Thursday, November 8, 2018
1) MacPhee, Ross D. E. and Peter Schouten. End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals. 2018. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 236 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller―including gorilla-sized lemurs, 500-pound birds, and crocodiles that weighed a ton or more―roamed the earth. These great beasts, or “megafauna,” lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone.
What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths? No one event can be pinpointed as a specific cause, but several factors may have played a role. Paleomammalogist Ross D. E. MacPhee explores them all, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to account for critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses.
Along the way, we learn how time is determined in earth history; how DNA is used to explain the genomics and phylogenetic history of megafauna―and how synthetic biology and genetic engineering may be able to reintroduce these giants of the past. Until then, gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten re-create these megabeasts here in vivid detail.
RECOMMENDATION: The artwork by Peter Schouten highlights this book!
2) Unwin, Mike and David Tipling. The Empire of the Eagle: An Illustrated Natural History. 2018. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 288 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A lavishly illustrated celebration of each of the world’s sixty-eight currently recognized eagle species in all their magnificence and beguiling diversity.
Eagles hold a unique allure among birds for their combination of power, grace, and predatory prowess. Captivating the human imagination, these raptors have symbolized pride, freedom, and independence of spirit since humankind’s earliest times. This book, unlike any previous volume, encompasses each of the world’s sixty-eight currently recognized eagle species, from the huge Steller’s Sea Eagle that soars above Japan’s winter ice floes to the diminutive Little Eagle that hunts over the Australian outback. Mike Unwin’s vivid and authoritative descriptions combined with stunning photographs taken or curated by David Tipling deliver a fascinating and awe-inspiring volume.
Featuring chapters organized by habitat, the book investigates the lifestyle and unique adaptations of each eagle species, as well as the significance of eagles in world cultures and the threats they face from humans. A gorgeous appreciation of eagles, this book will dazzle both eye and imagination.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to these species.
Wednesday, November 7, 2018
1) Dunne, Pete and Kevin Karlson. Gulls Simplified: A Comparative Approach to Identification. 2018. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 208 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This unique photographic field guide to North America’s gulls provides a comparative approach to identification that concentrates on the size, structure, and basic plumage features of gulls―gone are the often-confusing array of plumage details found in traditional guides.
Featuring hundreds of color photos throughout, Gulls Simplified illustrates the variations of gull plumages for a variety of ages, giving readers strong visual reference points for each species. Extensive captions accompany the photos, which include comparative photo arrays, digitized photo arrays for each age group, and numerous images of each species―a wealth of visual information at your fingertips. This one-of-a-kind guide includes detailed species accounts and a distribution map for each gull.
An essential field companion for North American birders, Gulls Simplified reduces the confusion commonly associated with gull identification, offering a more user-friendly way of observing these marvelous birds.
- Provides a simpler approach to gull identification
- Features a wealth of color photos for easy comparison among species
- Includes detailed captions that explain identification criteria and aging, with direct visual reinforcement above the captions
- Combines plumage details with a focus on size, body shape, and structural features for easy identification in the field
- Highlights important field marks and physical features for each gull
2) Rosenfield, Robert N.. The Cooper's Hawk: Breeding Ecology & Natural History of a Winged Huntsman. 2018. Hancock House. Paperback: 163 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S. (via publisher's website).
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Cooper's Hawk presents the general reader and professional biologists interested in birds and nature, with an authoritative account of the breeding biology of the what is perhaps the most abundant, backyard breeding raptor in North America. This urban status exists despite cross-generational human persecution through shooting of individuals and indirect felling of forests, their apparent preferred nesting habitat. Using conversational prose, the natural history of the bird's diet, including bird feeder use and disease concerns, courtship behavior, and the ecological themes of breeding density, reproductive success, and adult survivorship are described.
There too is a focus on how and why fieldwork is conducted on this ubiquitous city dweller who preys mostly on birds, or 'urban fast food.' How urban birds may differ from their rural counterparts is addressed, and especially highlighted is the novel aspect of reproductive deceit in this red-eyed, blue-backed predator, as, unlike all other birds of prey studied to date, it is highly promiscuous. The text is complemented with original art and especially crisp photographs that demonstrate this bird's natural history.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with a serious interest in Cooper's Hawks.
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
1) Sheppard, Jay M.. The Biology of a Desert Apparition: LeConte’s Thrasher (Toxostoma lecontei). 2018. Western Field Ornithologists. Paperback: 210 pages. Price: $25.00 U.S. (plus shipping and handling).
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: LeConte’s Thrasher—a shy, poorly-known, and little-studied species—is found in the hottest and driest deserts of the American Southwest and northwestern Mexico. Mr. Sheppard has spent years studying this enigmatic bird. This monograph gives the results of his study that included 350 color-marked thrashers studied near Maricopa, California. The systematics of the genus Toxostoma and the taxonomy of T. lecontei are examined. A detailed discussion of this thrasher’s distribution, ecology and conservation are followed by a thorough study of its general life history. The latter includes extensive data on reproduction, population dynamics, reproductive output, behavior, molt, development, vocalizations, and feeding and prey analysis. Dispersal and other movements, pair bonds, survival, and territoriality were studied in a color-marked population at Maricopa, California. Detailed notes and records from hundreds of field observers and other sources were utilized to provide as complete a life history and distribution of this species as currently possible. Future research needs are enumerated. Mr. Sheppard is a now retired ornithologist of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and resides in Laurel, Maryland.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with a serious interest in the species.
2) Shuford, W. David, Robert E. Gill Jr., and Colleen M. Handel, editors. Trends and Traditions: Avifaunal Change in Western North America. 2018. Western Field Ornithologists. Paperback: 466 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.(plus shipping and handling).
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The status of the rich avifauna of western North America is ever changing in response to human influences, geomorphic processes, and natural climatic variation. Documenting and synthesizing the patterns, rate, and causes of these changes is crucial for the conservation of birds in this region, particularly in a time of rapid climate change, expanding human population, and accelerated resource extraction. To that end, a symposium on avifaunal change was held at Western Field Ornithologists’ annual conference in San Diego, California, in October 2014, which formed the basis for the current volume. The papers herein emphasize the overarching themes of the effects of extensive habitat loss and degradation on the avifauna of the West in the 19th and 20th centuries and the responses of birds to environmental change and variation. Several papers portray rays of hope, documenting reversals of trends in the loss of some important habitats, the recovery of some avian populations in response to management, and resiliency in other species as they adapt to novel habitats. Others express increasing concern for the potential future effects of a rapidly changing climate. Most emphasize the importance of long-term monitoring of the population trends, distribution, and ecological attributes of the region’s birdlife. The geographical representation and bird species or groups covered varies widely. Collectively these papers should aid in the long-term conservation of the region’s birdlife.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a serious interest in bird populations of Western North America.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
1) Joel and Laura Oppenheimer. The Family of Hummingbirds: The Complete Prints of John Gould. 2018. Rizzoli Electa. Hardbound: 304 pages. Price: $65.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This sublime collection of 418 superbly detailed hand-colored lithographs of hummingbirds, created by John Gould, the “British Audubon,” in the mid-1800s, represents all the known species at that time and is the most complete ever produced of hummingbirds. Unlike John James Audubon, whose work focused on the avifauna of a single country, Gould’s folios illustrate species from around the world. His original set of folios—Family of Humming-Birds—reproduced here in its entirety, depicts the magnificent jewel-like birds together with botanicals native to their habitats in the most remote and exotic ecosystems of the Americas.
In her essay for the book, co-author Laura Oppenheimer tells the story of Gould’s colorful life and places his work in the context of a remarkable period when exploration and classification of the world’s natural wonders was at the forefront of scientific discovery and universally celebrated in Victorian popular culture. Joel Oppenheimer details how Gould created the prints and presents an overview of nineteenth-century printmaking and lithography techniques. He also unravels the mystery behind the gold-leaf process that Gould employed to portray the iridescent quality of the hummingbirds’ plumage, resolving a long-standing controversy regarding who should be credited for its invention. This Family of Hummingbirds will delight birdwatchers, fans of natural history art, and hummingbird lovers everywhere.
RECOMMENDATION: When compared to the Wellfleet (1990) reprint, this version is smaller and lacks Gould's original text, but has more introductory material.