Monday, December 27, 2010


1) Long, John A.. The Rise of Fishes: 500 Million Years of Evolution. 2011. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 287 pages. Price: $65.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: Fishes that walk, fishes that breathe air, fishes that look like -- and are -- monsters from the deep. These and many more strange creatures swim through The Rise of Fishes, John A. Long's richly illustrated tour of the past 500 million years. Long has updated his classic work with illustrations of recent fossil discoveries and new interpretations based on genetic analyses. He reveals how fishes evolved from ancient, jawless animals, explains why fishes have survived on the Earth for so long, and describes how they have become the dominant aquatic life—form. Indeed, to take things a step further, we learn much about ourselves through this book, for all amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are descendants of ancient fishes.
      Clear, accessible, and engaging, The Rise of Fishes combines scientific expertise with entertaining stories about Long's own excursions, which span the oceans and continents. The book includes photographs of fossils from around the world as well as dramatic color illustrations depicting what those fishes may have actually looked like.
RECOMMENDATION: This well illustrated book is a must have for those interested in fossil fishes! For an article and video about Long's research see here:

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Titles

1) Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. The Natural History of Birds: 9 Volume set. 2010. Cambridge University Press. 9 paperback books. Price: $35.99 to $45.00 U.S. per volume ($360.00 U.S. for the set).

SUMMARY: Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707–88), was a French mathematician who was considered one of the leading naturalists of the Enlightenment. An acquaintance of Voltaire and other intellectuals, he worked as Keeper at the Jardin du Roi from 1739, and this inspired him to research and publish a vast encyclopaedia and survey of natural history, the ground-breaking Histoire Naturelle, which he published in forty-four volumes between 1749 and 1804. These volumes, first published between 1770 and 1783 and translated into English in 1793, contain Buffon's survey and descriptions of birds from the Histoire Naturelle. Based on recorded observations of birds both in France and in other countries, these volumes provide detailed descriptions of various bird species, their habitats and behaviours and were the first publications to present a comprehensive account of eighteenth-century ornithology. Edited and translated by William Smellie.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in the history of ornithology.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Title

1) Mulvaney, Kieran. The Great White Bear: A Natural and Unnatural History of the Polar Bear. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 251 Pages. Price: $26.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: Polar bears are creatures of paradox: They are white bears whose skin is black; massive predators who can walk almost silently; Arctic residents whose major problem is not staying warm, but keeping cool. Fully grown they can measure 10 feet and weigh close to 2,000 pounds, but at birth they are just 20 ounces. Creatures that may wander thousands of miles over the course of a year, they begin life in a snowdrift.
     Human encounters with these legendary beasts are cause for both excitement and apprehension. Tales throughout history describe the ferocity of polar bear attacks on humans; but human hunting of polar bears has exacted a far larger toll, obliging Arctic nations to try to protect their region’s iconic species before it’s too late.
      Now, however, another threat to the polar bears’ survival has emerged, one that is steadily removing sea ice and the life it supports. Without this habitat, polar bears cannot exist. The Great White Bear celebrates the story of this unique species. Through a blend of history, both natural and human, through myth and reality and observations both personal and scientific, Kieran Mulvaney masterfully provides a context for readers to consider the polar bear, its history, its life, and its uncertain fate.
RECOMMENDATION: A detailed and readable account on the life and future of the Polar Bear.

Monday, December 20, 2010


1) Duivendijk, Nils van. Advanced Bird ID Guide: The Western Palearctic. 2010. New Holland. Paperback: 304 pages. Price: 14.99 GBP (about $23.30 U.S.).

