Monday, April 30, 2012

New Title

1) Gould, James L. and Carol Grant Gould. Nature's Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation. 2012. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 294 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: We know that animals cross miles of water, land, and sky with pinpoint precision on a daily basis. But it is only in recent years that scientists have learned how these astounding feats of navigation are actually accomplished. With colorful and thorough detail, Nature's Compass explores the remarkable methods by which animals find their way both near home and around the globe. Noted biologist James Gould and popular science writer Carol Gould delve into the elegant strategies and fail-safe backup systems, the invisible sensitivities and mysterious forces, and incredible mental abilities used by familiar and rare species, as they investigate a multitude of navigation strategies, from the simple to the astonishing.
     The Goulds discuss how animals navigate, without instruments and training, at a level far beyond human talents. They explain how animals measure time and show how the fragile monarch butterfly employs an internal clock, calendar, compass, and map to commence and measure the two-thousand-mile annual journey to Mexico--all with a brain that weighs only a few thousandths of an ounce. They look at honey bees and how they rely on the sun and mental maps to locate landmarks such as nests and flowers. And they examine whether long-distance migrants, such as the homing pigeon, depend on a global positioning system to let them know where they are. Ultimately, the authors ask if the disruption of migratory paths through habitat destruction and global warming is affecting and endangering animal species.
     Providing a comprehensive picture of animal navigation and migration, Nature's Compass decodes the mysteries of this extraordinary aspect of natural behavior.
RECOMMENDATION: A detailed treatment on the subject.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The WEEKLY Birdbooker Report

                                          Photo copyright: Joe Fuhrman
My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Turacos by Forshaw and Cooper

For fans of the works of Joseph M. Forshaw and artist William T. Cooper, Andrew Isles Natural History Books (of Australia) is selling their Turacos: A Natural History of the Musophagidae for $65.00 U.S. (plus shipping from Australia). It normally sells for $250.00 U.S.! See the link here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Titles

1) Thompson III, Bill. The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of North America. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Paperback: 364 pages. Price: $15.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Covering 300 of the most common birds in all of the United States and Canada, The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America is loaded with color photographs, drawings showing typical behaviors, range maps, an easy-to-use checklist, fun facts, and authoritative information about each bird, its vocalizations, and its habitat.
     While other field guides might overwhelm kids who are new to birding, The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America was created with help from kids. Bill Thompson’s own son and daughter and their elementary school classes helped select the content. Kid tested, kid approved!
RECOMMENDATION: A useful guide for beginning birders (both young and adult).

2) Young, Jon. What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 241 pages. Price: $22.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: A lifelong birder, tracker, and naturalist, Jon Young is guided in his work and teaching by three basic premises: the robin, junco, and other songbirds know everything important about their environment, be it backyard or forest; by tuning in to their vocalizations and behavior, we can acquire much of this wisdom for our own pleasure and benefit; and the birds' companion calls and warning alarms are just as important as their songs.
     Birds are the sentries—and our key to understanding the world beyond our front door. Unwitting humans create a zone of disturbance that scatters the wildlife. Respectful humans who heed the birds acquire an awareness that radically changes the dynamic. We are welcome in their habitat. The birds don't fly away. The larger animals don't race off. No longer hapless intruders, we now find, see, and engage the deer, the fox, the red-shouldered hawk—even the elusive, whispering wren.
     Deep bird language is an ancient discipline, perfected by Native peoples the world over. Finally, science is catching up. This groundbreaking book unites the indigenous knowledge, the latest research, and the author's own experience of four decades in the field to lead us toward a deeper connection to the animals and, in the end, a deeper connection to ourselves.
RECOMMENDATION: I would have subtitled this book: Zen and the Art of Bird Listening. This book details an interesting approach to understanding nature.


1) Beadle, David and Seabrooke Leckie. Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Paperback: 611 pages. Price: $29.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: There are thousands of moth species in the northeast of North America, and while it might seem that they are all drab grays and browns, there is actually a startling variety. They come in a rainbow of colors, from brilliant oranges and pinks to soft greens and violets. There are moths with colorful leopardlike spots, and ones that look more like B-movie aliens; some that are as large as your hand, and others the size of a grain of rice.
     With helpful tips on how to attract and identify moths, range maps and season graphs showing at a glance when and where to find each species, and clear photographs that use the unique Peterson arrow system for easy identification, this guide provides everything an amateur or experienced moth-watcher needs.
     Sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for all North American moth-ers out there!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Titles

1) Gunnell, Gregg F. and Nancy B. Simmons (editors). Evolutionary History of Bats: Fossils, Molecules and Morphology. 2012. Cambridge University Press. Paperback: 560 pages. Price: $65.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: Advances in morphological and molecular methods continue to uncover new information on the origin and evolution of bats. Presenting some of the most remarkable discoveries and research involving living and fossil bats, this book explores their evolutionary history from a range of perspectives. Phylogenetic studies based on both molecular and morphological data have established a framework of evolutionary relationships that provides a context for understanding many aspects of bat biology and diversification. In addition to detailed studies of the relationships and diversification of bats, the topics covered include the mechanisms and evolution of powered flight, evolution and enhancement of echolocation, feeding ecology, population genetic structure, ontogeny and growth of facial form, functional morphology and evolution of body size. The book also examines the fossil history of bats from their beginnings over 50 million years ago to their diversification into one of the most globally wide-spread orders of mammals living today.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in bat evolution.

2) Tattersall, Ian. Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins. 2012. MacMillian. Hardbound: 266 pages. Price: $26.00 U.S., £16.99.

SUMMARY: When Homo sapiens made their entrance about 200,000 years ago they were confronted by a wide range of other early humans - Homo erectus, who walked better and used fire; Homo habilis who used tools; and of course the Neanderthals, who were brawny and strong. But shortly after their arrival, something happened that vaulted the species forward and made them the indisputable masters of the planet. This book is devoted to revealing just what that difference is. It explores how the physical traits and cognitive ability of homo sapiens distanced them from the rest of nature. Even more importantly, Masters of the Planet looks at how our early ancestors acquired these superior abilities; it shows that their strange and unprecedented mental facility is not, as most of us were taught, simply a basic competence that was refined over unimaginable eons by natural selection. Instead, it is an emergent capacity that was acquired quite recently and changed the world definitively.
RECOMMENDATION: A detailed account on the rise of our species.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Title

1) Firestein, Stuart. Ignorance: How It Drives Science. 2012. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 195 pages. Price: $21.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Knowledge is a big subject, says Stuart Firestein, but ignorance is a bigger one. And it is ignorance--not knowledge--that is the true engine of science.
     Most of us have a false impression of science as a surefire, deliberate, step-by-step method for finding things out and getting things done. In fact, says Firestein, more often than not, science is like looking for a black cat in a dark room, and there may not be a cat in the room. The process is more hit-or-miss than you might imagine, with much stumbling and groping after phantoms. But it is exactly this "not knowing," this puzzling over thorny questions or inexplicable data, that gets researchers into the lab early and keeps them there late, the thing that propels them, the very driving force of science. Firestein shows how scientists use ignorance to program their work, to identify what should be done, what the next steps are, and where they should concentrate their energies. And he includes a catalog of how scientists use ignorance, consciously or unconsciously--a remarkable range of approaches that includes looking for connections to other research, revisiting apparently settled questions, using small questions to get at big ones, and tackling a problem simply out of curiosity. The book concludes with four case histories--in cognitive psychology, theoretical physics, astronomy, and neuroscience--that provide a feel for the nuts and bolts of ignorance, the day-to-day battle that goes on in scientific laboratories and in scientific minds with questions that range from the quotidian to the profound.
     Turning the conventional idea about science on its head, Ignorance opens a new window on the true nature of research. It is a must-read for anyone curious about science.

This books features:

*The book argues that ignorance, not knowledge, is what drives science
*The book provides a fascinating inside-view of the way every-day science is actually done
*The book features intriguing case histories of how individual scientists use ignorance to direct their research

RECOMMENDATION: An interesting take on what it means to do science.

Monday, April 23, 2012

New Titles

1) Bonner, Hannah. When Dinos Dawned, Mammals Got Munched, & Pterosaurs Took Flight: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life in the Triassic. 2012. National Geographic. Hardbound: 44 pages. Price: $17.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: In the style of WHEN BUGS WERE BIG and WHEN FISH GOT FEET this book discusses all the exciting developments of the Triassic Age, from the recovery of the planet from the most deadly mass extinction ever, to the first appearance of the dinosaurs. We also get to meet the first mammals, the first pterosaurs (flying reptiles), the first frogs, a host of predatory marine reptiles, early turtles, and the first coral reefs. With the books' signature blend of humor and clearly presented information, cartoon illustrations help keep the fact-filled material extra fun.
RECOMMENDATION: For ages 8-12. If you enjoyed the authors' other titles, you should enjoy this one.

2) Johnson, Forrest Bryant. The Last Camel Charge: The Untold Story of America's Desert Military Experiment. 2012. Berkley Caliber. Hardbound: 365 pages. Price: $25.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: The Last Camel Charge is the first book to tell the complete story and document in detail the military's experiment with camels. At the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, a need emerged for control of-and transportation through-the country's vast new western territories. The hostile environment proved a challenge to the Army's traditional mounts, and in a radical move, the War Department ordered a Navy ship and its captain to the Mid-East to purchase camels and deliver them to an Army post in Texas.
     The mission brought together an extraordinary group of people: innovative rancher Samuel A. Bishop, whose desperation over the Mojave gave birth to the idea; Mexican War hero Lt. Edward F. Beale, placed in command of the newly arrived beasts, who would forge a wagon trail westward. At the same time, Colonel Albert S. Johnston was leading troops against the Mormons and Hadji "Hi Jolly" Ali, who accompanied the great beasts overseas, would become known as one of America's first Muslim immigrants.
     Reaching speeds up to forty miles an hour, traveling days without water, and able to carry three times the weight of a mule, camels helped to subdue enemies, reach new frontiers, and unite a nation. And now, The Last Camel Charge gives them their due as a vital piece of American history.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Western U.S. and/or military history.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Weekly Birdbooker Report

                                     Photo copyright: Joe Fuhrman
My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Recent Title

1) Jones, H. Lee. Birds of Belize. 2003 (reprinted 2010). University of Texas Press. Paperback: 317 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: With nearly six hundred identified species of birds—and an average of five "new" species discovered annually—Belize is becoming a birding hotspot for amateur and professional birders from around the globe. Thousands of birders visit the country each year to enjoy Belize's amazing abundance and variety of both temperate and tropical birds in natural habitats that remain largely unspoiled. But until now, despite the growing need for an authoritative identification guide, birders have had to rely on regional field guides that offer only limited information on Belizean birds.

     Birds of Belize provides the first complete guide to the identification of all currently known species—574 in all. The birds are grouped by families, with an introduction to each family that highlights its uniquely identifying characteristics and behaviors. The species accounts include all the details necessary for field identification: scientific and common names, size, plumage features, thorough voice descriptions, habitat, distribution, and status in Belize. Full color, expertly drawn illustrations by noted bird artist Dana Gardner present male and female, juvenile and adult, and basic and alternate plumages to aid visual identification throughout the year, while 234 range maps show the birds' distribution and seasonality in Belize. A comprehensive bibliography completes the volume.
RECOMMENDATION: The color plates, text and black-and-white range maps are in separate sections. Birders will find this book useful!

New Title

1) Grahame-Smith, Seth. Unholy Night. 2012. Grand Central Publishing. Hardbound: 309 pages. Price: $24.99 U.S.

SUMMARY: From the author of the New York Times bestselling Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, comes UNHOLY NIGHT, the next evolution in dark historical revisionism.
    They're an iconic part of history's most celebrated birth. But what do we really know about the Three Kings of the Nativity, besides the fact that they followed a star to Bethlehem bearing strange gifts? The Bible has little to say about this enigmatic trio. But leave it to Seth Grahame-Smith, the brilliant and twisted mind behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to take a little mystery, bend a little history, and weave an epic tale.
     In Grahame-Smith's telling, the so-called "Three Wise Men" are infamous thieves, led by the dark, murderous Balthazar. After a daring escape from Herod's prison, they stumble upon the famous manger and its newborn king. The last thing Balthazar needs is to be slowed down by young Joseph, Mary and their infant. But when Herod's men begin to slaughter the first born in Judea, he has no choice but to help them escape to Egypt.
     It's the beginning of an adventure that will see them fight the last magical creatures of the Old Testament; cross paths with biblical figures like Pontius Pilate and John the Baptist; and finally deliver them to Egypt. It may just be the greatest story never told.
RECOMMENDATION: Not for the squeamish (violent fight scenes) and/or conservative religious types (the irreverent humor). My guess is that it won't sell as well as the author's previous two titles.

Friday, April 20, 2012

New Titles

The following three titles were published by Johns Hopkins University Press:

1) Choe, Jae. Secret Lives of Ants. 2012. Hardbound: 156 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: In the great naturalist tradition of E. O. Wilson, Jae Choe takes readers into a miniature world dominated by six-legged organisms. This is the world of the ant, an insect that humans, as well as most other life forms, depend upon for their very survival.
     Easily one of the most important animals on earth, ants seem to mirror the actions, emotions, and industries of the human population, often more effectively than humans do themselves. They developed ranching and farming long before humans, and their division of labor resembles the assembly lines of automobile factories and multinational enterprises. Self-sacrifice and a finely tuned chemical language are the foundations of their monarchical society, which is capable of waging large-scale warfare and taking slaves. Tales of their massacres and atrocities, as well as struggles for power, are all too reminiscent of our own.
     The reality of ant society is more fascinating than even the most creative minds could imagine. Choe combines expert scientific knowledge with a real passion for these miniscule marvels. His vivid descriptions are paired with captivating illustrations and photographs to introduce readers to the economics, culture, and intrigue of the ant world. All of nature is revealed through the secret lives of the amazing ants. In the words of the author, "Once you get to know them, you'll love them."
RECOMMENDATION: A good general introduction to the biology of ants.

2) Pietsch, Theodore W.. Trees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution. 2012. Hardbound: 358 pages. Price: $69.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: For the past 450 years, tree-like branching diagrams have been created to show the complex and surprising interrelationships of organisms, both living and fossil, from viruses and bacteria to birds and mammals. This stunning book celebrates the manifest beauty, intrinsic interest, and human ingenuity of these exquisite trees of life.
     Theodore W. Pietsch has chosen 230 trees of life—from among thousands of possible contenders—dating from the sixteenth century to the present day. His arrangement gives readers a visual sense of the historical development of these diagrams and shows how, in Darwin's words, "from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
     Pietsch's brief, accessible prose accompanies the diverse trees to fully reveal the engrossing history of human theories of evolution. Over the centuries, trees of life appeared in a wide variety of forms; some were revered as iconic while others incited intense controversy. The earliest examples were meant to portray the imagined temporal order in which God created life on Earth. More recent scientific trees represent hypothetical histories of life.
     Never before has the full spectrum of trees of life been brought together in a single volume. Pietsch has spent decades collecting and researching the origin and meaning of these evolutionary trees and presents a visually breathtaking and intellectually brilliant history of the form.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of evolution.

3) Maines, Rachel P.. The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction. 1999 (2001). Paperback: 181 pages. Price: $22.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: From the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, massaging female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians in the treatment of "hysteria," an ailment once considered both common and chronic in women. Doctors loathed this time-consuming procedure and for centuries relied on midwives. Later, they substituted the efficiency of mechanical devices, including the electric vibrator, invented in the 1880s. In The Technology of Orgasm, Rachel Maines offers readers a stimulating, surprising, and often humorous account of hysteria and its treatment throughout the ages, focusing on the development, use, and fall into disrepute of the vibrator as a legitimate medical device.
RECOMMENDATION: This isn't a "how to" manual but a serious look at the history of this useful device! Plus it's a perfect tie-in to the forthcoming movie "Hysteria":

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Title

1) Fitch, Walter M.. The Three Failures of Creationism: Logic, Rhetoric, and Science. 2012. University of California Press. Paperback: 177 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Walter M. Fitch (1929-2011) was a pioneer in the study of molecular evolution, has written this cogent overview of why creationism fails with respect to all the fundamentals of scientific inquiry. He explains the basics of logic and rhetoric at the heart of scientific thinking, shows what a logical syllogism is, and tells how one can detect that an argument is logically fallacious, and therefore invalid, or even duplicitous. Fitch takes his readers through the arguments used by creationists to question the science of evolution. He clearly delineates the fallacies in logic that characterize creationist thinking, and explores the basic statistics that creationists tend to ignore, including elementary genetics, the age of the Earth, and fossil dating. His book gives readers the tools they need for detecting and disassembling the ideas most frequently repeated by creationists.
RECOMMENDATION: A useful overview on the creationism vs. evolution debate.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Southern Africa Titles

The following four field guides are published by Struik Nature:

1) Apps, Peter (editor). Smithers' Mammals of Southern Africa: A Field Guide. 2000. Paperback: 364 pages. Price: $30.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: With expanded information on each species, this book will satisfy the interests of the general reader as well as the wildlife enthusiast. The book now also includes entries on the whales, dolphins and seals that can be seen along the southern African coastline. Black and white line drawings showing the relative scale of groups of similar mammals have been included to further aid identification. Dr. Peter Apps is a respected mammologist and the author of Wild Ways: A Field Guide to the Behaviour of Southern African Mammals. A second edition is in the works!

2-3) Stuart, Chris & Tilde. Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa and Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa (revised editions). 2007 and 2006 respectively. Paperbacks: 307 and 320 pages. Price: $31.00 each.
SUMMARY: Southern Africa has a wealth of mammal species, a total of 337 – all of which are covered in this fully revised comprehensive field guide. While the term ‘African mammals’ conjures up the more celebrated species of elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino, it is in fact the smaller animals – shrews, genets, suricates and bats – that comprise the bulk of the region's mammal species. And, often overlooked but included here too is the diversity of marine mammals – seals, whales and dolphins – that are found in our oceans.
     This new edition of Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa has been extensively revised to include the most recent research in line with new findings and new taxonomy. Up-to-date information, revised distribution maps and new images (where available) have been combined in a modern, full-color layout. Color-coding has been introduced according family groupings and spoor and size icons are included for quick reference with each mammal entry. Another new feature is the inclusion of skulls, grouped at the back of the book for easy comparison. In addition to detailed descriptions of each species, the text offers insight into key identification characters, typical behavior, preferred habitat, food choice and reproduction.
     Of the world's 4,000 to 4,500 mammal species, about 1,100 occur in Africa. In this updated and revised edition of Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa, authors Chris and Tilde Stuart concentrate on the more visible and easily distinguished larger mammal species, plus some of the more frequently seen smaller mammals. In all, over 400 color photographs, combined with concise, pertinent information highlighting the diagnostic features of each species, provide a comprehensive source of information on each mammal. The latest information has been incorporated and the distribution maps have been revised to reflect the most up-to-date habitat and distribution patterns for each species. A new feature is the inclusion of the mammals' skulls, grouped together at the back of the book. To aid the reader, color-coding and symbols indicating the habitat and activity period serve as a quick reference to the various mammal groups.
RECOMMENDATION: Anyone with an interest in the mammals of the region will find these guides useful.

4) Sinclair, Ian and Peter Ryan. Birds of Southern Africa: Complete Photographic Field Guide. 2009. Paperback: 432 pages. Price: $35.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: This photographic field guide to the birds of southern Africa presents more than 2,500 images showing a wide selection of age and sex plumage variations, perched and in-flight birds, and color morphs where relevant, making it the most comprehensive collection of bird photographs of the region ever produced in a single volume.
     Accompanying text focuses on identification, call, status, breeding details and diet. Also included for each species is a distribution map and a calendar bar indicating occurrence and breeding months.
RECOMMENDATION: A very useful photographic guide to the region!

5) Scholtz, Clarke H. and Erik Holm. Insects of Southern Africa. 2008. Protea Book House. Hardbound: 502 pages. Price: $115.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Southern Africa has a particularly rich and varied insect fauna, consisting of 26 orders, 579 families and about 80,000 species (currently recorded). This wealth of information on the systematics and biology of southern African insect groups has not been comprehensively treated before and is here condensed by 48 contributors, each of whom is an authority on a particular group.
     A work of this nature requires a balance between scientific accuracy and utility so that the information will be easily accessible and comprehensible to professional and amateur entomologists alike. In this work, the scientist will find enough general information to lead him or her to more detailed works while the amateur entomologist will find sufficient explanation in the text, color plates and a glossary.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in the insects of the region.

New Titles

1) Castro, Isabel and Rod Morris. Kiwi: A Natural History. 2011. New Holland. Paerpback: 95 pages. Price: NZD 29.99 (about $24.46 U.S.).

SUMMARY: New Zealand’s best-known bird and national icon is the subject of this new and highly accessible title from two experts in their field. There are five recognised species of kiwi, distributed unevenly in locations throughout New Zealand and ranging from the most widespread – the North Island brown kiwi – to the most endangered (the little spotted kiwi). Along with stunning photographs from award-winning wildlife photographer Rod Morris, native bird expert Dr Isabel Castro describes all key aspects of kiwi, from their evolution, prehistory and closest relatives (based on the latest research) to their feeding and breeding behaviour and current conservation issues, making this the perfect introduction for anyone with an interest in these fascinating birds.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to these birds.

2) Moon, Lynnette et al.. New Zealand Bird Calls. 2011. New Holland. Paperback: 47 pages with CD. Price: NZD 29.99 (about $24.46 U.S.).
SUMMARY: New Zealand is known for its birds, and the melodic quality of their song.Here, in one book and CD package is a selection of 60 of the most popular, important or interesting birds.
     In the book, each bird entry includes information about habitat, distribution, appearance and behaviour of the bird, along with a description of its calls. Each entry is illustrated with photographs from the renowned collection of Geoff Moon, making identification easy.
     The CD, contained in a plastic envelope on the book’s inside back cover, contains 60 tracks, one per bird, and each track includes up to three different calls, such as alarm, territory and courtship songs.
     New Zealand Bird Calls is an essential guide for any beginner or bird enthusiast to enjoy in the field or at home, and it will open up new ways to get to know birds by their calls.
RECOMMENDATION: The species are announced on the CD. Those birding in New Zealand will find this publication useful!

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Title

1) Magner, Mike. Poisoned Legacy: The Human Cost of BP's Rise to Power. 2012. Picador. Paperback: 417 pages. Price: $18.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing eleven workers and creating the largest oil spill in the history of U.S. offshore drilling. But this wasn’t the first time British Petroleum and its cost-cutting practices destroyed parts of the natural world. It also was not the first time that BP’s negligence resulted in the loss of human life, ruined family businesses, or shattered dreams. From Alaska to Kansas to the Gulf, journalist Mike Magner has been tracking BP’s reckless path for years, and in Poisoned Legacy he focuses, for the first time, on the human price of BP’s rise to power.
RECOMMENDATION: If you want the backstory on BP and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, read this book!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The WEEKLY Birdbooker Report

                                 Photo copyright: Joe Fuhrman

My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here:

Friday, April 13, 2012

New Title

1) Wolverton, Barry. Neversink. 2012. Walden Pond Press. Hardbound: 288 pages. Price: $16.99 U.S.

SUMMARY: Along the Arctic Circle lies a small island called Neversink, whose jagged cliffs and ice-gouged rocks are home to a colony of odd-looking seabirds called auks, including one Lockley J. Puffin. With their oceanfront views and plentiful supply of fish, the auks have few concerns—few, save for Lockley's two best friends, Egbert and Ruby, a know-it-all walrus and a sharp-tongued hummingbird.
     But all of this is about to change. Rozbell, the newly crowned king of the Owl Parliament, is dealing with a famine on the mainland of Tytonia—and he has long had his scheming eyes on the small colony to the north. Now Neversink's independence hangs in the balance. An insurgence of owls will inevitably destroy life as the auks know it—unless Lockley can do something about it.
     Barry Wolverton's debut is an epic tale of some very un-epic birds, a fast-paced and funny story of survival, friendship, and fish.
RECOMMENDATION: For ages 8-12. Wolverton emailed me to confirm my suspicion that the main character Lockley was named after Welsh ornithologist Ronald Mathias Lockley (8 November 1903 - 12 April 2000) who in 1953 had the book Puffins published by Dent of London. Lockley wrote The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964), which played an important role in the plot development of Richard Adams' famous book Watership Down. Fans of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series should enjoy this book!

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Title

1) Earley, Chris G.. Hawks and Owls of Eastern North America (second edition). 2012. Firefly Books. Paperback: 144 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: With their legendary nocturnal behavior, a preference for remote habitats, changing migratory patterns, and swift flight speeds, birds of prey are particularly difficult to identify and track. Hawks and Owls of Eastern North America depicts the subtle differences and rich diversity among these magnificent birds. Precise identification notes and more than 200 crisp, clean photographs aid in quick and accurate classifications of a variety of raptors.
    The book profiles 39 species among the New World vultures, osprey, kites, eagles, hawks and allies, falcons, owls and vagrants.
     A number of features make this book especially useful:

*Descriptions are concisely organized and show sexual dimorphism, seasonal and immature plumage, and distinctive markings
*Photographs show the birds in their natural environments through the seasons
*Range maps show where each species is normally found, increasing the probability of a sighting
*Comparison charts with "look-alike" birds grouped on a single page are a distinct advantage when trying to identify a quick-flying hawk.

     With 16 additional new pages and over 200 photographs, this edition of Hawks and Owls of Eastern North America is indispensable to naturalists and birders.
RECOMMENDATION: A good general introduction to the identification of raptors of the region.

This title is available from Buteo Books here.

New Title

1) Sagarin, Rafe. Learning from the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease. 2012. Basic Books. Hardbound: 284 pages. Price: $26.99 U.S.

SUMMARY: Despite the billions of dollars we’ve poured into foreign wars, homeland security, and disaster response, we are fundamentally no better prepared for the next terrorist attack or unprecedented flood than we were in 2001. Our response to catastrophe remains unchanged: add another step to airport security, another meter to the levee wall. This approach has proved totally ineffective: reacting to past threats and trying to predict future risks will only waste resources in our increasingly unpredictable world. In Learning from the Octopus, ecologist and security expert Rafe Sagarin rethinks the seemingly intractable problem of security by drawing inspiration from a surprising source: nature. Biological organisms have been living—and thriving—on a risk-filled planet for billions of years. Remarkably, they have done it without planning, predicting, or trying to perfect their responses to complex threats. Rather, they simply adapt to solve the challenges they continually face.
    Military leaders, public health officials, and business professionals would all like to be more adaptable, but few have figured out how. Sagarin argues that we can learn from observing how nature is organized, how organisms learn, how they create partnerships, and how life continually diversifies on this unpredictable planet. As soon as we dip our toes into a cold Pacific tidepool and watch what we thought was a rock turn into an octopus, jetting away in a cloud of ink, we can begin to see the how human adaptability can mimic natural adaptation. The same mechanisms that enabled the octopus’s escape also allow our immune system to ward off new infectious diseases, helped soldiers in Iraq to recognize the threat of IEDs, and aided Google in developing faster ways to detect flu outbreaks. While we will never be able to predict the next earthquake, terrorist attack, or market fluctuation, nature can guide us in developing security systems that are not purely reactive but proactive, holistic, and adaptable. From the tidepools of Monterey to the mountains of Kazakhstan, Sagarin takes us on an eye-opening tour of the security challenges we face, and shows us how we might learn to respond more effectively to the unknown threats lurking in our future.
RECOMMENDATION: Food for thought in our post 9-11 world!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The WEEKLY Birdbooker Report

                              Photo copyright: Joe Fuhrman                               

My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

New Titles

1) Birkhead, Tim. Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird. 2012. Walker & Company. Hardbound: 265 pages. Price: $25.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: Most people would love to be able to fly like a bird, but few of us are aware of the other sensations that make being a bird a gloriously unique experience. What is going on inside the head of a nightingale as it sings, and how does its brain improvise? How do desert birds detect rain hundreds of kilometers away? How do birds navigate by using an innate magnetic compass?
     Tracing the history of how our knowledge about birds has grown, particularly through advances in technology over the past fifty years, Bird Sense tells captivating stories about how birds interact with one another and their environment. More advanced testing methods have debunked previously held beliefs, such as female starlings selecting mates based on how symmetrical the male’s plumage markings are. (Whereas females can discern the difference between symmetrical and asymmetrical markings, they are not very good at detecting small differences among symmetrically marked males!)
     Never before has there been a popular book about how intricately bird behavior is shaped by birds’ senses. A lifetime spent studying birds has provided Tim Birkhead with a wealth of fieldwork experiences, insights, and a unique understanding of birds, all firmly grounded in science. No one who reads Bird Sense can fail to be dazzled by it.
RECOMMENDATION: A note for North American readers: the author uses the British name for Uria aalge; Guillemot instead of Common Murre. This book is a readable introduction into how birds perceive the world around them.

2) Lewis, Daniel. The Feathery Tribe: Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds. 2012. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 346 pages. Price: $45.00.
SUMMARY: Amateurs and professionals studying birds at the end of the nineteenth century were a contentious, passionate group with goals that intersected, collided and occasionally merged in their writings and organizations. Driven by a desire to advance science, as well as by ego, pride, honor, insecurity, religion and other clashing sensibilities, they struggled to absorb the implications of evolution after Darwin. In the process, they dramatically reshaped the study of birds.
     Daniel Lewis here explores the professionalization of ornithology through one of its key figures: Robert Ridgway, the Smithsonian Institution’s first curator of birds and one of North America’s most important natural scientists. Exploring a world in which the uses of language, classification and accountability between amateurs and professionals played essential roles, Lewis offers a vivid introduction to Ridgway and shows how his work fundamentally influenced the direction of American and international ornithology. He explores the inner workings of the Smithsonian and the role of collectors working in the field and reveals previously unknown details of the ornithological journal The Auk and the untold story of the color dictionaries for which Ridgway is known.
RECOMMENDATION: A detailed biography of one of the pioneers of American ornithology.

This title is available from Buteo Books here.

3) Moore, Jerry D.. The Prehistory of Home. 2012. University of California Press. Hardbound: 269 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Many animals build shelters, but only humans build homes. No other species creates such a variety of dwellings. Drawing examples from across the archaeological record and around the world, archaeologist Jerry D. Moore recounts the cultural development of the uniquely human imperative to maintain domestic dwellings. He shows how our houses allow us to physically adapt to the environment and conceptually order the cosmos, and explains how we fabricate dwellings and, in the process, construct our lives. The Prehistory of Home points out how houses function as symbols of equality or proclaim the social divides between people, and how they shield us not only from the elements, but increasingly from inchoate fear.
RECOMMENDATION: If you ever wondered about the origin and meaning of Home, here's the book for you!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New Title

1) Little, Rob and Tim Crowe. Gamebirds of Southern Africa (2nd edition). 2011. Struik Nature. Hardbound: 135 pages. Price: $33.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: This lavish book presents the 21 upland gamebird species from southern Africa: francolins and spurfowls (12 species), quails (3 species), guineafowls (2 species) and sandgrouse (4 species). The authoritative text is matched by detailed and beautifully illustrated plates of each species. An essential book for bird and art lovers, as well as the conservation-minded.
     The text draws on the large body of scientific research accumulated over decades, and the illustrated plates of each species are works of art, conveying in painstaking detail each species' diagnostic features and precise environment.
RECOMMENDATION: The artwork by Simon Barlow highlights this book! For anyone with an interest in the birds of the region.

This title is available from Buteo Books here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

New Title

1) Sibley, David. Sibley Backyard Birding Flashcards. 2012. Potter Style. Box with 100 cards. Price: $14.99 U.S.

SUMMARY: Learn to identify your backyard birds with the help of leading ornithologist David Sibley. Inside this box you'll find one deck of 50 common Western and Eastern North American birds and one deck of 50 common birds found across North America. Each card features vibrant illustrations and captions about behavior and voice description for easy identification.
RECOMMENDATION: A useful tool for beginning birders.

This title is available from Buteo Books here.        

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Weekly Birdbooker Report

                                   Photo copyright: Joe Fuhrman                     

My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here: