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Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central AmericaPeterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America
by Jesse Fagan and Oliver Komar

From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

A field guide to the birds of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, abundantly illustrated and with comprehensive coverage of both endemic and migrant birds

Birding is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry in northern Central America, and this is the newest and best bird field guide to this region—the first new bird guide in over ten years for the countries of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This guide is far more complete than previous ones, with more than 800 species accounts, full-color range maps, and 1,000 beautiful illustrations and behavioral vignettes covering all species recorded in the region.

This guide is designed for birders to carry in the field, and it is a must-have for any birder who visits the area.


This is the new go-to field guide for Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. It’s small enough to easily carry with you and has range maps and accounts opposite some very nice plates.


Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America
by Jesse Fagan and Oliver Komar
Paperback; 448 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; November 1, 2016
ISBN: 9780544373266

The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far NorthThe Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North
by Sharon Chester

From Princeton University Press:

The Arctic Guide presents the traveler and naturalist with a portable, authoritative guide to the flora and fauna of earth’s northernmost region. Featuring superb color illustrations, this one-of-a-kind book covers the complete spectrum of wildlife–more than 800 species of plants, fishes, butterflies, birds, and mammals–that inhabit the Arctic’s polar deserts, tundra, taiga, sea ice, and oceans. It can be used anywhere in the entire Holarctic region, including Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, Siberia, the Russian Far East, islands of the Bering Sea, Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, and Greenland. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, size, habitat, range, scientific name, and the unique characteristics that enable these organisms to survive in the extreme conditions of the Far North. A color distribution map accompanies each species account, and alternative names in German, French, Norwegian, Russian, Inuit, and Inupiaq are also provided.

  • Features superb color plates that allow for quick identification of more than 800 species of plants, fishes, butterflies, birds, and mammals
  • Includes detailed species accounts and color distribution maps
  • Covers the flora and fauna of the entire Arctic region


This excellent field guide, covering everything from mammals to plants, is perfect for anyone journeying to the Arctic. The only bad thing I can say about it is that the range maps are small, making it hard to make out details. Still, you can be sure this guide will accompany me when I finally make it to Alaska.

On a side note, this field guide is “flexi-bound” (similar to The Sibley Guide). I really hope future entries in Princeton University Press’s wonderful field guide series are likewise bound.


The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North
by Sharon Chester
Flexi-bound; 544 pages
Princeton University Press; September 6, 2016
ISBN: 9780691139753

by Matt Adrian

The most unique bird art book you’ll ever see.

Read the full review »

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America's National ParksTreasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks
by Q.T. Luong

From Q.T. Luong and Cameron + Company:

The most complete visual tour of all 59 US National Parks in a coffee-table book, with location notes for each photograph.

It is said that a photograph helped launch the national parks. After Congress viewed photos of Yosemite, President Lincoln was moved to sign a bill that paved the way for the U.S. National Park Service, which was founded in 1916 and is now celebrating its centennial. In Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, photographer QT Luong pays tribute to the millions of acres of protected wilderness in our country’s 59 national parks.

Luong, who is featured in Ken Burns’s and Dayton Duncan’s documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, is the most prolific and versatile photographer working in the national parks and the only one to have made large-format photographs in each of them. In an odyssey that spanned more than 20 years and 300 visits, Luong focused his lenses on iconic landscapes and rarely seen remote views, presenting his journey in this sumptuous array of more than 500 breathtaking images.

Accompanying the collection of scenic masterpieces is a guide that includes maps of each park, as well as extended captions that detail where and how the photographs were made. Designed to inspire visitors to connect with the parks and invite photographers to re-create these landscapes, the guide also provides anecdotal observations that give context to the pictures and convey the sheer scope of Luong’s extraordinary odyssey.

Including an introduction by award-winning author and documentary filmmaker Dayton Duncan, Treasured Lands is a rich visual tour of the U.S. National Parks and an invaluable guide from a photographer who hiked–or paddled, dived, skied, snowshoed, and climbed–each park, shooting in all kinds of terrain, in all seasons, and at all times of day. QT Luong’s timeless gallery of the nation’s most revered landscapes beckons to nature lovers, armchair travelers, and photography enthusiasts alike, keeping America’s natural wonders within reach.


I recently posted my favorite National Parks books, in honor of their centennial this year. This new book easily makes it on that list. I’ve seen many large-format photography books of the parks, but none match this one. The photographs are second to none, and the extra information included – maps, tips, the precise location where each photo was taken – greatly add to it.


Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks
by Q.T. Luong
Hardcover; 456 pages
Cameron + Company; October 1, 2016
ISBN: 9781944903008

Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly KillerCat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer
by Peter P. Marra and Chris Santella

From Princeton University Press:

In 1894, a lighthouse keeper named David Lyall arrived on Stephens Island off New Zealand with a cat named Tibbles. In just over a year, the Stephens Island Wren, a rare bird endemic to the island, was rendered extinct. Mounting scientific evidence confirms what many conservationists have suspected for some time–that in the United States alone, free-ranging cats are killing birds and other animals by the billions. Equally alarming are the little-known but potentially devastating public health consequences of rabies and parasitic Toxoplasma passing from cats to humans at rising rates. Cat Wars tells the story of the threats free-ranging cats pose to biodiversity and public health throughout the world, and sheds new light on the controversies surrounding the management of the explosion of these cat populations.

This compelling book traces the historical and cultural ties between humans and cats from early domestication to the current boom in pet ownership, along the way accessibly explaining the science of extinction, population modeling, and feline diseases. It charts the developments that have led to our present impasse–from Stan Temple’s breakthrough studies on cat predation in Wisconsin to cat-eradication programs underway in Australia today. It describes how a small but vocal minority of cat advocates has campaigned successfully for no action in much the same way that special interest groups have stymied attempts to curtail smoking and climate change.

Cat Wars paints a revealing picture of a complex global problem–and proposes solutions that foresee a time when wildlife and humans are no longer vulnerable to the impacts of free-ranging cats.


Want to know the surest indication that this book hits the mark? Just read the 100+ one-star reviews on Amazon. Well, you may not want to read too many of them as the risk of killing your brain cells is too great. Hopefully this book will draw attention to this important issue.


Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer
by Peter P. Marra and Chris Santella
Hardcover; 216 pages
Princeton University Press; September 13, 2016
ISBN: 9780691167411

Bird Brain: An Exploration of Avian IntelligenceBird Brain: An Exploration of Avian Intelligence
by Nathan Emery

From Princeton University Press:

Birds have not been known for their high IQs, which is why a person of questionable intelligence is sometimes called a “birdbrain.” Yet in the past two decades, the study of avian intelligence has witnessed dramatic advances. From a time when birds were seen as simple instinct machines responding only to stimuli in their external worlds, we now know that some birds have complex internal worlds as well. This beautifully illustrated book provides an engaging exploration of the avian mind, revealing how science is exploding one of the most widespread myths about our feathered friends–and changing the way we think about intelligence in other animals as well.

Bird Brain looks at the structures and functions of the avian brain, and describes the extraordinary behaviors that different types of avian intelligence give rise to. It offers insights into crows, jays, magpies, and other corvids–the “masterminds” of the avian world–as well as parrots and some less-studied species from around the world. This lively and accessible book shows how birds have sophisticated brains with abilities previously thought to be uniquely human, such as mental time travel, self-recognition, empathy, problem solving, imagination, and insight.

Written by a leading expert and featuring a foreword by Frans de Waal, renowned for his work on animal intelligence, Bird Brain shines critical new light on the mental lives of birds.


Birds are amazing creatures. I don’t know how many times I’ve written something similar to that. I suppose I’ll stop when I cease to be amazed by them (in other words, not anytime soon). If you too want to see how amazing birds are, this book is an excellent place to start.


Bird Brain: An Exploration of Avian Intelligence
by Nathan Emery
Hardcover; 192 pages
Princeton University Press; August 23, 2016
ISBN: 9780691165172

by Neil Hayward

The fun, entertaining story of a record-breaking big year.

Read the full review »

Today, August 25, 2016, is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. The best way to celebrate, of course, is to get out there and, as the park service puts it, Find Your Park. (This weekend is a particularly good time to do so, as all parks are fee-free August 25 through August 28.) But, just as with birding, if you can’t be out there, you can always read about it. Here are a few of my favorite books on America’s national parks:

  • Your Guide to the National Parks: The Complete Guide to all 58 National Parks
    by Michael Joseph Oswald

    This is the best guidebook to all of the capital-N, capital-P National Parks (with the exception of Pinnacles, which was “upgraded” to National Park status after the book was published). It provides brief summaries of the parks and their history and personal recommendations of the “to do” activities. Before you buy, though, just be aware that there is a second edition set to be published January 1, 2017, which will include Pinnacles, new photos, and other small changes.

  • The National Parks: An Illustrated History
    by Kim Heacox and National Geographic

    This is an excellent overview of the history of the national parks, illustrated with tons of photographs.

  • Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks
    by Q.T. Luong

    Of all the large-format photography books of the parks – and there have been many – this is the best I’ve seen. The photos are amazing, of course. The author/photographer includes a fair amount of information on each park, including the precise location where each photo was taken (a particularly nice touch).

  • The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks
    by Terry Tempest Williams

    Of the many books about the national parks published this year, this one stands out. In it, Williams writes about a selection of parks that have made an impact on her. It’s an excellent read.

  • A Thinking Person’s Guide To America’s National Parks
    by various

    Don’t let the title put you off – this is an excellent book for any fan of the national parks. It’s a series of essays on various park-related topics – from conservation to how to engage the next generation. It’s a nice variety of topics, and a good introduction to many of the lesser-known units in the park service.

  • The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
    by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan

    You may have seen this on PBS. But if not – and even if you have, actually – having it on blu-ray or DVD is a good idea so that you can watch it whenever the mood hits. And this series is so good that could be very often, indeed. Alternatively, Amazon Prime members can watch for free

by Nick Athanas and Paul J. Greenfield

Fantastic photographs highlight this useful new field guide.

Read the full review »

Sorry for the lack of reviews lately – I just haven’t seemed to have much time for writing, or even reading, this summer. Work, family vacations, the usual excuses. I’m working on a review of Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year (spoiler: it’s a great read), and am in the middle of reading The Genius of Birds (a very informative survey of bird “smarts”). But in the meantime (tomorrow, to be precise), you’ll be treated to Frank Lambert’s review of Birds of Western Ecuador: A Photographic Guide.

If you’re looking for something good to read, there have been several excellent books published in the last few months. Besides the ones I’ve already reviewed or mentioned here, a couple excellent choices are Listening to a Continent Sing: Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific and One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives.