Sunday, December 9, 2018

Best Bird Books of 2018



The following are my picks for the best bird books of 2018:

 BEST BOOK:



1) Shirihai, Hadoram and Lars Svensson. Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Passerines. 2018. Helm. Hardbound: 1271 pages in 2 volumes with slipcase. Price: $250.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This unique and spectacular handbook is the most complete and comprehensive photographic guide to the passerines of the Western Palearctic. Written by two of the world's most respected ornithologists, Hadoram Shirihai and Lars Svensson, the Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds contains the most up-to-date information available on bird identification covering all aspects of plumage, moult, aging and sexing, with sections on voice and other identification criteria, and detailed taxonomic notes.
     The handbook is divided into two volumes, with the first covering larks, hirundines, pipits and wagtails, bulbuls, accentors, robins, chats, wheatears, thrushes, prinias and cisticolas, and warblers, and the second covering flycatchers, reedlings, tits, nuthatches, orioles and sunbirds, shrikes, corvids, finches, and buntings, along with extreme vagrants.
     The exceptional text is backed up by a stunning collection of more than 4,000 photographs, featuring a comprehensive range of plumages that illustrate every race and morph of each species in the region.
     This stunning handbook will be the definitive reference for the region for years to come--no birder's shelf will be complete without it. 
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST HAVE for those with a serious interest in the birds of the Western Palearctic!

 
HONORABLE MENTIONS:
 
 
 
1) Greeney, Harold and David Beadle. Antpittas and Gnateaters. 2018. Helm. Hardbound: 496 pages. Price: $65.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Elusive study organisms for ornithologists and highly prized additions to the birder's life-list, the antpittas (Grallariidae) and gnateaters (Conopophagidae) are among the most poorly known Neotropical bird groups. This authoritative handbook is the first book dedicated solely to these two families, combining an exhaustive review of more than two centuries of literature with original observations by the author and many knowledgeable contributors.
     Antpittas and Gnateaters provides a thorough guide to the identification and ecology of these birds, with detailed maps accompanying the text. A series of superb plates illustrate most of the 156 recognized taxa; supplemented by more than 250 colour photographs, the immature plumages and natural history of many species are depicted for the first time.
     This book is the ultimate reference on these remarkable and beautiful birds, and an indispensable addition to the libraries of researchers and birders for many years to come.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those with an interest in these species! David Beadle's artwork highlights this book.
 
 
2) Clark, Bill and Rob Davies. African Raptors. 2018. Helm. Hardbound: 336 pages. Price: $75.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Africa has the most diverse range of raptors of any continent, with almost a third of the world's species occurring in the region. This comprehensive new book examines all of these species in impressive detail, emphasizing their field identification. A full range of plumages is illustrated for each species, with each plate usually covering only two species.
     The specially commissioned artwork has been painted by raptor enthusiast Rob Davies. The authoritative text treats the identification of both perched and in-flight birds and covers all major plumages and morphs. These texts are accompanied by up-to-date range maps and many fabulous color photographs from some of the world's leading bird photographers. This new book will be an essential reference for all those with an interest in raptors and especially in African raptors.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in African raptors!
 
 
 
3) Olsen, Klaus Malling. Gulls of the World: A Photographic Guide. 2018. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 368 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: With more than 50 gull species in the world, this family of seabirds poses some of the greatest field identification challenges of any bird group: age-related plumage changes, extensive variations within species, frequent hybridization, and complex distribution.
     Gulls of the World takes on these challenges and is the first book to provide a comprehensive look at these birds. Concise text emphasizes field identification, with in-depth discussion of variations as well as coverage of habitat, status, and distribution. Abundant photographs highlight identification criteria and, crucially, factor in age and subspecific field separation. Informative species accounts are accompanied by detailed color range maps.
     Gulls of the World is the most authoritative photographic guide to this remarkable bird family.
  • The first book to provide in-depth coverage of all the world's gull species
  • More than 600 stunning color photographs
  • Concise text looks at variations, habitat, status, and distribution
  • Informative species accounts and color range maps
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for all Larophiles!
 
 
 
4) Johnson, Kirk Wallace. The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century. 2018. Viking. Hardbound: 308 pages. Price: $27.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin's obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins—some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them—and escaped into the darkness.
     Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man's relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man's destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.

RECOMMENDATION: An interesting true life crime story involving bird specimens and fly-fishing.
 
 
 
5) Vallely, Andrew and Dale Dyer. Birds of Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. 2018. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 584 pages. Price: $49.50 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Birds of Central America is the first comprehensive field guide to the avifauna of the entire region, including Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Handy and compact, the book presents text and illustrations for nearly 1,200 resident and migrant species, and information on all rare vagrants. Two hundred sixty detailed plates on convenient facing-page spreads depict differing ages and sexes for each species, with a special focus on geographic variation. The guide also contains up-to-date range maps and concise notes on distribution, habitat, behavior, and voice. An introduction provides a brief overview of the region’s landscape, climate, and biogeography.
     The culmination of more than a decade of research and field experience, Birds of Central America is an indispensable resource for all those interested in the bird life of this part of the world.
  • Detailed information on the entire avifauna of Central America
  • 260 beautiful color plates
  • Range maps, text, and illustrations presented on convenient facing-page spreads
  • Up-to-date notes on distribution supported by an extensive bibliography
  • Special focus on geographic variation of bird species
 RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those birding the region!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

