Wednesday, September 21, 2016
1) Low, Tim. Where Song Began: Australia's Birds and How They Changed the World. 2016. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 406 pages. Price: $32.50 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Renowned for its gallery of unusual mammals, Australia is also a land of extraordinary birds. But unlike the mammals, the birds of Australia flew beyond the continent’s boundaries and around the globe many millions of years ago. This eye-opening book tells the dynamic but little-known story of how Australia provided the world with songbirds and parrots, among other bird groups, why Australian birds wield surprising ecological power, how Australia became a major evolutionary center, and why scientific biases have hindered recognition of these discoveries.
From violent, swooping magpies to tool-making cockatoos, Australia’s birds are strikingly different from birds of other lands—often more intelligent and aggressive, often larger and longer-lived. Tim Low, a renowned biologist with a rare storytelling gift, here presents the amazing evolutionary history of Australia’s birds. The story of the birds, it turns out, is inseparable from the story of the continent itself and also the people who inhabit it.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in avian evolution and ecology.
Monday, September 19, 2016
1) Sterling, Kier B. and Marianne G. Ainley. The American Ornithologists' Union: The First Century, 1883-1983. 2016. Nuttall Ornithological Club. Hardbound: 405 pages. Price: $39.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, Number 20. A history of the first 100 years of the A.O.U., highlighting the Union's activities and accomplishments, relating some to overall developments in the evolution of American natural science. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Published by the Club, With the support of the American Ornithologists' Union, 2016. Contents: Beginnings; By-Laws; The Auk, A Quarterly Journal of Ornithology; Classification and Checklists; Annual Meetings; Research and Awards in the AOU; Bird Protection; Special Projects; Patterns of Change in the AOU; Conclusions. Endnotes; Literature Cited. Appendices: Presidents, Vice Presidents, Secretaries, Treasurers, Editors; AOU Founders, 1883, and highlights of their careers; Annual Meetings of the AOU 1883-1982; Brewster Medals 1929-1982; Coues Awards 1972-1982; The 'Ten Year Index' of The Auk; Pertinent data of the Ornithological Monographs; Index.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in ornithological history.
Monday, September 12, 2016
1) Schmidly, David J. and Robert D. Bradley. The Mammals of Texas 7th Edition. 2016. University of Texas Press. Paperback: 694 pages. Price: $39.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Mammals of Texas has been the standard reference since the first edition was coauthored by William B. Davis and Walter P. Taylor in 1947. Revised several times over the succeeding decades, it remains the most authoritative source of information on the mammalian wildlife of Texas, with physical descriptions and life histories for 202 species, abundant photographs and drawings, and distribution maps.
In this new edition, David J. Schmidly is joined by one of the most active researchers on Texas mammals, Robert D. Bradley, to provide a thorough update of the taxonomy, distribution, and natural history of all species of wild mammals that inhabit Texas today. Using the most recent advances in molecular biology and in wildlife ecology and management, the authors include the most current information about the scientific nomenclature, taxonomy, and identification of species, while also covering significant advances in natural history and conservation.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those with an interest in the mammals of Texas.
Monday, August 29, 2016
1) Lanham, J. Drew. The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature. 2016. Milkweed Editions. Hardbound: 216 pages. Price: $24.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: “In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. All of these hues are me; I am, in the deepest sense, colored.” From these fertile soils of love, land, identity, family, and race emerges The Home Place, a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist and professor of ecology J. Drew Lanham.
Dating back to slavery, Edgefield County, South Carolina—a place “easy to pass by on the way somewhere else”—has been home to generations of Lanhams. In The Home Place, readers meet these extraordinary people, including Drew himself, who over the course of the 1970s falls in love with the natural world around him. As his passion takes flight, however, he begins to ask what it means to be “the rare bird, the oddity.”
By turns angry, funny, elegiac, and heartbreaking, The Home Place is a remarkable meditation on nature and belonging, at once a deeply moving memoir and riveting exploration of the contradictions of black identity in the rural South—and in America today.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in natural history and/or race relations.
Friday, August 26, 2016
1) Sekercioglu, Çagan H. et al. (editors). Why Birds Matter: Avian Ecological Function and Ecosystem Services. 2016. University Of Chicago Press. Paperback: 387 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For over one hundred years, ornithologists and amateur birders have jointly campaigned for the conservation of bird species, documenting not only birds’ beauty and extraordinary diversity, but also their importance to ecosystems worldwide. But while these avian enthusiasts have noted that birds eat fruit, carrion, and pests; spread seed and fertilizer; and pollinate plants, among other services, they have rarely asked what birds are worth in economic terms. In Why Birds Matter, an international collection of ornithologists, botanists, ecologists, conservation biologists, and environmental economists seeks to quantify avian ecosystem services—the myriad benefits that birds provide to humans.
The first book to approach ecosystem services from an ornithological perspective, Why Birds Matter asks what economic value we can ascribe to those services, if any, and how this value should inform conservation. Chapters explore the role of birds in such important ecological dynamics as scavenging, nutrient cycling, food chains, and plant-animal interactions—all seen through the lens of human well-being—to show that quantifying avian ecosystem services is crucial when formulating contemporary conservation strategies. Both elucidating challenges and providing examples of specific ecosystem valuations and guidance for calculation, the contributors propose that in order to advance avian conservation, we need to appeal not only to hearts and minds, but also to wallets.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in avian/Human ecology.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
1) Letts, Elizabeth. The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis. 2016. Ballantine Books. Hardbound: 400 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In the chaotic last days of the war a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.
With only hours to spare, one of the Army’s last great cavalrymen, American colonel Hank Reed, makes a bold decision—with General George Patton’s blessing—to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, Reed’s small but determined force of soldiers, aided by several turncoat Germans, steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses.
Pulling together this multistranded story, Elizabeth Letts introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters: Alois Podhajsky, director of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a former Olympic medalist who is forced to flee the bomb-ravaged Austrian capital with his entire stable in tow; Gustav Rau, Hitler’s imperious chief of horse breeding, a proponent of eugenics who dreams of genetically engineering the perfect warhorse for Germany; and Tom Stewart, a senator’s son who makes a daring moonlight ride on a white stallion to secure the farm’s surrender.
A compelling account for animal lovers and World War II buffs alike, The Perfect Horse tells for the first time the full story of these events. Elizabeth Letts’s exhilarating tale of behind-enemy-lines adventure, courage, and sacrifice brings to life one of the most inspiring chapters in the annals of human valor.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in horses or military history.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
1) Ridgely, Robert S. et al.. Wildlife Conservation Society Birds of Brazil: The Atlantic Forest of Southeast Brazil, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. 2016. Cornell University Press. Paperback: 415 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and is one of the planet's richest places for bird diversity, especially when it comes to the number of endemic species. Brazil’s Atlantic Forest region is one of the most dazzling of all. Immediately surrounding São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, this area of Brazil is also a relatively accessible area to birders from around the world.
In the Birds of Brazil Field Guides, the Wildlife Conservation Society brings together a top international team to do justice to the incredible diversity of Brazilian birds. This second guide presents 927 bird species, 863 illustrated, that occur in just the southeastern Atlantic Forest biome (Mata Atlântica in Portuguese). Of these species, 140 are endemic and 105 near endemic to just this region; 83 of these are threatened. Modern and compact, this field guide provides illustrations of unparalleled quality, key field marks, and regional range maps to facilitate easy recognition of all species normally occurring in this vibrant and critically important area of Brazil.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those with an interest in the birds of the region.