Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Titles

1) Olsen, Klaus Malling and Hans Larsson. Skuas and Jaegers: A Guide to the Skuas and Jaegers of the World. 1997 (reprinted 2013). Helm. Hardbound: 190 pages. Price: $86.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Skuas (and jaegers) are a fascinating and ­popular group of seabirds that make up a subfamily of just seven species. They can be ­divided into two main groups: the larger species of Catharacta skuas which are mainly found in the southern hemisphere (with Great Skua breeding­ in the north), and the three Stercorarius species (also known as jaegers) which breed in the ­northern hemisphere. Both northern and southern skuas breed at high latitudes and several ­species are long-distance migrants, ­performing spectacular migrations through most of the world's oceans, ­sometimes even flying overland.
      The individual plumage variation in some species is enormous, creating one of the most puzzling yet fascinating challenges in modern field identification. This is the first complete identification guide to the skuas of the world. It is designed to enable species ­identification and correct ­ageing, and the information presented is based on years of study in the field, detailed
examination of photographs and ­museum skins, and ­extensive research of the ­relevant literature.
      The comprehensive text is accompanied by twelve exquisite colour plates by Hans Larsson, illustrating a wide range of plumages. In ­addition, there are eight pages of colour ­photographs and numerous black and white photographs and drawings that show key ­identification ­features. With this book, the seabird enthusiast­ should at last be able to ­identify almost every skua encountered, whether on a seawatch or at sea.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those with an interest in these species.

2) Shrubb, Michael. Feasting, Fowling and Feathers: A History of the Exploitation of Wild Birds. 2013. T & A D Poyser. Hardbound: 264 pages. Price: $86.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The way wild birds have been exploited over the centuries forms the focus of this remarkable new book by Michael Shrubb. It looks at the use of birds as food, for feathers and skins, for eggs, as cage birds, as specimens and for hunting, focusing on Britain, northern Europe and the North Atlantic. Never before has a book brought the huge amount of information on these topics in the academic literature together under one cover.
     Introductory chapters on what was taken, when, why and its impact are followed by a number of sections looking in detail at important bird groups. Along with discussions of broader themes of exploitation, the book is packed with amazing facts. For example, we learn:

• why Grey Herons were so important in medieval falconry
• why the Black Death was good news for bustards
• why Napoleon is to blame for the scarcity of Quail in Britain today
• when tame plover stew was all the rage

      The book concludes with discussions of the cage bird and plumage trades, both now consigned to the annals of history, in Britain at any rate. As well as summarising and condensing the material into a readable and entertaining account, Shrubb goes back to the original sources. This has allowed him to shed new and surprising light on the biogeography of a number of British birds.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in this topic or that collect the Poyser monograph series.

3) Titus, Alan L. and Mark A. Loewen (editors). At the Top of the Grand Staircase: The Late Cretaceous of Southern Utah. 2013. Indiana University Press. Hardbound: 634 pages. Price: $85.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah is the location of one of the best-known terrestrial records for the late Cretaceous. A major effort in the new century has documented over 2,000 new vertebrate fossil sites, provided new radiometric dates, and identified five new genera of ceratopsids, two new species of hadrosaur, a probable new genus of hypsilophodontid, new pachycephalosaurs and ankylosaurs, several kinds of theropods (including a new genus of oviraptor and a new tyrannosaur), plus the most complete specimen of a Late Cretaceous therizinosaur ever collected from North America, and much more. At the Top of the Grand Staircase: The Late Cretaceous of Southern Utah documents this major stepping stone toward a synthesis of the ecology and evolution of the Late Cretaceous ecosystems of western North America.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in this subject.

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