New Title


1) Hitchcock, C. Leo, Arthur Cronquist et al.. Flora of the Pacific Northwest: An Illustrated Manual (second edition). 2018. University of Washington Press. Hardbound: 882 pages. Price: $75.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Flora of the Pacific Northwest, first published in 1973, became an instant classic for its innovative style of providing species descriptions in the identification keys, and for its comprehensive illustrations of nearly all treated taxa (species, subspecies, and varieties). Students rely on it as an essential primer, while veteran botanists and natural resource managers use it as the definitive reference for the region's flora.
     This completely revised and updated edition captures the advances in vascular plant systematics over the decades since publication of the first edition. These advances, together with significant changes in plant nomenclature, the description of taxa new to science from the region, and the recent documentation of new native and nonnative species in the Pacific Northwest required a thorough revision of this authoritative work.
     Flora of the Pacific Northwest covers all of Washington, the northern half of Oregon, Idaho north of the Snake River Plain, the mountainous portion of western Montana, and the southern portion of British Columbia. It accounts for the wild-growing native and introduced vascular plants falling within those boundaries and includes:

Treatment of 5,545 taxa (more than 1,000 taxa added from the first edition)

Illustrations for 4,716 taxa (1,382 more than the first edition)

Nomenclature changes for more than 40 percent of the taxa included in the first edition

     These enhancements make this new edition the most comprehensive reference on Pacific Northwest vascular plants for professional and amateur botanists, ecologists, rare plant biologists, plant taxonomy instructors, land managers, nursery professionals, and gardeners.


RECOMMENDATION: The page count has increased from 730 in the first to 882 in the second. A must have for those with a serious interest in the plants of the region.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New Titles


1) Reilly, John. The Ascent of Birds: How Modern Science Is Revealing Their Story. 2018. Pelagic Publishing. Hardbound: 340 pages. Price: $33.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: When and where did the ancestors of modern birds evolve? What enabled them to survive the meteoric impact that wiped out the dinosaurs? How did these early birds spread across the globe and give rise to the 10,500-plus species we recognise today ― from the largest ratites to the smallest hummingbirds? Based on the latest scientific discoveries and enriched by personal observations, The Ascent of Birds sets out to answer these fundamental questions.
     The Ascent of Birds is divided into self-contained chapters, or stories, that collectively encompass the evolution of modern birds from their origins in Gondwana, over 100 million years ago, to the present day. The stories are arranged in chronological order, from tinamous to tanagers, and describe the many dispersal and speciation events that underpin the world's 10,500-plus species. Although each chapter is spearheaded by a named bird and focuses on a specific evolutionary mechanism, the narrative will often explore the relevance of such events and processes to evolution in general.
     The book starts with The Tinamou’s Story, which explains the presence of flightless birds in South America, Africa, and Australasia, and dispels the cherished role of continental drift as an explanation for their biogeography. It also introduces the concept of neoteny, an evolutionary trick that enabled dinosaurs to become birds and humans to conquer the planet.
     The Vegavis's Story explores the evidence for a Cretaceous origin of modern birds and why they were able to survive the asteroid collision that saw the demise not only of dinosaurs but of up to three-quarters of all species.
     The Duck's Story switches to sex: why have so few species retained the ancestral copulatory organ? Or, put another way, why do most birds exhibit the paradoxical phenomenon of penis loss, despite all species requiring internal fertilisation?
     The Hoatzin's Story reveals unexpected oceanic rafting from Africa to South America: a stranger-than-fiction means of dispersal that is now thought to account for the presence of other South American vertebrates, including geckos and monkeys.
     The latest theories underpinning speciation are also explored. The Manakin’s Story, for example, reveals how South America’s extraordinarily rich avifauna has been shaped by past geological, oceanographic and climatic changes, while The Storm-Petrel’s Story examines how species can evolve from an ancestral population despite inhabiting the same geographical area. The thorny issue of what constitutes a species is discussed in The Albatross's Story, while The Penguin’s Story explores the effects of environment on phenotype ― in the case of the Emperor penguin, the harshest on the planet.
     Recent genomic advances have given scientists novel approaches to explore the distant past and have revealed many unexpected journeys, including the unique overland dispersal of an early suboscine from Asia to South America (The Sapayoa’s Story) and the blackbird's ancestral sweepstake dispersals across the Atlantic (The Thrush’s Story).
     Additional vignettes update more familiar concepts that encourage speciation: sexual selection (The Bird-of-Paradise's Story); extended phenotypes (The Bowerbird's Story); hybridisation (The Sparrow's Story); and 'great speciators' (The White-eye's Story). Finally, the book explores the raft of recent publications that help explain the evolution of cognitive skills (The Crow's Story); plumage colouration (The Starling's Story); and birdsong (The Finch's Story).
RECOMMENDATION: A readable overview of avian evolution.


2) Owens, Delia. Where the Crawdads Sing. 2018. G.P. Putnam's Sons. Hardbound: 370 pages. Price: $26.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life--until the unthinkable happens.
     Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
RECOMMENDATION: A well received first novel by the co-author of Cry of the Kalahari.