SUMMARY: This innovative guide will be an essential addition to the library of any serious birder. It accurately describes every key detail of every plumage of all 1,000 species that have ever occurred in Britain, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East - the region known to all keen birdwatchers as the Western Palearctic. Its level of detail is unprecedented for a book of this size, and it will be sought after by all bird enthusiasts.
     A large number of existing bird field guides cover Europe and the Western Palearctic. This, however, is a guide with a difference. It has no colour plates or illustrations, but instead its unique selling point is that for every species the detailed text lists the key characters of each recognizable plumage, including male, female, immature, juvenile, all subspecies and all other variations. This level of detail includes, for example, all eleven forms of 'Canada goose' and all nine forms of 'yellow wagtail' known in the region. In the past such in-depth detail has only been available in huge multi-volume tomes such as Birds of the Western Palearctic. The Advanced Bird ID Guide enables birders to take this information into the field for the first time.
RECOMMENDATION: Advanced birders in the Western Palearctic will want this book! It is not for beginning birders though! I wonder if a similar book would work here in North America?

2) Gooddie, Chris. The Jewel Hunter. 2010. Wild Guides. Paperback: 344 pages. Price: 17.99 GBP (about $27.97 U.S.).
SUMMARY: A tale of one man’s obsession with rainforest jewels, this is the story of an impossible dream: a quest to see every one of the world’s most elusive avian gems – a group of birds known as pittas – in a single year.
     Insightful, compelling and laugh-out-loud funny, this is more than a book about birds. It's a true story detailing the lengths to which a man will go to escape his mid-life crisis. A travelogue with a difference, it follows a journey from the suburban straitjacket of High Wycombe to the steamy, leech-infested rainforests of remotest Asia, Africa and Australia.
     Dangerous situations, personal traumas and logistical nightmares threaten The Jewel Hunter's progress. Will venomous snakes or razor-clawed bears intervene? Or will running out of fuel mid-Pacific ultimately sink the mission? The race is on...
     If you’ve ever yearned to escape your day job, wondered what makes men tick, or simply puzzled over how to make a truly world-class cup of tea, this is a book for you.
RECOMMENDATION: If you enjoyed reading The Big Year and The Biggest Twitch you will enjoy this book! You can visit the author's website here:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

New Title

1) Walk, Jeffery W. et al.. Illinois Birds: A Century of Change. Illinois Natural History Survey Special Publication 31. 2010. University of Illinois. Paperback: 230 pages. Price: $25.00 U.S. (plus shipping and handling).

SUMMARY: This new book, Illinois Birds: A Century of Change, literally took 100 years to write. The first comprehensive survey of birds in Illinois was conducted from 1906-1909. It was repeated from 1956-1958 and a technical book was written comparing the two surveys. When the 100-year anniversary of that first survey was approaching, ornithologists Mike Ward, Jeff Walk, Steve Bailey, and Jeff Brawn seized the window of opportunity to do it again and write a book, this time with 100 years of data, lots of pictures, and a broader appeal.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an advanced interest in the birds of Illinois. The book can be ordered here:

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Title

1) Wilson, Edward O. and Jose M. Gomez Duran. Kingdom of Ants: Jose Celestino Mutis and the Dawn of Natural History in the New World. 2010. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 99 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: One of the earliest New World naturalists, José Celestino Mutis began his professional life as a physician in Spain and ended it as a scientist and natural philosopher in modern—day Colombia. Drawing on new translations of Mutis's nearly forgotten writings, this fascinating story of scientific adventure in eighteenth—century South America retrieves Mutis's contributions from obscurity.

      In 1760, the 28—year—old Mutis -- newly appointed as the personal physician of the Viceroy of the New Kingdom of Granada -- embarked on a 48—year exploration of the natural world of northern South America. His thirst for knowledge led Mutis to study the region's flora, become a professor of mathematics, construct the first astronomical observatory in the Western Hemisphere, and amass one of the largest scientific libraries in the world. He translated Newton's writings and penned essays about Copernicus; lectured extensively on astronomy, geography, and meteorology; and eventually became a priest. But, as two—time Pulitzer Prize–winner Edward O. Wilson and Spanish natural history scholar José M. Gómez Durán reveal in this enjoyable and illustrative account, one of Mutis's most magnificent accomplishments involved ants.
     Acting at the urging of Carl Linnaeus -- the father of taxonomy -- shortly after he arrived in the New Kingdom of Granada, Mutis began studying the ants that swarmed everywhere. Though he lacked any entomological training, Mutis built his own classification for the species he found and named at a time when New World entomology was largely nonexistent. His unorthodox catalog of army ants, leafcutters, and other six—legged creatures found along the banks of the Magdalena provided a starting point for future study.
     Wilson and Durán weave a compelling, fast—paced story of ants on the march and the eighteenth—century scientist who followed them. A unique glance into the early world of science exploration, Kingdom of Ants is a delight to read and filled with intriguing information.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Neotropical entomological history.

New Titles

1) Able, Kenneth W. and Michael P. Fahay. Ecology of Estuarine Fishes: Temperate Waters of the Western North Atlantic. 2010. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 566 pages. Price: $120.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: This comprehensive reference book details the life history and ecology of the fish species that occupy the estuarine and coastal habitats along the eastern United States and Canada.
     Kenneth W. Able and Michael P. Fahay draw on their own studies and other research to summarize and synthesize all the known facts about the ecology of 93 important species of fish that inhabit the temperate waters of the Western Atlantic. Presented in individual chapters, the species accounts include complete information about each fish's distribution, habitat use, reproduction, development, migratory patterns, prey, and predators and other natural enemies. The species accounts are illustrated and include lifecycle calendars, tables, and charts highlighting key information. Introductory chapters provide the general characteristics of the temperate ichthyofauna and explain the authors' methodology.
     Featuring new information based on more than 76,000 samples, novel long—term data, and an exhaustive analysis of more than 1,800 references, this invaluable resource is a complete compendium on estuarine fishes of the Western North Atlantic.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in fish biology.

2) Condit, Richard, Rolando Perez, and Nefertaris Daguerre. Trees of Panama and Costa Rica. 2010. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 494 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: This is the first field guide dedicated to the diverse tree species of Panama and Costa Rica. Featuring close to 500 tropical tree species, Trees of Panama and Costa Rica includes superb color photos, abundant color distribution maps, and concise descriptions of key characteristics, making this guide readily accessible to botanists, biologists, and casual nature lovers alike.
     The invaluable introductory chapters discuss tree diversity in Central America and the basics of tree identification. Family and species accounts are treated alphabetically and describe family size, number of genera and species, floral characteristics, and relative abundance. Color distribution maps supplement the useful species descriptions, and facing-page photographic plates detail bark, leaf, flower, or fruit of the species featured. Helpful appendices contain a full glossary, a comprehensive guide to leaf forms, and a list of families not covered.

-The only tree guide to cover both Panama and Costa Rica together
-Covers almost 500 species
-438 high-resolution color photos
-480 color distribution maps and two general maps
-Concise and jargon-free descriptions of key characteristics for every species
-Full glossary and guide to leaf forms included
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Neotropical botany.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Title

1) Oberle, Mark W.. Puerto Rico's Birds in Photographs: A Complete Guide and CD-ROM including the Virgin Islands (3rd edition). 2010. Editorial Humanitas. Paperback: 136 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have more than 350 species of birds-17 of which are endemic to the region and are found nowhere else on Earth. With this guide, you will discover the rare and beautiful birds of the islands. This updated and revised English edition contains descriptions of 191 common and all endemic species in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with 414 full-color photos displaying different plumages. Also included is a CD-ROM that includes a bilingual Spanish and English text, 2,800 full color photos and audio clips of 430 species' songs and calls.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the birds of the West Indies. This title can be ordered here:

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Title

1) Ottema, Otte H., Jan Hein J.M. Ribot and Arie L. Spaans. Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Suriname. 2009. WWF Guianas. Paperback: 144 pages. Price: 15 Euros (about $20.08 U.S.) which includes postage and handling.
SUMMARY: Suriname, situated on the coast of northeastern South America, is a small country when compared to most South American countries. It has, however, a rich avifauna, with a total of 739 species and subspecies recorded there during the past 150-200 years: a real bird bonanza!
     This annotated checklist presents data on the life zones and habitats where the species occur, their status and abundance, and the periods that migratory birds from North and South are present, with earliest and latest dates where relevant. Lists of hypothetical and erroneously cited species for the country, endemics and near-endemics, and data on species of concern from a conservation point of view are also included.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in the birds of South America. The book can be ordered by e-mailing:


1) Thorp, James H. and D. Christopher Rogers. Field Guide to Freshwater Invertebrates of North America. 2010. Academic Press. Paperback: 274 pages. Price: $39.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: The Field Guide to Freshwater Invertebrates of North America focuses on freshwater invertebrates that can be identified using at most an inexpensive magnifying glass. This Guide will be useful for experienced nature enthusiasts, students doing aquatic field projects, and anglers looking for the best fish bait, lure, or fly. Color photographs and art, as well as the broad geographic coverage, set this guide apart.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone interested in the freshwater animals of North America. I also recommend this title:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

New Title

1) Grant, Peter R. and B. Rosemary Grant (editors). In Search of the Causes of Evolution: From Field Observations to Mechanisms. 2010. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 380 pages. Price: $49.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Evolutionary biology has witnessed breathtaking advances in recent years. Some of its most exciting insights have come from the crossover of disciplines as varied as paleontology, molecular biology, ecology, and genetics. This book brings together many of today's pioneers in evolutionary biology to describe the latest advances and explain why a cross-disciplinary and integrated approach to research questions is so essential.
     Contributors discuss the origins of biological diversity, mechanisms of evolutionary change at the molecular and developmental levels, morphology and behavior, and the ecology of adaptive radiations and speciation. They highlight the mutual dependence of organisms and their environments, and reveal the different strategies today's researchers are using in the field and laboratory to explore this interdependence. Peter and Rosemary Grant--renowned for their influential work on Darwin's finches in the Galápagos--provide concise introductions to each section and identify the key questions future research needs to address.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in evolution.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Title

1) McNamara, Kenneth J.. The Star-Crossed Stone: The Secret Life, Myths, and History of a Fascinating Fossil. 2010. University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 272 pages. Price: $27.50 U.S.

SUMMARY: In The Star-Crossed Stone, Kenneth J. McNamara, an expert on fossil echinoids, takes readers on an incredible fossil hunt, with stops in history, paleontology, folklore, mythology, art, religion, and much more. Beginning with prehistoric times, when urchin fossils were used as jewelry, McNamara reveals how the fossil crept into the religious and cultural lives of societies around the world—the roots of the familiar five-pointed star, for example, can be traced to the pattern found on urchins. But McNamara’s vision is even broader than that: using our knowledge of early habits of fossil collecting, he explores the evolution of the human mind itself, drawing striking conclusions about humanity’s earliest appreciation of beauty and the first stirrings of artistic expression. Along the way, the fossil becomes a nexus through which we meet brilliant eccentrics and visionary archaeologists and develop new insights into topics as seemingly disparate as hieroglyphics, Beowulf, and even church organs.
     An idiosyncratic celebration of science, nature, and human ingenuity, The Star-Crossed Stone is as charming and unforgettable as the fossil at its heart.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in paleontology and/or history.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Princeton University Press giveaway

Princeton University Press is giving away the above poster of the Black Scoter plate from the forthcoming Crossley ID Guide this Friday, 10 Dec. 2010. See the details here:

Audubon First Edition sold today

Today, Sotheby's of London auctioned off a complete copy of Audubon's Birds of America (the folio edition published between 1827 to 1838) for $10,270,000 U.S..With auction fees the total came to $11,500,000 U.S.! The set went to British art dealer and BIRDER Michael Tollemache. His website is here:

 Here's the story from the Seattle Times:

Here's the story from The Wall Street Journal:

For more about Audubon and his artwork, I recommend these titles:

New Titles

1) Novy, Adam. The Avian Gospels (books 1 and 2). 2010. Short Flight/Long Drive Books. Paperbacks: 442 pages in total. Prices: $12.95 U.S. and $10.95 U.S. respectively.

SUMMARY: A city without a name is cursed by a plague of birds they probably deserve. But when an angry beggar child and his father learn they have the power to lift the curse—they “control” birds—they cannot agree on how to use their gift, and end up using it on each other, taking out everyone around them, especially those they love.
 RECOMMENDATION: This is a dark dystopian novel with birds. It has raw language and violence that's not for the squeamish.