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.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Carnivorous Plants Books

Today I received 6 books by Stewart McPherson, published by Redfern Natural History Productions, of Dorset, England. They deal with the carnivorous plants of the World and are must have titles for those interested in carnivorous plants. They are:

1 & 2) Carnivorous Plants and their Habitats (2 volumes). 2010. Hardbound: 1442 pages total. Price: 34.99 GBP each (about $54.44 U.S. each plus shipping).
SUMMARY: Carnivorous Plants and their Habitats comprises 1,441 pages and includes 799 images. Six years in the making, this work profiles the distribution, botanical history, morphology, diversity, ecology, traditional uses, associated life, cultivation requirements and conservation status of all recognised carnivorous plant genera of the world.

3 & 4) Pitcher Plants of the Old World (2 volumes). 2009. Hardbound: 1399 pages. Price: 34.99 GBP each (about $54.44 U.S. each plus shipping).
SUMMARY: Pitcher plants include the largest and most spectacular of all carnivorous plants. So-called because they produce highly specialised foliage that takes the form of hollow, water-filled “pitchers”, these extraordinary plants lure and prey upon arthropods and other small animals. The pitcher plants of the Old World also trap the largest prey of all carnivorous plants, including on rare occasions, vertebrates as large as frogs, mice and even rats. This two volume work examines both genera of Old World pitcher plants (Nepenthes and Cephalotus) and documents the ecology and natural diversity of every known species for the first time and in unparalleled detail.
      This 1399 page work contains 751 spectacular images. 120 species of Nepenthes, plus 5 incompletely
diagnosed taxa are recognised, along with Cephalotus follicularis.

5) Glistening Carnivores: The Sticky-Leaved Insect-Eating Plants. 2008. Hardbound: 392 pages. Price: 29.99 GBP (about $46.66 U.S. plus shipping).

SUMMARY: The seven genera of sticky-leaved insect-eating plants are uniquely beautiful and captivate the interest of all who behold them. Each produces shimmering leaves lined with glistening droplets of glue that attract, trap and kill insects and other small animals. Complimented by 279 spectacular images, this work examines all seven genera of sticky-leaved insect-eating plants (Byblis, Drosera, Drosophyllum, Ibicella, Pinguicula, Roridula and Triphyophyllum) and documents their wild ecology and natural diversity in full detail and in many cases, for the very first time.

6) Lost Worlds of the Guiana Highlands. 2008. Hardbound: 388 pages. Price: 29.99 GBP (about $46.66 U.S. plus shipping).
SUMMARY:  The tablelands of the Guiana Highlands are among the most spectacular yet least explored mountains of our world. Each is an immense sandstone plateau known locally as a ‘tepui’ that is encircled on all sides by gigantic vertical cliffs up to 1,000 metres tall. The summits of these unique mountains have remained isolated for millions of years, and today harbour plants, animals and landscapes that occur nowhere else on Earth. This work examines the story of the discovery and exploration of these remarkable mountains and considers the unique plants, animals and landscapes atop of these mysterious lost worlds.

You can visit their website here:


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Title

1) Holldobler, Bert and Edward O. Wilson. The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct. 2010. W.W. Norton. Paperback: 160 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: From the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of The Ants comes this dynamic and visually spectacular portrait of Earth's ultimate superorganism.

     The Leafcutter Ants is the most detailed and authoritative description of any ant species ever produced. With a text suitable for both a lay and a scientific audience, the book provides an unforgettable tour of Earth's most evolved animal societies. Each colony of leafcutters contains as many as five million workers, all the daughters of a single queen that can live over a decade. A gigantic nest can stretch thirty feet across, rise five feet or more above the ground, and consist of hundreds of chambers that reach twenty-five feet below the ground surface. Indeed, the leafcutters have parlayed their instinctive civilization into a virtual domination of forest, grassland, and cropland—from Louisiana to Patagonia. Inspired by a section of the authors' acclaimed The Superorganism, this brilliantly illustrated work provides the ultimate explanation of what a social order with a half-billion years of animal evolution has achieved.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of the authors earlier works will want this book!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Title

1) Ballance, Alison. Kakapo: Rescued From the Brink of Extinction. 2010. Craig Potton Publishing. Hardbound: 215 pages. Price: $49.99 NZ (about $38.13 U.S. plus shipping).
SUMMARY: The Kakapo is one of New Zealand's most charismatic yet mysterious birds. It is also one of the world's most threatened species and a New Zealand conservation success story.
     Kakapo is a book that embraces science, conservation, ingenuity and personal dedication. Through an informative and entertaining mix of hard facts, history and accounts of the daily and seasonal routines of kakapo and their minders, Alison Ballance brings together these threads to tell the inspiring story of this remarkably eccentric bird.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone interested in parrots, endangered species and the birds of New Zealand! This book is available here:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Title

1) Colwell, Mark A.. Shorebird Ecology, Conservation, and Management. 2010. University of California Press. Hardbound: 328 pages. Price: $60.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: Shorebirds are model organisms for illustrating the principles of ecology and excellent subjects for research. Their mating systems are as diverse as any avian group, their migrations push the limits of endurance, and their foraging is easily studied in the open habitats of estuaries and freshwater wetlands. This comprehensive text explores the ecology, conservation, and management of these fascinating birds. Beginning chapters examine phylogenetic relationships between shorebirds and other birds, and cover shorebird morphology, anatomy, and physiology. A section on breeding biology looks in detail at their reproductive biology. Because shorebirds spend much of their time away from breeding areas, a substantial section on non-breeding biology covers migration, foraging ecology, and social behavior. The text also covers shorebird demography, population size, and management issues related to habitat, predators, and human disturbances. Throughout, it emphasizes applying scientific knowledge to the conservation of shorebird populations, many of which are unfortunately in decline.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in shorebird biology.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Titles

1) Chandler, David and Ian Llewellyn. Kingfisher. 2010. New Holland. Hardbound:128 pages. Price: GBP 12.99 (about $21 U.S.).

SUMMARY: Usually encountered as a flash of blue or orange seen from the riverbank, most people are aware of the (Common) Kingfisher, but few are familiar with the intricacies of its day-to-day life.
     Here its remarkable existence is celebrated through a series of stunning chapters with images depicting courtship, nesting, fishing, winter survival and other important events in the lives of Kingfishers, which are further brought to life through the eloquent accompanying text which is enlivened by personal anecdotes from the author and photographer.
RECOMMENDATION: The color photography highlight this book!

2) Das, Indraneil. A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia. 2010. New Holland. Hardbound: 376 pages. Price: GBP 35.00 (about $56.00 U.S.).

SUMMARY: South-East Asia is one of the richest parts of the world in terms of reptiles. The first comprehensive guide to the reptiles of this region, A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia covers all the reptiles recorded from mainland South-East Asia, from Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia to Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia, as well as the islands of the Great Sundas (including Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Bali). A detailed account with key identification characteristics, habitat and behaviour is included for each species, from crocodiles, tortoises and turtles, to lizards and snakes. Every recognized species is described, and 74 magnificent specially commissioned colour plates by top wildlife artists depict nearly 700 major species in meticulous detail. Where useful, details such as plastrons (for turtles and tortoises), juveniles, variants and head patterns are also shown on the plates.
RECOMMENDATION: A very nice field guide, but it does lack range maps though!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Titles

1) Ash, Patricia J. and David J. Robinson. The Emergence of Humans: An Exploration of the Evolutionary Timeline. 2010. Wiley-Blackwell. Paperback: 324 pages. Price: $65.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: The Emergence of Humans is an accessible, informative introduction to the scientific study of human evolution. It takes the reader through time following the emergence of the modern human species Homo sapiens from primate roots. Acknowledging the controversy surrounding the interpretation of the fossil record, the authors present a balanced approach in an effort to do justice to different views.
     Each chapter covers a significant time period of evolutionary history and includes relevant techniques from other disciplines that have applications to the field of human evolution. Self-assessment questions linked to learning outcomes are provided for each chapter, together with further reading and reference to key sources in the primary literature.The book will thus be effective both as a conventional textbook and for independent study.
     Written by two authors with a wealth of teaching experience The Emergence of Humans will prove invaluable to students in the biological and natural sciences needing a clear, balanced introduction to the study of human evolution.
RECOMMENDATION: Would make a good undergraduate level textbook.

2) Harrap, Simon and Nigel Redman. Where to Watch Birds in Britain (second edition). 2010. Helm. Paperback: 671 pages. Price: 19.99 GBP (about $32.00 U.S.).

SUMMARY: This guide covers the very best birding sites in Britain. In a format familiar to readers of this popular series, each site is considered in terms of 'Habitat', Access' and 'Birds', allowing birders of all levels to plan successful birding trips anywhere in Britain, and to maximise the chances of getting the best out of each site and each region. The book includes detailed maps of the larger sites, plus general maps of the regions covered, and it is illustrated with attractive line drawings. This book has been extensively revised, with several new sites added for this edition, together with information on disabled access for most sites.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those birding in Britain!

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Titles

1) Davies, Alan and Ruth Miller. The Biggest Twitch: Around the World in 4,000 birds. 2010. Helm. Paperback: 301 pages. Price: 12.99 GBP (about $21.00 U.S.).

SUMMARY: Most people dream of packing in their humdrum city life, selling up and heading off into the unknown for a life of adventure. For Ruth Miller and Alan Davies this dream became a reality, albeit with a twist; they decided to pack in their jobs, sell their house and take on the ultimate birder's challenge - to smash the world record for the number of species seen in one calendar year.
     This book is the story of their great expedition, searching for birds from Ecuador to Ethiopia via Argentina, Australia and Arizona. We follow this birding odyssey as they rachet up the species and the stamps in their passports, sharing in amazing birding experiences such as monkey-hunting Harpy Eagles in the Brazilian rain forest, seedsnipes in the Peruvian highlands and lekking bustards in South Africa, all leading to the ultimate question - will they break the magic 4,000?
     Written in an accessible style, this book will be of great interest to birders, readers of travel literature, and to people who simply enjoy a good adventure!
RECOMMENDATION: Birders and eco-tourists will enjoy this book! This title is available here:

2) Donald, Paul F. et al.. Facing Extinction: The World's Rarest Birds and the Race to Save Them. 2010. T & A D Poyser. Hardbound: 312 pages. Price: 45.00 GBP (about $72.50 U.S.).
SUMMARY: Almost two hundred species of birds have become extinct in the past 400 years, and a similar number today are in imminent danger of following them. The world’s conservationists are leading the fight to prevent the demise of these remaining critically endangered birds, with a fair degree of success. This new book examines the process and issues concerning extinction – how and why it happens and what can be done about it. Whilst man is to blame for many of the causes, such as persecution and habitat loss, species have become extinct on a regular basis since life began. After several thought-provoking introductory chapters, the book showcases about 20 species on the brink of extinction from around the world and describes the work that is being undertaken to save them. Some are success stories, but a few are not. This is a subject close to the hearts of all birders and ornithologists and this book, written by a team of leading conservationists, will strike a chord in most of them.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in bird conservation. This title is available here:

3) Laurin, Michel. How Vertebrates Left the Water. 2010. University of California Press. Hardbound:199 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: More than three hundred million years ago—a relatively recent date in the two billion years since life first appeared—vertebrate animals first ventured onto land. This usefully illustrated book describes how some finned vertebrates acquired limbs, giving rise to more than 25,000 extant tetrapod species. Michel Laurin uses paleontological, geological, physiological, and comparative anatomical data to describe this monumental event. He summarizes key concepts of modern paleontological research, including biological nomenclature, paleontological and molecular dating, and the methods used to infer phylogeny and character evolution. Along with a discussion of the evolutionary pressures that may have led vertebrates onto dry land, the book also shows how extant vertebrates yield clues about the conquest of land and how scientists uncover evolutionary history.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in vertebrate paleontology.


1) Kennerley, Peter and David Pearson. Reed and Bush Warblers. 2010. Helm Identification Guides. Hardbound: 712 pages. Price: 65 GBP (about $105.00 U.S.).
SUMMARY: This detailed and comprehensive identification guide follows in the mo(u)ld of Sylvia Warblers and Pipits and Wagtails. It primarily covers the genera Acrocephalus, Locustella, Cettia and Bradypterus, together with a few smaller related genera. To the uninitiated, these are the archetypal ‘little brown jobs’ and as if they weren’t hard enough to identify anyway, many of them are hard to see as well! This authoritative handbook covers their identification in breathtaking detail, illustrated with line drawings, sonograms, wonderful colour plates and photographs. It is destined to become the ultimate reference for these challenging birds.
RECOMMENDATION: Brian Small's artwork highlight this book! A must have for all World birders!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Titles

1) Benson, Etienne. Wired Wilderness: Technologies of Tracking and the Making of Modern Wildlife. 2010. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 251 pages. Price: $55.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: American wildlife biologists first began fitting animals with radio transmitters in the 1950s. By the 1980s the practice had proven so useful to scientists and nonscientists alike that it became global. Wired Wilderness is the first book—length study of the origin, evolution, use, and impact of these now—commonplace tracking technologies.
     Combining approaches from environmental history, the history of science and technology, animal studies, and the cultural and political history of the United States, Etienne Benson traces the radio tracking of wild animals across a wide range of institutions, regions, and species and in a variety of contexts. He explains how hunters, animal—rights activists, and other conservation—minded groups gradually turned tagging from a tool for control into a conduit for connection with wildlife. Drawing on extensive archival research, interviews with wildlife biologists and engineers, and in—depth case studies of specific conservation issues -- such as the management of deer, grouse, and other game animals in the upper Midwest and the conservation of tigers and rhinoceroses in Nepal -- Benson illuminates telemetry's context—dependent uses and meanings as well as commonalities among tagging practices.
     Wired Wilderness traces the evolution of the modern wildlife biologist's field practices and shows how the intense interest of nonscientists at once constrained and benefited the field. Scholars of and researchers involved in wildlife management will find this history both fascinating and revealing.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of wildlife biology.

2) Dyson, Freeman (editor). The Best American Science and Nature Writing: 2010. 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Paperback: 385 pages. Price: $14.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Freeman Dyson, renowned physicist and public intellectual, edits this year’s volume of the finest science and nature writing. This edition contains 28 essays that cover topics such as astronomy and cosmology, neurology, nature writing, and the environment.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone interested in good writing!

Monday, November 8, 2010


1) Porter, Richard and Simon Aspinall. Birds of the Middle East (second edition). 2010. Princeton University Press/Helm. Paperback: 384 pages. Price: $39.50 U.S.

SUMMARY: Birds of the Middle East is now the most field-ready and comprehensive guide to the fantastic birds of this region. This fully revised and updated second edition covers all species--including vagrants--found in the Arabian Peninsula (including Socotra), Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Cyprus. It features 176 superb color plates depicting more than 800 species, as well as 820 color distribution maps that show the breeding range for almost every species. In this upgraded edition, maps and detailed species accounts are now located opposite the plates, making this stunningly illustrated field guide easier to use than ever.
-The most comprehensive field guide to the birds of the Middle East
-Covers more than 800 species--including 100 not covered in the first edition
-Features 176 color plates depicting all species
-Includes detailed species accounts and 820 color distribution maps
-Text and maps now located opposite the color plates.
RECOMMENDATION: Anyone interested in the birds of the Middle East will want this book!

Friday, November 5, 2010

New Titles

1) Beccaloni, George. Biggest Bugs (life-size!). 2010. Firefly Books. Hardbound: 84 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Biggest Bugs Life-size is a veritable jump-off-the-page spectacle for bug enthusiasts. It is the first book to include color photographs of 38 of the world's biggest, heaviest, longest and mightiest bugs reproduced at their actual size. Concise text gives all of the essential facts, including the bug's size, what it eats and who discovered it. Maps show where the bugs live.
     The book's dramatic gatefold shows the world's longest bug -- at 22-inches, the Chan's megastick is almost as long as an adult's arm. There is also the gargantuan cockroach, with the longest wingspan in the world, and the potentially pesky gigantea beefly, which is as big as a human eyeball. Even the names are big: giant hawker dragonfly, colossus earwig, giant tarantula hawk wasp, goliath bird-eating spider, Amazonian giant centipede, titan longhorn beetle.
Biggest Bugs Life-size shows the bugs as they are in real life, in brilliant color and in enormous photographs that readers won't soon forget.
RECOMMENDATION: For ages 9-12.

2) Phillips, Roger. Mushrooms and other Fungi of North America. 2010. Firefly Books. Paperback: 384 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: For amateur collectors or professional mycologists working in the field, this guidebook is quite simply the best North American mushroom reference ever published. Each of the 1,000 specimens is shown in full color on a neutral background to eliminate distractions, and specimens are arranged to show the cap, stem, gills, spines and a cross section, usually in various stages of growth.
     Roger Phillips identifies all regional varieties of Basidiomycetes, which include chanterelles, puffballs and fungi, and Ascomycetes, which include morels and cup fungi. Detailed descriptive information on each mushroom variety includes:
-Dimensions of cap, gills and stem
-Color and texture of flesh
-Odor and taste
-Habitat and growing season
-Distribution and appearance of spores
-Edibility and poison warnings
     There is also helpful advice on collecting specimens plus an illustrated beginner identification key and a generic key for the more advanced collector.
Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America is at once the ideal introduction to mycology and an essential reference for the experienced collector -- the definitive book in its category.
RECOMMENDATION: A very useful guide to the fungi of North America.

3) Bevis, John. Aaaaw to Zzzzzd: The Words of Birds. 2010. The MIT Press. Hardbound: 143 pages. Price: $12.95 U.S.
SUMMARY:  Birds sing and call, sometimes in complex and beautiful arrangements of notes, sometimes in one-line repetitions that resemble a ringtone more than a symphony. Listening, we are stirred, transported, and even envious of birds’ ability to produce what Shelley called “profuse strains of unpremeditated art.” And for hundreds of years, we have tried to write down what we hear when birds sing. Poets have put birdsong in verse (Thomas Nashe: “Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo”) and ornithologists have transcribed bird sounds more methodically. Drawing on this history of bird writing, in Aaaaw to Zzzzzd, John Bevis offers a lexicon of the words of birds. For tourists in Birdland, there could be no more charming phrasebook.

     Consulting it, we find seven distinct variations of “hoo” attributed to seven different species of owls, from a simple hoo to the more ambitious hoo hoo hoo-hoo, ho hoo hoo-hoo; the understated cheet of the tree swallow; the resonant kreeaaaaaaaaaaar of the Swainson’s hawk; the modest peep peep peep of the meadow pipit. We learn that some people hear the Baltimore oriole saying “here, here, come right here, dear” and the yellowhammer saying “a little bit of bread and no cheese.”
     Bevis, a poet, frames his lexicons—one for North America and one for Britain and northern Europe—with an evocative appreciation of birds, birdsong, and human attempts to capture the words of birds in music and poetry. He also offers an engaging account of other methods of documenting birdsong—field recording, graphic notation, and mechanical devices including duck calls and the serinette, an instrument used to teach song tunes to songbirds.
     The singing of birds is nature at its most sublime, and words are our medium for expressing this sublimity. Aaaaw to Zzzzzd belongs in the bird lover’s backpack and on the word lover’s bedside table, an unexpected and sui generis pleasure.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting introduction to bird vocalizations.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Title

1) Ulin, David L.. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. 2010. Sasquatch Books. Hardbound: 151 pages. Price: $12.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Reading is a revolutionary act, an act of engagement in a culture that wants us to disengage. In The Lost Art of Reading, David L. Ulin asks a number of timely questions — why is literature important? What does it offer, especially now? Blending commentary with memoir, Ulin addresses the importance of the simple act of reading in an increasingly digital culture. Reading a book, flipping through hard pages, or shuffling them on screen — it doesn’t matter. The key is the act of reading, the seriousness and depth. Ulin emphasizes the importance of reflection and pause allowed by stopping to read a book, and the focus required to let the mind run free in a world that is not one's own. Far from preaching to the choir, The Lost Art of Reading is a call to arms, or rather, pages.
IAN RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the lost art of reading.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Titles

1) Lebbin, Daniel J. et al.. The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation. 2010. University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 446 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: Whether we live in cities, in the suburbs, or in the country, birds are ubiquitous features of daily life, so much so that we often take them for granted. But even the casual observer is aware that birds don’t fill our skies in the number they once did. That awareness has spawned conservation action that has led to notable successes, including the recovery of some of the nation’s most emblematic species, such as the Bald Eagle, Brown Pelican, Whooping Crane, and Peregrine Falcon. Despite this, a third of all American bird species are in trouble—in many cases, they’re in imminent danger of extinction. The most authoritative account ever published of the threats these species face, The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation will be the definitive book on the subject.
     The Guide presents for the first time anywhere a classification system and threat analysis for bird habitats in the United States, the most thorough and scientifically credible assessment of threats to birds published to date, as well as a new list of birds of conservation concern. Filled with beautiful color illustrations and original range maps, the Guide is a timely, important, and inspiring reference for birders and anyone else interested in conserving North America’s avian fauna. But this book is far more than another shout of crisis. The Guide also lays out a concrete and achievable plan of long-term action to safeguard our country’s rich bird life. Ultimately, it is an argument for hope. Whether you spend your early weekend mornings crouched in silence with binoculars in hand, hoping to check another species off your list, or you’ve never given much thought to bird conservation, you’ll appreciate the visual power and intellectual scope of these pages.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those interested in bird conservation of the Americas!

     A) Winker, Kevin and Susan M. Haig, editors. Avian Subspecies. 2010. American Ornithologists' Union. Paperback: 200 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: The 13 papers in this monograph on avian subspecies were delivered at the meeting of the A.O.U., the Cooper Ornithological Society and the Society of Canadian Ornithologists in Portland, Oregon during 4-9 August 2008.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in avian subspecies.
     B) Martinez-Sanchez, Juan C. and Tom Will, editors. Thomas R. Howell's Check-list of the Birds of Nicaragua as of 1993. 2010. American Ornithologists' Union. Paperback: 107 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: A previously unpublished checklist to the birds of Nicaragua by the late Thomas R. Howell.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the avifauna of Nicaragua. These titles can be ordered here:

3) Wilson, Robert M.. Seeking Refuge: Birds and Landscapes of the Pacific Flyway. 2010. University of Washington Press. Hardbound: 245 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Each fall and spring, millions of birds travel the Pacific Flyway, the westernmost of the four major North American bird migration routes. The landscapes they cross vary from wetlands to farmland to concrete, inhabited not only by wildlife but also by farmers, suburban families, and major cities. In the twentieth century, farmers used the wetlands to irrigate their crops, transforming the landscape and putting migratory birds at risk. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responded by establishing a series of refuges that stretched from northern Washington to southern California.
     What emerged from these efforts was a hybrid environment, where the distinctions between irrigated farms and wildlife refuges blurred. Management of the refuges was fraught with conflicting priorities and practices. Farmers and refuge managers harassed birds with shotguns and flares to keep them off private lands, and government pilots took to the air, dropping hand grenades among flocks of geese and herding the startled birds into nearby refuges. Such actions masked the growing connections between refuges and the land around them.
     Seeking Refuge examines the development and management of refuges in the wintering range of migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. Although this is a history of efforts to conserve migratory birds, the story Robert Wilson tells has considerable salience today. Many of the key places migratory birds use - the Klamath Basin, California's Central Valley, the Salton Sea - are sites of recent contentious debates over water use. Migratory birds connect and depend on these landscapes, and farmers face pressure as water is reallocated from irrigation to other purposes. In a time when global warming promises to compound the stresses on water and migratory species, Seeking Refuge demonstrates the need to foster landscapes where both wildlife and people can thrive.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of wildlife management along the Pacific flyway.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recent Title

1) James, Frances C.and John A. Pourtless IV. Cladistics and the Origin of Birds: A Review and Two New Analyses. 2009. American Ornithologists' Union (Ornithological Monographs: No. 66). Paperback: 78 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: The authors have pursued two goals in this study: evaluation of whether the BMT (birds are maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs) hypothesis is as well supported as it has been claimed, and evaluation of alternative hypotheses for the origin of birds within a comparative phylogenetic framework.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in paleo-ornithology. This publication can be purchased here:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recent Title

1) Lieske, Ewald and Robert Myers. Coral Reef Fishes: Indo-Pacific and Caribbean (revised edition). 2001. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 400 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Expanded and updated to include an additional 44 species, this is a handy guide to those fishes that are likely to be observed by anybody visiting or diving on the coral reefs of the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific to a depth of sixty meters. Accessible to amateur marine life enthusiasts, this book is the first comprehensive guide of its kind. It enables the reader to quickly identify 2,118 species of fish and includes over 2,500 color illustrations depicting the major forms of each species--male, female, immature, or geographical varieties. The text proceeds according to region, depicting each species and its varieties, and offering information on its geographic range and where on the coral reef itself the fish may be found. Important identification characteristics are highlighted on every color plate.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone interested in tropical marine fishes!


1) Stokes, Donald and Lillian. The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. 2010. Little, Brown and Company. Paperback: 791 pages. Price: $24.99 U.S.

SUMMARY: The culmination of many years of research, observation, and study, the new STOKES FIELD GUIDE includes more species, more photographs, and more useful identification information than any other photographic field guide.
     The guide features 853 North American bird species and more than 3,400 stunning color photographs. And yet it's portable enough to fit in your pocket (if you have really BIG pockets!).
     The photographs cover all significant plumages, including male, female, summer, winter, immature, morphs, important subspecies, and birds in flight. Also included
* the newest scientific and common names and phylogenetic order;
* special help for identifying birds in flight through important clues of behavior, plumage, and shape;
* detailed descriptions of songs and calls;
* important behavioral information;
* key habitat preferences of each species; and
* the newest range maps, detailing species' winter, summer, year-round ranges, and migration routes.
* includes a downloadable CD with more than 600 bird sounds and 150 photographs: the calls and songs of 150 common North American species.
 RECOMMENDATION: For intermediate and advanced birders. For beginners I recommend the Kaufman Field Guide here: