Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Title

1) Arlott, Norman. Birds of South-East Asia (Collins Field Guide). 2017. William Collins. Hardbound: 432 pages. Price: about $40.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This comprehensive new field guide is an excellent addition to the world-renowned series – the ultimate reference book for travelling birdwatchers.
     Every species of bird you might encounter in the region is featured, apart from non-established introductions. This includes coverage of China (south of the line used to define the Palearctic), Hainan (treated separately from SE China), Taiwan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and the Coco Islands. As many of the major subspecies as possible are also included.
     Beautiful artwork depicts their breeding plumage, and non-breeding plumage when it differs significantly. The accompanying text concentrates on the specific characteristics and appearance of each species that allow identification in the field, including voice and distribution maps.
RECOMMENDATION: A good introduction to the birds of the region.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

New Title

1) MacNeal, David. Bugged: The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them. 2017. St. Martin's Press. Hardbound: 308 pages. Price: $25.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Insects have been shaping our ecological world and plant life for over 400 million years. In fact, our world is essentially run by bugs―there are 1.4 billion for every human on the planet. In Bugged, journalist David MacNeal takes us on an off-beat scientific journey that weaves together history, travel, and culture in order to define our relationship with these mini-monsters.
      MacNeal introduces a cast of bug-lovers―from a woman facilitating tarantula sex and an exterminator nursing bedbugs (on his own blood), to a kingpin of the black market insect trade and a “maggotologist”―who obsess over the crucial role insects play in our everyday lives.
      Just like bugs, this book is global in its scope, diversity, and intrigue. Hands-on with pet beetles in Japan, releasing lab-raised mosquitoes in Brazil, beekeeping on a Greek island, or using urine and antlers as means of ancient pest control, MacNeal’s quest appeals to the squeamish and brave alike. Demonstrating insects’ amazingly complex mechanics, he strings together varied interactions we humans have with them, like extermination, epidemics, and biomimicry. And, when the journey comes to an end, MacNeal examines their commercial role in our world in an effort to help us ultimately cherish (and maybe even eat) bugs.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in entomology.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

New Title

1) Carruthers, Vincent (editor). Wildlife of Southern Africa: A field guide to the animals and plants of the region. 2017. Struik Nature. Paperback: 336 pages. Price: $23.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A field guide to the wildlife of southern Africa, describing over 2,000 plants and animals, with clear illustrations in full colour. This book has been a trusted field companion for many years. Comprehensively updated, it now features range maps for most groups. The chapters are colour-coded for easy reference, and diagnostic features appear in bold type within the descriptions. Each chapter is written by a leading expert in the field: • Lower invertebrates Mike Musgrave • Spiders and other arachnids Astri Leroy • Insects Mike Musgrave • Freshwater fishes Paul Skelton • Frogs Vincent Carruthers • Reptiles Bill Branch • Birds Ken Newman and Christine Read • Mammals Peter Apps • Grasses, sedges, ferns and fungi Elsa Pooley • Wild flowers Elsa Pooley • Trees Elsa Pooley.
RECOMMENDATION: A good introduction to the wildlife of the region.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Title

1) Ryan, Peter. Guide to Seabirds of Southern Africa. 2017. Struik Nature. Paperback: 160 pages. Price: $14.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A field guide to the seabirds that occur around the southern African coastline. Written by a specialist in the field of seabirds, the book focuses on the ID and behaviour of 135 species of seabird commonly seen around the coast and in the seas of the region. The text is supported with photographs (multiple images per bird where available) and distribution maps for all species. • An essential ID guide to all southern African seabird species. • Expert author, Peter Ryan – Director of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute. • Outstanding photographs vividly showcase each species • Introductory text covers species, origins, feeding, breeding and conservation.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interested in Southern African seabirds.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New Title

1) Chandler, David. RSPB Spotlight Kingfishers. 2017. Bloomsbury. Paperback: 128 pages. Price: $18.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Usually observed as a flash of blue and orange from a riverbank, most people are aware of Kingfishers, but few of us are familiar with the intricacies of their day-to-day lives.
    With their long, dagger-like bills, bright blue plumage and characteristic fast, low flight over water, Common Kingfishers are instantly recognizable thanks to a massive range that stretches from Ireland, across Europe, North Africa and Asia as far as Australasia. The 90 or so species that belong to this colorful family have a cosmopolitan distribution and, in Spotlight Kingfishers, David Chandler celebrates their remarkable existence, studying their unique adaptations--including their ability to see prey under water--and examines their courtship, breeding and feeding habits. David investigates historical threats to Kingfisher populations, considers their future, and offers practical advice on how to find and see these glorious birds.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interested in the Common Kingfisher.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

New Titles

1) James, Matthew. Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin. 2017. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 284 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In 1905, eight men from the California Academy of Sciences set sail from San Francisco for a scientific collection expedition in the Galapagos Islands, and by the time they were finished in 1906, they had completed one of the most important expeditions in the history of both evolutionary and conservation science. These scientists collected over 78,000 specimens during their time on the islands, validating the work of Charles Darwin and laying the groundwork for foundational evolution texts like Darwin's Finches. Despite its significance, almost nothing has been written on this voyage, lost amongst discussion of Darwin's trip on the Beagle and the writing of David Lack.
     In Collecting Evolution, author Matthew James finally tells the story of the 1905 Galapagos expedition. James follows these eight young men aboard the Academy to the Galapagos and back, and reveals the reasons behind the groundbreaking success they had. A current Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, James uses his access to unpublished writings and photographs to provide unprecedented insight into the expedition. We learn the voyagers' personal stories, and how, for all the scientific progress that was made, just as much intense personal drama unfolded on the trip. This book shares a watershed moment in scientific history, crossed with a maritime adventure. There are four tangential suicides and controversies over credit and fame. Collecting Evolution also explores the personal lives and scientific context that preceded this voyage, including what brought Darwin to the Galapagos on the Beagle voyage seventy years earlier. James discusses how these men thought of themselves as "collectors" before they thought of themselves as scientists, and the implications this had on their approach and their results.
     In the end, the voyage of the Academy proved to be crucial in the development of evolutionary science as we know it. It is the longest expedition in Galapagos history, and played a critical role in cementing Darwin's legacy. Collecting Evolution brings this extraordinary story of eight scientists and their journey to life.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interested in the history of scientific exploration.

2) Smalley, Andrea L.. Wild by Nature: North American Animals Confront Colonization. 2017.  Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 334 pages. Price: $49.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: From the time Europeans first came to the New World until the closing of the frontier, the benefits of abundant wild animals―from beavers and wolves to fish, deer, and bison―appeared as a recurring theme in colonizing discourses. Explorers, travelers, surveyors, naturalists, and other promoters routinely advertised the richness of the American faunal environment and speculated about the ways in which animals could be made to serve their colonial projects. In practice, however, American animals proved far less malleable to colonizers’ designs. Their behaviors constrained an English colonial vision of a reinvented and rationalized American landscape.
     In Wild by Nature, Andrea L. Smalley argues that Anglo-American authorities’ unceasing efforts to convert indigenous beasts into colonized creatures frequently produced unsettling results that threatened colonizers’ control over the land and the people. Not simply acted upon by being commodified, harvested, and exterminated, wild animals were active subjects in the colonial story, altering its outcome in unanticipated ways. These creatures became legal actors―subjects of statutes, issues in court cases, and parties to treaties―in a centuries-long colonizing process that was reenacted on successive wild animal frontiers.
     Following a trail of human–animal encounters from the seventeenth-century Chesapeake to the Civil War–era southern plains, Smalley shows how wild beasts and their human pursuers repeatedly transgressed the lines lawmakers drew to demarcate colonial sovereignty and control, confounding attempts to enclose both people and animals inside a legal frame. She also explores how, to possess the land, colonizers had to find new ways to contain animals without destroying the wildness that made those creatures valuable to English settler societies in the first place. Offering fresh perspectives on colonial, legal, environmental, and Native American history, Wild by Nature reenvisions the familiar stories of early America as animal tales.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interested in American environmental history.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

New Title

1) Gregory, Phil. Birds of New Guinea: Including Bismarck Archipelago and Bougainville. 2017.  Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 464 pages. Price: $85.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This is the first field guide to cover the entire New Guinea region, comprising Indonesian West Papua (including the West Papuan Islands, Geelvink Bay Islands and Aru Islands) and Papua New Guinea and its associated islands, the Bismarcks and Bougainville. All of the 943 species known to occur are covered, including the extraordinarily high total of 456 endemics, as well as 5 introduced species, 2 species yet to be formally described and a separate appendix with 75 vagrants. Subspecies are listed also to give a comprehensive overview of the remarkable regional avifauna.New Guinea is the second largest island in the world and many of its ecosystems are as yet relatively intact. There are 7 endemic families, and the region is the major centre of diversity for pigeons and doves, kingfishers, parrots, honeyeaters and birds of paradise, with an astonishing diversity and morphological variation and including some of the most sought-after species in the world.
     The author has over 25 years experience in the region, living there for some 7 years and travelling widely on birding and research trips, which has given him valuable experience and insight into the avifauna that he has shared with hundreds of people over the years. The artists from Lynx Edicions have worked on many new and revised plates, which give an excellent visual coverage of the avifauna, with over 1780 illustrations. The taxonomy is up-to-date and the distribution maps have been carefully prepared and revised, whilst field identification and vocalizations are a major interest and should make this book an essential and compact reference companion to anyone birding in the region.
RECOMMENDATION: It's a little thinner and a bit heavier than the Pratt and Beehler guide.