1) Downer, John. EarthFlight: Breathtaking Photographs from a Bird's-Eye View of the World. 2012. Firefly Books. Hardbound: 240 pages. Price: $49.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: For his award-winning In-Flight Movie, filmmaker John Downer devised a 61/2-ounce camera that could be carried by a trained buzzard. Eagle followed, for which Downer used a smaller video camera with an onboard transmitter to film a raptor's flight over the Alps. Supernatural continued the pioneering work, using a flock of greylag geese. Flock leader Buff was trained to carry a harness holding an even tinier camera, the "Goosecam," which captured amazing views from inside the flock.
EarthFlight, Downer's latest film project, is a six-part series. It uses spycams, microlights, hang-gliders, miniature helicopters and wirecams to give viewers a privileged perspective of birds in flight. Whether soaring 10,000 feet high over the Sahara or skimming yards over the Great Wall of China, EarthFlight the film allows viewers to take part in the miracle of flight.
Every page shows us what the birds see--winding shorelines, bustling cities, sunsets and storms, mountains, canyons and roiling seas--and the animals they encounter: pelicans diving for fish, a tiger drinking from a stream, migrating reindeer, dolphins playing, and in the desolation of the desert, a nomadic family. The book closes with a "Making of" chapter.
EarthFlight truly is a bird's eye view, a pioneering work of genius and a memorable journey around the world like no other.
RECOMMENDATION: Birders will want this coffee-table book!
2) Hill, Barry and John Wolseley. Lines for Birds: Poems & Paintings. 2011. UWA Publishing. Paperback: 224 pages. Price: $59.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Lines for Birds is the result of a rich collaboration between two distinguished artists, both long fascinated by nature’s beauty and power. Containing lush images by acclaimed painter John Wolseley and words by award-winning poet Barry Hill, this dazzling book weaves together a conversation between two venerable artists who, in a world of endangered nature, celebrate joy.
The book follows the flight paths and habitats of birds, from the Victorian Mallee to the forests of South East Asia, to Japan and the South of France.
This remarkable collection captures the very essence of Bird – its energy, inquisitiveness and daring – and is proof that these creatures suggest new ways of telling stories about the Earth.
RECOMMENDATION: For birders with an interest in art or poetry.
3) Rapai, William. The Kirtland's Warbler: The Story of a Bird's Fight Against Extinction and the People Who Saved It. 2012. University of Michigan Press. Hardbound: 204 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: At a time when the world is seeing its species rapidly go extinct, the Kirtland's warbler is not just a survivor, it's a rock star. The Kirtland's warbler is the rarest warbler species in North America and will always be rare because of its persnickety nesting preferences. But when the total population fell below 400 birds in the 1970s and 1980s—driven largely by a loss of habitat and the introduction of a parasite—a small group of dedicated biologists, researchers, and volunteers vowed to save the Kirtland's warbler despite long odds. This is the story of the warbler's survival and gradual recovery, the people and policies that kept it from extinction, and the ongoing challenges that may again jeopardize the bird's future.
In The Kirtland's Warbler, William Rapai explores the bird's fascinating natural history as well as the complex and evolving relationships between the warbler, its environment, its human protectors, and state and federal policies that today threaten to eradicate decades of work done on the species' behalf. Beginning with an account of the warbler's discovery in the mid-nineteenth century and ornithologists' desperate hunt for information on the elusive new species, the book goes on to examine the dramatic events that quickly led to the warbler's precarious status and its eventual emergence as a lightning rod for controversy.
The Kirtland's warbler is often described as a "bird of fire" for its preference for nesting in areas cleared by wildfire. But it also warrants the name for the passion it ignites in humans. Both tragic and uplifting, the story of this intriguing bird is a stirring example of how strong leadership, vision, commitment, sustained effort, and cooperation can come together to protect our natural world.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in this species.
This title can be bought from Buteo Books here
4) Wild, Dennis. The Double-Crested Cormorant: Symbol of Ecological Conflict. 2012. University of Michigan Press. Hardbound: 248 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: This is the story of the survival, recovery, astonishing success, and controversial status of the double-crested cormorant. After surviving near extinction driven by DDT and other contaminants from the 1940s through the early 1970s, the cormorant has made an unprecedented comeback from mere dozens to a population in the millions, bringing the bird again into direct conflict with humans. Hated for its colonial nesting behavior; the changes it brings to landscapes; and especially its competition with commercial and sports fishers, fisheries, and fish farmers throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi Delta regions, the cormorant continues to be persecuted by various means, including the shotgun.
In The Double-Crested Cormorant, Dennis Wild brings together the biological, social, legal, and international aspects of the cormorant's world to give a complete and balanced view of one of the Great Lakes' and perhaps North America's most misunderstood species. In addition to taking a detailed look at the complex natural history of the cormorant, the book explores the implications of congressional acts and international treaties, the workings and philosophies of state and federal wildlife agencies, the unrelenting efforts of aquaculture and fishing interests to "cull" cormorant numbers to "acceptable" levels, and the reactions and visions of conservation groups. Wild examines both popular preconceptions about cormorants (what kinds of fish they eat and how much) and the effectiveness of ongoing efforts to control the cormorant population. Finally, the book delves into the question of climate and terrain changes, their consequences for cormorants, the new territories to which the birds must adapt, and the conflicts this species is likely to face going forward.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in the species.