1) Pyle, Robert Michael. Mariposa Road: The First Butterfly Big Year. 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 558 pages. Price: $27.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Part road-trip tale, part travelogue of lost and found landscapes, all good-natured natural history, Mariposa Road tracks Bob Pyle’s journey across the United States as he races against the calendar in his search for as many of the 800 American butterflies as he can find.
Like Pyle’s classic Chasing Monarchs, Mariposa Road recounts his adventures, high and low, in tracking down butterflies in his own low-tech, individual way. Accompanied by Marsha, his cottonwood-limb butterfly net; Powdermilk, his 1982 Honda Civic with 345,000 miles on the odometer; and the small Leitz binoculars he has carried for more than thirty years, Bob ventured out in a series of remarkable trips from his Northwest home.
From the California coastline in company with overwintering monarchs to the Far Northern tundra in pursuit of mysterious sulphurs and arctics; from the zebras and daggerwings of the Everglades to the leafwings, bluewings, and border rarities of the lower Rio Grande; from Graceland to ranchland and Kauai to Key West, these intimate encounters with the land, its people, and its fading fauna are wholly original. At turns whimsical, witty, informative, and inspirational, Mariposa Road is an extraordinary journey of discovery that leads the reader ever farther into butterfly country and deeper into the heart of the naturalist.
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of Pyle's other works should like this title.
2) Thompson III, Bill. Identifying and Feeding Birds. 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Paperback: 246 pages. Price: $14.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: This readable, friendly guide is intended for bird watchers and non–bird watchers alike—for anyone who wants to enjoy nature right in his or her own backyard.
The longtime editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest and author of numerous books on birds, Bill Thompson III has been feeding and watching birds for forty years. He has tried everything, and here he shares what he’s learned so that readers can avoid mistakes and skip right to successful bird feeding. He also debunks common myths about bird feeding: Does feeding birds stop them from migrating? Will birds starve if you leave your feeders empty after the birds have come to rely on them?
In an easygoing and lighthearted style, seven chapters cover all the elements needed to attract birds to a backyard (food, water, shelter) and address special cases and problems (keeping bees out of the hummingbird feeder, preventing birds from flying into windows, and much more). The final chapter profiles the 130 species that are most common at backyard feeders. No separate field guide is needed; it’s all right here—everything a beginner needs to know to attract birds and then figure out what kind they are.
RECOMMENDATION: A good general introduction on the subjects, but the eastern bias will limit its usefulness in western North America.