Thursday, February 27, 2014
1) Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. 2014. Henry Holt. Hardbound: 319 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.
RECOMMENDATION: Anyone with an interest in conservation should read this book.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
1) Palumbi, Stephen R. and Anthony R. Palumbi. The Extreme Life of the Sea. 2014. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 225 pages. Price: $27.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The ocean teems with life that thrives under difficult situations in unusual environments. The Extreme Life of the Sea takes readers to the absolute limits of the ocean world--the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans. It dives into the icy Arctic and boiling hydrothermal vents--and exposes the eternal darkness of the deepest undersea trenches--to show how marine life thrives against the odds. This thrilling book brings to life the sea's most extreme species, and tells their stories as characters in the drama of the oceans. Coauthored by Stephen Palumbi, one of today's leading marine scientists, The Extreme Life of the Sea tells the unforgettable tales of some of the most marvelous life forms on Earth, and the challenges they overcome to survive. Modern science and a fluid narrative style give every reader a deep look at the lives of these species.
The Extreme Life of the Sea shows you the world's oldest living species. It describes how flying fish strain to escape their predators, how predatory deep-sea fish use red searchlights only they can see to find and attack food, and how, at the end of her life, a mother octopus dedicates herself to raising her batch of young. This wide-ranging and highly accessible book also shows how ocean adaptations can inspire innovative commercial products--such as fan blades modeled on the flippers of humpback whales--and how future extremes created by human changes to the oceans might push some of these amazing species over the edge.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a general interest in marine biology.
1) Olsen, Penny. An Eye for Nature: The Life and Art of William T. Cooper. 2014. NLA Publishing. Hardbound: 278 pages. Price: $55.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In the work of artist William T. Cooper, platypuses swim in green underwater worlds, waves throw up blankets of spray, embers glow in the aftermath of a bushfire, a Thylacine emerges from the shadows, sniffing the air. But it is his paintings of birds which set Cooper apart—his raucous cockatoos, colourful parrots, animated turacos and flamboyantly displaying birds of paradise. Often placed in meticulously studied landscapes, these intricate bird portraits reveal Cooper’s close observation not only of his subjects’ appearance, but their habits, poses and behaviour.
In this biography, Penny Olsen traces the path of Cooper’s life and art—from his childhood spent in the bush, to his teenage years as an apprentice taxidermist at Carey Bay Zoo and, later, to his work as a window dresser and landscape artist. She documents his fruitful partnership with wife and collaborator Wendy Cooper and his extensive travels in Australia and abroad in pursuit of his subjects. Olsen’s commentary reveals the development of an artist and the trajectory of a life, while extracts from Cooper’s extensive field notebooks give an insight into his interests and processes.
Illustrated with photographs, paintings and sketches, and includes a portfolio of bird and landscape paintings that have never before been published. The foreword is by David Attenborough.
RECOMMENDATION: This book is a MUST have for fans of William T. Cooper's artwork! The book is available in the USA from Buteo Books here: http://www.buteobooks.com/product/NLA145&affiliate=birdbooker.html
and in the U.K. from NHBS.com here: http://www.nhbs.com/an_eye_for_nature_tefno_195059.html
Monday, February 24, 2014
1) Mack, Andrew L.. Searching for Pekpek: Cassowaries and Conservation in the New Guinea Rainforest. 2014. Cassowary Conservation and Publishing. Paperback: 235 pages. Price: $19.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Andrew Mack immersed himself in a vast expanse of roadless, old growth rainforest of Papua New Guinea in 1987.
He and his co-investigator Debra Wright, built a research station by hand and lived there for years. Their mission was to study the secretive and perhaps most dinosaur-like creature still roaming the planet: the cassowary.
The ensuing adventures of this unorthodox biologist--studying seeds found in cassowary droppings (pekpek), learning to live among the indigenous Pawai'ia, traversing jungles, fighting pests and loneliness, struggling against unscrupulous oil speculators, and more--are woven into a compelling tale that spans two decades. Mack shares the insights he garnered about rainforest ecology while studying something as seemingly mundane as cassowary pekpek. He ultimately gained profound insight into why conservation is failing in places like Papua New Guinea and struggled to create a more viable strategy for conserving some of Earth's last wild rainforests.
RECOMMENDATION: Anyone with an interest in New Guinean conservation should read this book.
My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here:http://www.scilogs.com/maniraptora/birdbooker-report-309/
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
1) Kennedy, Adam Scott and Vicki Kennedy. Animals of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Birds of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. 2014. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 152 and 224 pages respectively. Price: $27.95 U.S. each.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Containing 146 stunning color photos, Animals of the Serengeti is a remarkable book that covers the mammals and reptiles most likely to be encountered in the world-famous Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which includes the amazing Ngorongoro Crater. With an eye-catching design, accessible text, and easy-to-use format, this detailed photographic guide features 89 species of mammal and reptile. Useful "Top Tips"--shared by local Tanzanian guides who work in the region--provide visitors with insights into behavioral habits and help to locate specific animals. Filled with vivid anecdotes, Animals of the Serengeti will enable any safari traveler to identify the mammals and reptiles of the area with ease. This book features:
- Covers the 89 species most likely to be encountered in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- Fascinating insights into behavior and ecology
- Accessible text aimed at safari visitors of all levels
Located in northern Tanzania, the Serengeti is one of the most famous areas for wildlife in the world. Birds of the Serengeti is a groundbreaking and essential photographic guide, featuring more than 270 bird species--those most likely to be encountered in the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This easy-to-use guide contains over 480 dazzling color photos, has an attractive design, and includes accessible text that provides interesting information about the ecology and behaviors of each species. Rich in detail, this indispensable book follows a habitat-based approach, making it simple for everyone--from the novice to experienced birdwatcher--to put a name quickly to the birds they see in this fascinating part of the world. This book features:
- Covers more than 270 bird species most likely to be encountered in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and Lake Victoria's Speke Gulf
- Highlights the major plumage variations of each species
- Adopts a habitat-based approach
- Contains informative and accessible text
RECOMMENDATION: Two good general introductions to the wildlife of the region.
1) Duzdevich, Daniel. Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Modern Rendition. 2014. Indiana University Press. Paperback: 313 pages. Price: $30.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Charles Darwin’s most famous book On the Origin of Species is without question, one of the most important books ever written. While even the grandest works of Victorian English can prove difficult to modern readers, Darwin wrote his text in haste and under intense pressure. For an era in which Darwin is more talked about than read, Daniel Duzdevich offers a clear, modern English rendering of Darwin’s first edition. Neither an abridgement nor a summary, this version might best be described as a “translation” for contemporary English readers. A monument to reasoned insight, the Origin illustrates the value of extensive reflection, carefully gathered evidence, and sound scientific reasoning. By removing the linguistic barriers to understanding and appreciating the Origin, this edition aims to bring 21st-century readers into closer contact with Darwin’s revolutionary ideas.
RECOMMENDATION: Anyone with an interest in evolution should read this book.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Today marks the 6th anniversary of my The Birdbooker Report! Here's this week's column:
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
1) Lister, Adrian. Mammoths and Mastodons of the Ice Age. 2014. Firefly Books. Hardbound: 128 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Featuring stunning photographs of skeletons, casts, tusks and preserved flesh from the world-famous collections of the Natural History Museum in London and Chicago's Field Museum (home to the most complete and best preserved mammoth baby), this book reveals what life was like for these prehistoric giants whose remains invite so much modern fascination and speculation.
From 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago as global temperatures cooled, colossal mammals were an imposing presence on the Pleistocene landscape, roaming alongside humans across great swaths of Europe, Asia, and much of North America. Mammoths and Mastodons of the Ice Age explains the differences between these animals, describes their habitats and behaviors, and introduces other amazing creatures from the Ice Age, such as the saber-toothed cat, giant sloth, cave bear and dire wolf.
Drawing on current scientific research, including recently revealed DNA analysis that shows the real color of mammoths, Adrian Lister explores how hunters stalked the elephantine prey, why they died out and whether it's possible to clone them today. He also examines what wild elephants (their surviving cousins) tell us about their extinct ancestors and how the natural and human-caused challenges elephants face today may doom them to the same fate.
Mammoths and Mastodons of the Ice Age is a tie-in with the traveling museum exhibition "Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age," which opened in Chicago in 2010, and will tour through 2016. The similarly named 3D film has received rave reviews and undoubtedly will become a popular big-screen event, once the museum exhibition closes.
RECOMMENDATION: A good general introduction to the topic.
Monday, February 10, 2014
1) Birkhead, Tim, Jo Wimpenny, and Bob Montgomerie. Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin. 2014. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 524 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Ten Thousand Birds provides a thoroughly engaging and authoritative history of modern ornithology, tracing how the study of birds has been shaped by a succession of visionary and often-controversial personalities, and by the unique social and scientific contexts in which these extraordinary individuals worked. This beautifully illustrated book opens in the middle of the nineteenth century when ornithology was a museum-based discipline focused almost exclusively on the anatomy, taxonomy, and classification of dead birds. It describes how in the early 1900s pioneering individuals such as Erwin Stresemann, Ernst Mayr, and Julian Huxley recognized the importance of studying live birds in the field, and how this shift thrust ornithology into the mainstream of the biological sciences. The book tells the stories of eccentrics like Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, a pathological liar who stole specimens from museums and quite likely murdered his wife, and describes the breathtaking insights and discoveries of ambitious and influential figures such as David Lack, Niko Tinbergen, Robert MacArthur, and others who through their studies of birds transformed entire fields of biology.
Ten Thousand Birds brings this history vividly to life through the work and achievements of those who advanced the field. Drawing on a wealth of archival material and in-depth interviews, this fascinating book reveals how research on birds has contributed more to our understanding of animal biology than the study of just about any other group of organisms.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in ornithological history.
1) Howell, Steve N.G., Ian Lewington and Will Russell. Rare Birds of North America. 2014. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 428 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Rare Birds of North America is the first comprehensive illustrated guide to the vagrant birds that occur throughout the United States and Canada. Featuring 275 stunning color plates, this book covers 262 species originating from three very different regions--the Old World, the New World tropics, and the world's oceans. It explains the causes of avian vagrancy and breaks down patterns of occurrence by region and season, enabling readers to see where, when, and why each species occurs in North America. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, taxonomy, age, sex, distribution, and status.
Rare Birds of North America provides unparalleled insights into vagrancy and avian migration, and will enrich the birding experience of anyone interested in finding and observing rare birds. This book features:
- Covers 262 species of vagrant birds found in the United States and Canada
- Features 275 stunning color plates that depict every species
- Explains patterns of occurrence by region and season
- Provides an invaluable overview of vagrancy patterns and migration
- Includes detailed species accounts and cutting-edge identification tips
Monday, February 3, 2014
1) Fuller, Errol. Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record. 2014. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 256 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A photograph of an extinct animal evokes a greater feeling of loss than any painting ever could. Often black and white or tinted sepia, these remarkable images have been taken mainly in zoos or wildlife parks, and in some cases depict the last known individual of the species. Lost Animals is a unique photographic record of extinction, presented by a world authority on vanished animals. Richly illustrated throughout, this handsome book features photographs dating from around 1870 to as recently as 2004, the year that witnessed the demise of the Hawaiian Po'ouli. From a mother Thylacine and her pups to birds such as the Heath Hen and the Carolina Parakeet, Errol Fuller tells the story of each animal, explains why it became extinct, and discusses the circumstances surrounding the photography.
Covering 28 extinct species, Lost Animals includes familiar examples like the last Passenger Pigeon, Martha, and one of the last Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, photographed as it peers quizzically at the hat of one of the biologists who has just ringed it. But the book includes rare images as well, many never before published. Collected together here for the first time, these photographs provide a tangible link to animals that have now vanished forever, in a book that brings the past to life while delivering a warning for the future.
Poignant and compelling, Lost Animals also includes a concise introduction that looks at the earliest days of animal photography, and an appendix of drawings and paintings of the species covered.
RECOMMENDATION: For anyone with an interest in extinct animals or enjoys Fuller's works.
My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here: