birds for nest sites and food, and decimate crops. A seasoned birder and naturalist, Lyanda Lynn Haupt is well versed in the difficult and often strained relationships these birds have with other species and the environment. But after rescuing a baby starling of her own, Haupt found herself enchanted by the same intelligence and playful spirit that had so charmed her favorite composer.
     In Mozart's Starling, Haupt explores the unlikely and remarkable bond between one of history's most cherished composers and one of earth's most common birds. The intertwined stories of Mozart's beloved pet and Haupt's own starling provide an unexpected window into human-animal friendships, music, the secret world of starlings, and the nature of creative inspiration. A blend of natural history, biography, and memoir, Mozart's Starling is a tour de force that awakens a surprising new awareness of our place in the world.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of the author's other works should enjoy this one!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New Titles



1) Lockhart, James Macdonald. Raptor: A Journey through Birds. 2017. University Of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 376 pages. Price: $29.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: From the merlin to the golden eagle, the goshawk to the honey buzzard, James Macdonald Lockhart’s stunning debut is a quest of beak, talon, wing, and sky. On its surface, Raptor is a journey across the British Isles in search of fifteen species of birds of prey, but as Lockhart seeks out these elusive predators, his quest becomes so much more: an incomparably elegant elegy on the beauty of the British landscape and, through the birds, a journey toward understanding an awesome power at the heart of the natural world—a power that is majestic and frightening in its strength, but also fragile.
     Taking as his guide the nineteenth-century Scottish naturalist and artist William MacGillivray, Lockhart loosely follows the historical trail forged by MacGillivray as he ventured from Aberdeen to London filling his pockets with plants and writing and illustrating the canonical A History of British Birds. Linking his journey to that of his muse, Lockhart shares his own encounters with raptors ranging from the scarce osprey to the successfully reintroduced red kite, a species once protected by medieval royal statute, revealing with poetic immediacy the extraordinary behaviors of these birds and the extreme environments they call home.
     Creatures both worshipped and reviled, raptors have a talon-hold on the human heart and imagination. With his book, Lockhart unravels these complicated ties in a work by turns reverent and euphoric—an interweaving of history, travel, and nature writing at its best. A hymn to wanderers, to the land and to the sky, and especially to the birds, Raptor soars.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in British raptors.


2) Lynch, Patrick J.. A Field Guide to Long Island Sound: Coastal Habitats, Plant Life, Fish, Seabirds, Marine Mammals, and Other Wildlife. 2017. Yale University Press. Flexibound: 399 pages. Price: $27.50 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A lavishly illustrated and long-overdue guidebook to the rich natural history of Long Island Sound and its coastlines, a region beloved by millions of people.
     Long Island Sound consists of a diverse collection of unique marine, estuarine, and terrestrial ecosystems located in one of the most densely populated regions in the United States. The Sound and its coastlines are home not only to myriad species of plants and animals—from shorebirds and turtles to whales, seals, and fish—but also to more than twenty million people.  
     Until now there has been no one-stop reference for those interested in exploring the Sound’s rich natural history. Author, photographer, and scientific illustrator Patrick Lynch has filled this gap. Brimming with maps, photographs, and drawings, Lynch’s guide introduces readers to the full breadth of the Sound’s environs from shorelines to deepest waters. With coastal areas at particular risk from climate change and pollution, his timing couldn’t be better. Whether readers are interested in the area’s geology and meteorology, its history of human intervention, or simply locating nature reserves and bird sanctuaries, they’re sure to find Lynch’s compendium indispensable.
RECOMMENDATION: A nice overview on the natural history of the region.

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Title



1) Couzens, Dominic et al.. Britain's Mammals: A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Ireland. 2017. Princeton University Press. Flexibound: 328 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY:  Britain's Mammals is a comprehensive and beautifully designed photographic field guide to all the mammals recorded in the wild in Britain and Ireland in recent times--including marine mammals, bats and introduced species that have bred. The book features hundreds of stunning photographs and incorporates invaluable tips and suggestions to help you track down and identify even the most difficult species.
     This easy-to-use book provides an introduction to the different types of mammal. Concise species accounts focus on identification and include up-to-date information on sounds, habitat, food, habits, breeding behaviour and population and status, as well as descriptions of key field signs--including tracks, droppings and nests--that give away the presence of mammals even when they are out of sight. In addition, guidance is provided on ways of studying and observing mammals--including small-mammal trapping, bat detecting and whale watching--as well as mammal conservation, legislation and further sources of useful information. Handy and informative, this guide is the ideal companion for anyone interested in watching mammals in Britain and Ireland.
  • Comprehensive coverage of every mammal recorded in Britain and Ireland
  • 500 superb colour photographs carefully selected to show key identification features
  • Up-to-date distribution maps
  • Detailed illustrations of tracks, dentition and other identification features
  • Helpful tips for identifying tracks and other signs you may find in the field
  • Latest information on status, population, distribution and conservation designations
  • Advice on finding and watching mammals
 RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated overview of the region's mammals.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Title


1) Grewal, Bikram et al.. A Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. 2017. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 792 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S. 
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This is the only comprehensive photographic field guide to the birds of the entire Indian subcontinent. Every distinct species and subspecies--some 1,375 in all--is covered with photographs, text, and maps. The guide features more than 4,000 stunning photographs, many never before published, which have been carefully selected to illustrate key identification features of each species. The up-to-date facing-page text includes concise descriptions of plumage, voice, range, habitat, and recent taxonomic changes. Each species has a detailed map reflecting the latest distribution information and containing notes on status and population density. The guide also features an introduction that provides an overview of birdlife and a brief history of ornithology in India and its neighbors. The result is an encyclopedic photographic guide that is essential for everyone birding anywhere in the subcontinent.
  • Covers all 1,375 subcontinental bird species
  • Features more than 4,000 stunning photographs to aid quick field identification
  • Includes up-to-date facing-page text and range maps
  • Contains concise descriptions of plumage, voice, habitat, and much more
RECOMMENDATION: A useful supplement to the standard field guides of the region.

Monday, April 17, 2017

New Titles



1) Dunne, Pete with Kevin T. Karlson. Birds of Prey: Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, and Vultures of North America. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 305 pages. Price: $26.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A visually stunning, comprehensive resource on North America’s birds of prey.
     Always a popular group of birds, raptors symbolize freedom and fierceness, and in Pete Dunne’s definitive guide, these traits are portrayed in hundreds of stunning color photographs showing raptors up close, in flight, and in action—fighting, hunting, and nesting. 
      These gorgeous photographs enhance the comprehensive, authoritative text, which goes far beyond identification to cover raptor ecology, behavior, conservation, and much more. 
       In returning to his forte and his first love, Pete Dunne has crafted a benchmark book on raptors: the first place to turn for any question about these highly popular birds, whether it’s what they eat, where they live, or how they behave.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated overview of North American diurnal raptors.


2) Reynolds, John E., III and Wayne Lynch. Florida Manatees: Biology, Behavior, and Conservation. 2017. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 147 pages. Price: $39.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Manatees, the gentle giants of Florida’s lagoons and coastal habitats, can bring a smile to the face of anybody lucky enough to spy one. As manatees dip and roll through the water, crowds gather to watch them feed on aquatic vegetation. Whether they are congregating by the hundreds or resting or feeding alone, viewing these sea cows can provide anyone interested in nature with hours of tranquil pleasure.
     Having survived for eons, today’s manatees are now under constant threat due to our rapidly swelling human population. Their habitats are often devastated by development and pollution. The slow-moving manatees also live at the mercy of chance, for they occupy waters filled with fast-moving boats powered by razor-sharp propellers―a new form of predator from which they have no protection. Boat speed limits have been put in place to protect manatees, but there is a constant push to lift them so that people can once again zip across the waters that manatees call home. For this reason, manatees are often a subject of controversy that pits their lives against the rights of boat owners.
     In this book, manatee expert John E. Reynolds III and famed photographer Wayne Lynch join forces to reveal the clearest portrait of manatees ever published. Florida Manatees is a song for the manatee, a celebration of the lives of these majestic creatures. Reynolds’s concise, informative text shares what scientists know about manatees, while Lynch’s beautiful photographs instantly demonstrate how special these "potatoes with whiskers" really are. By encouraging an appreciation of manatees, the authors hope to help ensure a future in which Floridians can find ways to coexist with and continue to enjoy these uniquely wonderful sirenian inhabitants of their state.
Included in this book:· How manatees first came to Florida waters· How manatees fit into the ecosystems of Florida· What and how much manatees eat· How manatees behave and communicate with one another· Why manatees look the way they do· Why manatees have whiskers· How manatee mothers feed their young and much more.
RECOMMENDATION: A good overview on the species.

Friday, April 14, 2017

New Title


1) Rivers, David B.. Insects: Evolutionary Success, Unrivaled Diversity, and World Domination. 2017. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 474 pages. Price: $99.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Designed as an introduction to the intriguing world of insect biology, this book examines familiar entomological topics in nontraditional ways. Author David B. Rivers gives important concepts relatable context through a pop culture lens, and he covers subjects that are not typical for entomology textbooks, including the impact of insects on the human condition, the sex lives of insects, why insects are phat but not fat, forensic entomology, and the threats that some insects pose to humanity.
     Each chapter presents clear and concise key concepts, chapter reviews, review questions following Bloom’s taxonomy of learning, web links to videos and other resources, and breakout boxes (called Fly Spots) that capture student interest with unique and entertaining facts related to entomology. Focusing on both traditional and cutting-edge aspects of insect biology and packed with extensive learning resources, Insects covers a wide range of topics suitable for life science majors, as well as non-science students, including:
• the positive and negative influences of insects on everyday human life• insect abundance• insect classification (here presented in the context of social media)• insect feeding, communication, defense, and sex• how insects are responding to climate change• forensic entomology• how insects can be used as weapons of war• how insects relate to national security• why insects have wings• how to read pesticide labels.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a serious interest in insect biology.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

New Title



1) Rieppel, Olivier. Turtles as Hopeful Monsters: Origins and Evolution. 2017. Indiana University Press. Hardbound: 206 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Where do turtles hail from? Why and how did they acquire shells? These questions have spurred heated debate and intense research for more than two hundred years. Brilliantly weaving evidence from the latest paleontological discoveries with an accessible, incisive look at different theories of biological evolution and their proponents, Turtles as Hopeful Monsters tells the fascinating evolutionary story of the shelled reptiles. Paleontologist Olivier Rieppel traces the evolution of turtles from over 220 million years ago, examining closely the relationship of turtles to other reptiles and charting the development of the shell. Turtle issues fuel a debate between proponents of gradual evolutionary change and authors favoring change through bursts and leaps of macromutation. The first book-length popular history of its type, this indispensable resource is an engaging read for all those fascinated by this ubiquitous and uniquely shaped reptile.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a serious interest in turtle evolution.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

New Title



1) Higgins, Richard. Thoreau and the Language of Trees. 2017. University of California Press. Hardbound: 231 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Trees were central to Henry David Thoreau’s creativity as a writer, his work as a naturalist, his thought, and his inner life. His portraits of them were so perfect, it was as if he could see the sap flowing beneath their bark. When Thoreau wrote that the poet loves the pine tree as his own shadow in the air, he was speaking about himself. In short, he spoke their language.
     In this original book, Richard Higgins explores Thoreau’s deep connections to trees: his keen perception of them, the joy they gave him, the poetry he saw in them, his philosophical view of them, and how they fed his soul. His lively essays show that trees were a thread connecting all parts of Thoreau’s being—heart, mind, and spirit. Included are one hundred excerpts from Thoreau’s writings about trees, paired with over sixty of the author’s photographs. Thoreau’s words are as vivid now as they were in 1890, when an English naturalist wrote that he was unusually able to “to preserve the flashing forest colors in unfading light.” Thoreau and the Language of Trees shows that Thoreau, with uncanny foresight, believed trees were essential to the preservation of the world.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of Thoreau's writings should enjoy this book.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

New Titles


1) Ewing, Susan. Resurrecting the Shark: A Scientific Obsession and the Mavericks Who Solved the Mystery of a 270-Million-Year-Old Fossil. 2017. Pegasus Books. Hardbound: 282 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A prehistoric mystery. A fossil so mesmerizing that it boggled the minds of scientists for more than a century―until a motley crew of modern day shark fanatics decided to try to bring the monster-predator back to life.
     In 1993, Alaskan artist and paleo-shark enthusiast Ray Troll stumbled upon the weirdest fossil he had ever seen―a platter-sized spiral of tightly wound shark teeth. This chance encounter in the basement of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County sparked Troll’s obsession with Helicoprion, a mysterious monster from deep time.
     In 2010, tattooed undergraduate student and returning Iraq War veteran Jesse Pruitt became seriously smitten with a Helicoprion fossil in a museum basement in Idaho. These two bizarre-shark disciples found each other, and an unconventional band of collaborators grew serendipitously around them, determined to solve the puzzle of the mysterious tooth whorl once and for all.
     Helicoprion was a Paleozoic chondrichthyan about the size of a modern great white shark, with a circular saw of teeth centered in its lower jaw―a feature unseen in the shark world before or since. For some ten million years, long before the Age of Dinosaurs, Helicoprion patrolled the shallow seas around the supercontinent Pangaea as the apex predator of its time.
     Just a few tumultuous years after Pruitt and Troll met, imagination, passion, scientific process, and state-of-the-art technology merged into an unstoppable force that reanimated the remarkable creature―and made important new discoveries.
     In this groundbreaking book, Susan Ewing reveals these revolutionary insights into what Helicoprion looked like and how the tooth whorl functioned―pushing this dazzling and awe-inspiring beast into the spotlight of modern science.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in fossil sharks. Ray Troll's artwork highlights this book!




2) Head, Vernon R.L.. The Rarest Bird in the World: The Search for the Nechisar Nightjar. 2016 (2017). Pegasus Books. Paperback: 243 pages. Price: $16.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In 1990, a group of Cambridge scientists arrived at the Plains of Nechisar in Ethiopia. On that expedition, they collected more than two dozen specimens, saw more than three hundred species of birds, and a plethora of rare butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles, mammals, and plants. As they were gathering up their findings, a wing of an unidentified bird was packed into a brown paper bag. It was to become the most famous wing in the world. This wing would set the world of science aflutter. Experts were mystified. The wing was entirely unique. It was like nothing they had ever seem before. Could a new species be named based on just one wing? After much discussion, a new species was announced: Nechisar Nightjar, or Caprimulgus solala, which means "only wing." And so birdwatchers like Vernon began to dream. Twenty-two years later, he joins an expedition of four to find this rarest bird in the world. In this gem of nature writing, Vernon captivates and enchants as he recounts the searches by spotlight through the Ethiopian plains, and allows the reader to mediate on nature, exploration, our need for wild places, and the human compulsion to name things. Rarest Bird is a celebration of a certain way of seeing the world, and will bring out the explorer in in everyone who reads it.
RECOMMENDATION: The paperback version features the cover art of Julie Zickefoose.

New Titles


1) Peacock, Faansie. Chamberlain's Waders: The Definitive Guide to Southern Africa's Shorebirds. 2016. Pavo Publishing. Paperback: 256 pages. Price: £29.99 (about $37.00 U.S.).
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Waders, or shorebirds, represent only a small percentage of the world's birds, but are unparalleled in popularity among birders. Why? Identifying these seemingly anonymous grey birds, through a combination of shape, plumage and behaviour, is one of the most rewarding challenges in birding – and the possibility of finding a rarity is an ever-present drawcard. Despite their delicate appearance, waders thrive in some of the most inhospitable environments on the planet thanks to remarkable structural and behavioural adaptations, dynamic life cycles and dramatic global migrations.
     More than two years in the making, this unique, lavishly illustrated book will help you not only to identify waders with confidence, but also to understand and enjoy these inspirational birds. It is the ultimate resource on the identification and biology of Southern Africa's wader species. However, because of waders' incredible worldwide migrations, most of the species in Chamberlain's Waders will also be familiar with readers from other regions of the world (only 30 of Southern Africa's 80 waders are NOT migratory).
     What makes Chamberlain's Waders different from other titles on waders? Firstly, it is written from a Southern Hemisphere perspective, unlike most European and American books. This shift of focus completely changes the picture. Secondly, it explains wader identification based on a background of biology and ecology – instead of just listing all the tedious identification details. Thirdly, it is so much more than just a field guide. Some paragraphs really read like a love letter written to waders – in celebration of their beauty, adaptability and triumph over seemingly insurmountable challenges.


2) Peacock, Faansie. Chamberlain's LBJs: The Definitive Guide to Southern Africa's Little Brown Jobs. 2012 (2015). Pavo Publishing. Paperback: 352 pages. Price: £29.99 (about $37.00 U.S.).
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Almost a quarter of Southern Africa's bird species, and half of its endemics, are Little Brown Jobs (LBJs). All birders experience some degree of trepidation when confronted by Ornithologicum nightmariensis, and this potentially confusing group is shunned by most beginners and many experienced birders too. However, LBJs include some of the region's most spectacular, thrilling, interesting, sought-after and memorable birds. This eagerly anticipated new book, four years in the making, will not only help you to confidently identify LBJs, but also understand and enjoy these remarkable birds.

- Includes more than 230 species of LBJs.
- Over 1200 superb original paintings by the author.
- Innovative design and layout to facilitate identification.
- Lifelike thumbnail illustrations show the bird in its typical habitat and as it really looks in the field.
- Juveniles and important subspecies depicted throughout.
- In-flight illustrations, from above and below.
- Detailed, multi-colour distribution maps compiled from the latest atlas data, and including subspecies and abundance.
- Fascination insights into LBJ biology, classification and names.
- Useful tips and techniques to help you find and identify LBJs.

RECOMMENDATION: Both these books are a MUST have for those birding Southern Africa! I wish we had similair LBJs guides for here in the Northern Hemisphere.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

New Titles



1) Clark, William S. and N. John Schmitt. Raptors of Mexico and Central America. 2017. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 304 pages. Price: $39.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Raptors are among the most challenging birds to identify in the field due to their bewildering variability of plumage, flight silhouettes, and behavior. Raptors of Mexico and Central America is the first illustrated guide to the region's 69 species of raptors, including vagrants. It features 32 stunning color plates and 213 color photos, and a distribution map for each regularly occurring species. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, age-related plumages, status and distribution, subspecies, molt, habitats, behaviors, potential confusion species, and more.
     Raptors of Mexico and Central America is the essential field guide to this difficult bird group and the ideal travel companion for anyone visiting this region of the world.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in the raptors of the region!


2) Kricher, John. The New Neotropical Companion. 2017. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 432 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The New Neotropical Companion is the completely revised and expanded edition of a book that has helped thousands of people to understand the complex ecology and natural history of the most species-rich area on Earth, the American tropics. Featuring stunning color photos throughout, it is a sweeping and cutting-edge account of tropical ecology that includes not only tropical rain forests but also other ecosystems such as cloud forests, rivers, savannas, and mountains. This is the only guide to the American tropics that is all-inclusive, encompassing the entire region's ecology and the amazing relationships among species rather than focusing just on species identification.
     The New Neotropical Companion is a book unlike any other. Here, you will learn how to recognize distinctive ecological patterns of rain forests and other habitats and to interpret how these remarkable ecosystems function--everything is explained in clear and engaging prose free of jargon. You will also be introduced to the region's astonishing plant and animal life.
     Informative and entertaining, The New Neotropical Companion is a pleasurable escape for armchair naturalists, and visitors to the American tropics will want to refer to this book before, during, and after their trip.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in the New World tropics.


3) Laist, David W.. North Atlantic Right Whales: From Hunted Leviathan to Conservation Icon. 2017. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 432 pages. Price: $44.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In the cold waters of the unforgiving North Atlantic Ocean, some of the heartiest humans of medieval days ventured out in search of whales. Through the centuries, people on both sides of the Atlantic became increasingly dependent on whale oil and other cetacean products. To meet this growing demand, whaling became ever more sophisticated and intense, leading to the collapse of what was once a seemingly inexhaustible supply of large cetaceans. Central to the whale’s subsequent struggle for existence has been one species--the North Atlantic right whale. Conservationist David W. Laist now provides the first complete history of the North Atlantic right whale, from its earliest encounters with humans to its close brush with extinction, to its currently precarious yet hopeful status as a conservation icon.
     Favored by whalers because of their high yields of oil and superior baleen, these giants became known as "the right whale to hunt," and their numbers dwindled to a mere 100 individuals worldwide. Their dire status encouraged the adoption of a ban on hunting and a treaty that formed the International Whaling Commission. Recovery of the species, however, has proven elusive. Ship strikes and entanglement in commercial fishing gear have hampered herculean efforts to restore the population. Today, only about 500 right whales live along the US and Canadian Atlantic coasts--an improvement from the early twentieth century, but still a far cry from the thousands that once graced Atlantic waters.
     Laist’s masterpiece features an incredible collection of photographs and artwork that give life to the fascinating history that unfolds in its pages. The result is a single volume that offers a comprehensive understanding of North Atlantic right whales, the role they played in the many cultures that hunted them, and our modern attempts to help them recover.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a serious interest in this species.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Titles



1) de Juana, Eduardo, and Juan Varela. Birds of Spain. 2017. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 257 pages. Price: $37.50 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: English version of Aves de España, the most popular Field Guide to the identification of the birds of Spain. Recommended by SEO/Birdlife, it contains updated information on all bird species present in Spanish territories. Includes Peninsular Spain, Ceuta, Melilla and the Balearic and Canary Islands. Describes field identification characteristics, habitat, migratory status, distribution and conservation status of all regularly present species and common vagrants, and also contains an appendix with a summary of other occasional species. Completely revised texts and many new drawings. Updated taxonomy following the HBW and Birdlife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. More than 300 maps detailing the areas of presence throughout the year. Around 1,000 color illustrations showing the main details for the identification of the species in the field. 567 species, including 173 vagrants.
RECOMMENDATION: A useful supplement to the standard European guides.


2)  Egmond, Florike. Eye for Detail: Images of Plants and Animals in Art and Science, 1500-1630. 2017. Reaktion Books. Hardbound: 280 pages. Price: $50.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Image-transforming techniques such as close-up, time lapse, and layering are generally associated with the age of photography, but as Florike Egmond shows in this book, they were already being used half a millennium ago. Exploring the world of natural history drawings from the Renaissance, Eye for Detail shows how the function of identification led to image manipulation techniques that will look uncannily familiar to the modern viewer.
            Egmond shows how the format of images in nature studies changed dramatically during the Renaissance period, as high-definition naturalistic representation became the rule during a robust output of plant and animal drawings. She examines what visual techniques like magnification can tell us about how early modern Europeans studied and ordered living nature, and she focuses on how attention to visual detail was motivated by an overriding question: the secret of the origins of life. Beautifully and precisely illustrated throughout, this volume serves as an arresting guide to the massive European collections of nature drawings and an absorbing study of natural history art of the sixteenth century.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of natural history art.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New Titles



1) Fuller, Randall. The Book That Changed America: How Darwin's Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation. 2017. Viking. Hardbound: 294 pages. Price: $27.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A compelling portrait of a unique moment in American history when the ideas of Charles Darwin reshaped American notions about nature, religion, science and race.
     Throughout its history America has been torn in two by debates over ideals and beliefs.  Randall Fuller takes us back to one of those turning points, in 1860, with the story of the influence of Charles Darwin’s just-published On the Origin of Species on five American intellectuals, including Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, the child welfare reformer Charles Loring Brace, and the abolitionist Franklin Sanborn. 
     Each of these figures seized on the book’s assertion of a common ancestry for all creatures as a powerful argument against slavery, one that helped provide scientific credibility to the cause of abolition.  Darwin’s depiction of constant struggle and endless competition described America on the brink of civil war.  But some had difficulty aligning the new theory to their religious convictions and their faith in a higher power.  Thoreau, perhaps the most profoundly affected all, absorbed Darwin’s views into his mysterious final work on species migration and the interconnectedness of all living things.
     Creating a rich tableau of nineteenth-century American intellectual culture, as well as providing a fascinating biography of perhaps the single most important idea of that time, The Book That Changed America is also an account of issues and concerns still with us today, including racism and the enduring conflict between science and religion.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Darwinian related history.


2) Mitchell, Dominic. Birds of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East: An Annotated Checklist. 2017. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 335 pages. Price: $37.50 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A detailed systematic list of all 1,148 species with Latin and English names, other names, taxonomy, and distribution for each.
     This is the most up-to-date annotated checklist of bird species and subspecies recorded in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, including Iran and the Arabian Peninsula - the 'greater' Western Palearctic. Species are presented in systematic order, and each species entry includes scientific and English names, taxonomic notes, distribution and range/vagrancy occurrences within the region. In addition to the main list of almost 1,150 species, appendices detail regionally endemic and extinct birds, those no longer considered to have occurred, and the national lists of all regional countries. The first major update for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East since the Birds of the Western Palearctic series came to an end two decades ago, this long-awaited checklist is essential reading for all those with an interest in the 'WP' and its avifauna.
     A detailed systematic list based on the taxonomy of the IOC World Bird List. IUCN Red List category, world range and regional distribution are summarized for each species. Also includes all widely used alternative English names.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with a serious interest in the birds of the Western Palearctic.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

New Title



1) Jiguet, Frédéric and Aurélien Audevard. Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East: A Photographic Guide. 2017. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 446 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East is the first comprehensive pocket-sized photographic field guide to every bird species in Europe--this includes winter visitors and common migrants but also all rarities to the region, even if they have been recorded only once. The guide also covers hypothetical species--those that have a good chance of being recorded due to such factors as range expansion and changing weather patterns.
     The book's 2,200 stunning color photographs mean that every species is pictured, making field identification quick and easy. Succinct text covers key identification features, voice, habitat, and distribution, and distribution maps are provided for regular breeding species. Particular attention and details are given to help differentiate similar-looking species.
      Lavishly illustrated, up-to-date, and wide-ranging, Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East is an essential field guide for every naturalist and birder.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated photographic guide to the birds of the region.

Friday, March 10, 2017

New Title



1) White, Lisa A. and Jeffrey A. Gordon (editors). Good Birders Still Don't Wear White. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Paperback: 269 pages. Price: $13.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Avid North American birders share wit, wisdom, advice, and what fuels their passion for birds.
     Birding gets you outside, helps you de-stress, exercises your body and mind, puts your day-to-day problems in perspective, and can be lots of fun. Birders know this, and in this collection of thirty-seven brief essays, birders from diverse backgrounds share their sense of wonder, joy, and purpose about their passion (and sometimes obsession).
     From the Pacific Ocean to Central Park, from the rainforest in Panama to suburban backyards-no matter what their habitat, what good birders have in common is a curiosity about the natural world and a desire to share it with others. In these delightful essays, each accompanied by an endearing drawing, devoted birders reveal their passion to be fulfilling, joyful, exhilarating, and maybe even contagious.
     Contributors include many well-known birders, such as Richard Crossley, Pete Dunne, Kenn Kaufman, Michael O'Brien, Bill Thompson, and Julie Zickefoose.
     A portion of the proceeds goes to the American Birding Association, North America's largest membership organization for active birders.
RECOMMENDATION: If you liked the original book, you should like this one.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

New Titles



1) Breisch, Alvin R. and Matt Patterson. The Snake and the Salamander: Reptiles and Amphibians from Maine to Virginia. 2017. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 222 pages. Price: $49.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In the best tradition of natural history writing and art, The Snake and the Salamander explores the diverse collection of reptiles and amphibians that inhabit the northeastern quadrant of the United States. Covering 13 states that run from Maine to Virginia, author Alvin R. Breisch and artist Matt Patterson showcase the lives of 83 species of snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, and salamanders. These intriguing animals are organized by habitat and type, from forest to grassland to bogs to big waters, and revealed through a combination of Breisch’s engaging prose and Patterson’s original color illustrations.
     Breisch’s guided tour combines historical notes and conservation issues with lessons on genetics, evolution, habitats, life histories, and more. Discover how careful attention to frog calls coupled with DNA analysis led to the discovery of a new species of frog in New York City, why evolutionary adaptations made the Eastern Ratsnake a superb climber, and the surprising fact that Spiny Softshell turtles actually sprint on land to retreat from predators. Breisch also tells the odd tale of the Green Frog and the Smooth Greensnake, two "green species" that do not actually have any green pigment in their skin. Every species has a story to tell―one that will keep the reader wanting to learn more.
     The breadth of herpetofauna in the area will surprise many readers: more than 8% of the world’s salamanders and 11% of all turtle species live in the region. Beyond numbers, however, lie aesthetics. The surprising colors and fascinating lifestyles of the reptile and amphibian species in this book will mesmerize readers young and old.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to the natural history of these species in the region.


2) Pieplow, Nathan. Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Paperback: 593 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The first comprehensive guide to the sounds of eastern North American birds, featuring an innovative visual index that allows readers to quickly look up unfamiliar sounds in the field.​
     Bird songs and calls are just as important as visual field marks in identifying birds. But until now, the only way to learn them was by memorization. With this groundbreaking book, it’s possible to visually distinguish bird sounds and identify birds using a field guide format. 
      At the core of this guide is the spectrogram, a visual graph of sound. With a brief introduction to five key aspects—speed, repetition, pauses, pitch pattern, and tone quality—readers can learn to visualize sounds, without any musical training or auditory memorization. Picturing sounds makes it possible to search this book visually for a bird song heard in the field.  
      The Sound Index groups similar songs together, narrowing the identification choices quickly to a brief list of birds that sound alike. Readers can then turn to the species account for more information and/or listen to the accompanying audio tracks available online, through Cornell's Lab of Ornithology. 
      Identifying birds by sound is arguably the most challenging and important skill in birding. This book makes it vastly easier to master than ever before.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting way to learn bird sounds. A Western version is in the works.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Titles



1) Brennan,  Leonard A. et al.. The Upland and Webless Migratory Game Birds of Texas. 2017.
Texas A&M University Press. Hardbound: 253 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Authored by some of the state’s top wildlife scientists, The Upland and Webless Migratory Game Birds of Texas presents the most up-to-date and comprehensive information covering twenty-one species of game birds. Ranging from the most well-known, like the Wild Turkey and Mourning Dove, to the marsh-loving rails and other more elusive species, these birds have widespread appeal among both hunters and birders and underscore the diverse challenges facing wildlife scientists, land managers, and conservationists in Texas today.
     From cultural significance to taxonomy and evolutionary history, this volume provides a wealth of background information on these species. Additionally, the book offers illustrated species accounts, detailed range maps, and information about habitat and management requirements, hunting regulations, and research priorities. Readers will gain a deeper understanding of these game birds and the array of terrestrial and wetland landscapes key to their survival. This will serve as a convenient and thorough reference volume for wildlife biologists and enthusiasts, as well as landowners and hunters.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a serious interest in these game birds of Texas.


2) Huskey, Steve. The Skeleton Revealed: An Illustrated Tour of the Vertebrates. 2017. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 351 pages. Price: $49.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The vertebrate skeleton is one of nature’s most amazing feats. Composed of cartilage and bone, it forms the supportive structure for all the remaining aspects of our anatomy. Stripped of skin, we can see the body’s fascinating underlying architecture.
     In this one-of-a-kind book, biologist and skeletal reconstructionist Steve Huskey lays bare the vertebrate skeleton, providing a guided tour of the nuanced differences among the many featured vertebrate species. Using skeletal preparations he has spent decades assembling, Huskey helps us understand why animals live the way they do. He shows us the jaw and fang structures that allow venomous snakes to both kill and consume their prey whole. We see that the eastern mole is built like a weightlifter, allowing it to "swim through soil." Startling images demonstrate that the odd-looking trumpetfish is built not for music but for suction, with a skull that expands to vacuum in its prey.
     The pages of The Skeleton Revealed illuminate not only the elegance of each skeleton, but also the natural history story each skeleton tells. Come along―let’s take a voyage through the boneyard.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in vertebrate anatomy.



3) Koch, Falynn Christine. Science Comics: Bats: Learning to Fly. 2017. First Second. Paperback: 122 pages. Price: $12.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic―dinosaurs, coral reefs, the solar system, volcanoes, bats, flying machines, and more. These gorgeously illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views of their subjects. Whether you're a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a thirty year old with a secret passion for airplanes, these books are for you!
     This volume: In Bats, we follow a little brown bat whose wing is injured by humans on a nature hike. He is taken to a bat rehabilitation center where he meets many different species of bats. They teach him how they fly, what they eat, and where they like to live.
RECOMMENDATION: If you like the other books in the Science Comics series, you should enjoy this one too!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New Title



1) Unwin, Mike and David Tipling. The Enigma of the Owl: An Illustrated Natural History. 2017. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 288 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A rare invitation into the mysterious lives of owls around the world, with spectacularly revealing photographs and fascinating details.
     Perhaps no other creature has so compelling a gaze as the owl. Its unblinking stare mesmerizes; its nocturnal lifestyle suggests secrets and mystery. This lavishly illustrated book celebrates owls from every corner of the world and offers abundant details on fifty-three of the most striking and interesting species, from the tiny Elf Owl of southwestern American deserts to the formidable Blakiston’s Fish Owl, the largest of all owls.  
     Mike Unwin has long studied and admired these remarkable birds from cold northern forests to tropical rivers and beyond. He explains how owls evolved into the supreme feathered predators of the night, and he examines their breeding and hunting behaviors, unusual calls, and the cultural myths and superstitions that surround different species. More than two hundred dramatic color photographs in the wild, taken or selected by David Tipling, capture the wondrous beauty of each owl and the drama of life in its own home region. 
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to the owls of the World.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

New Title



1) Schutt, Bill. Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. 2017. Algonquin Books. Hardbound: 332 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For centuries scientists have written off cannibalism as a bizarre phenomenon with little biological significance. Its presence in nature was dismissed as a desperate response to starvation or other life-threatening circumstances, and few spent time studying it. A taboo subject in our culture, the behavior was portrayed mostly through horror movies or tabloids sensationalizing the crimes of real-life flesh-eaters. But the true nature of cannibalism--the role it plays in evolution as well as human history--is even more intriguing (and more normal) than the misconceptions we’ve come to accept as fact.
     In Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History,zoologist Bill Schutt sets the record straight, debunking common myths and investigating our new understanding of cannibalism’s role in biology, anthropology, and history in the most fascinating account yet written on this complex topic. Schutt takes readers from Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, where he wades through ponds full of tadpoles devouring their siblings, to the Sierra Nevadas, where he joins researchers who are shedding new light on what happened to the Donner Party--the most infamous episode of cannibalism in American history. He even meets with an expert on the preparation and consumption of human placenta (and, yes, it goes well with Chianti).
     Bringing together the latest cutting-edge science, Schutt answers questions such as why some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why certain insects bite the heads off their partners after sex; why, up until the end of the twentieth century, Europeans regularly ate human body parts as medical curatives; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of the Neanderthals. He takes us into the future as well, investigating whether, as climate change causes famine, disease, and overcrowding, we may see more outbreaks of cannibalism in many more species--including our own. 
     Cannibalism places a perfectly natural occurrence into a vital new context and invites us to explore why it both enthralls and repels us.
RECOMMENDATION: This book offers food for thought!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

New Title



1) del Hoyo, Josep and Nigel J. Collar. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: Passerines. 2016. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 1013 pages. Price: $275.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The first ever Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World is really two works in one. It is a complete checklist whose taxonomy incorporates the most up-to-date information and an exhaustive methodology (Tobias et al. 2010) in an entirely systematic and consistent way. At the same time, it contains illustrations and distribution maps for every bird species in the world. This includes the original artwork from the HBW series, as well as hundreds of new illustrations. This volume covers the passerines with 440 plates, 12,100 bird illustrations and 6,638 distribution maps.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with a serious interest in birds!

Friday, January 27, 2017

New Title



1) Williams, Florence. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. 2017. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 280 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; and Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams set out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain.
     In this informative and entertaining account, Williams investigates cutting-edge research as she travels to fragrant cypress forests in Korea to meet the rangers who administer “forest healing programs,” to the green hills of Scotland and its “ecotherapeutic” approach to caring for the mentally ill, to a river trip in Idaho with Iraqi vets suffering from PTSD, to the West Virginia mountains where she discovers how being outside helps children with ADHD. The Nature Fix demonstrates that our connection to nature is much more important to our cognition than we think and that even small amounts of exposure to the living world can improve our creativity and enhance our mood. In prose that is incisive, witty, and urgent, Williams show how time in nature is not a luxury but is in fact essential to our humanity. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas―and the answers they yield―are more urgent than ever.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the Human/nature connection.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

New Title



1) Leenders, Twan. Amphibians of Costa Rica: A Field Guide. 2017. Comstock Publishing Associates. Paperback: 531 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S. 
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Amphibians of Costa Rica is the first in-depth field guide to all 206 species of amphibians known to occur in Costa Rica or within walking distance of its borders. A diminutive nation with abundant natural wealth, the country is host to 146 species of frogs and toads. Frogs of gemlike beauty and dizzying variety abound: some species can fit on the end of a human finger; others would take two hands to hold. In the rainforests, you can find frogs capable of gliding from high in the treetops to the forest floor, some that carry their eggs or their tadpoles around on their back, and others that secrete glue-like substances from their skin that are capable of sticking shut the mouth of attacking snakes.
     Costa Rica is also home to fifty-three species of lungless salamanders, whose unique adaptations and abilities have allowed them to colonize habitats inaccessible to other amphibians. In addition to the spectacularly diverse salamanders, frogs, and toads found in the country, this guide includes the caecilians―bizarre and highly specialized creatures that somewhat resemble giant worms.
      Author, photographer, and conservation biologist Twan Leenders has been studying the herpetofauna of Central America for more than twenty years. Leenders and his team of researchers have traipsed the rainforests, dry forests, and swamps of Costa Rica―toting portable photo studios―to put together the richest collection of photographs of Costa Rican herpetofauna known to exist. In addition to hundreds of photographs, range maps, morphological illustrations, and precise descriptions of key field characteristics, Amphibians of Costa Rica offers a wealth of natural history information, describing prey and predators, breeding strategies, habitat, and conservation status.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in Costa Rican amphibians.

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.