News

Feeding Wild Birds in America: Culture, Commerce, and ConservationFeeding Wild Birds in America: Culture, Commerce, and Conservation
by Paul J. Baicich, Margaret A. Barker, and Carrol L. Henderson

From Texas A&M University Press:

Today, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, more than fifty million Americans feed birds around their homes, and over the last sixty years, billions of pounds of birdseed have filled millions of feeders in backyards everywhere. Feeding Wild Birds in America tells why and how a modest act of provision has become such a pervasive, popular, and often passionate aspect of people’s lives.

Each chapter provides details on one or more bird-feeding development or trend including the “discovery” of seeds, the invention of different kinds of feeders, and the creation of new companies. Also woven into the book are the worlds of education, publishing, commerce, professional ornithology, and citizen science, all of which have embraced bird feeding at different times and from different perspectives.

The authors take a decade-by-decade approach starting in the late nineteenth century, providing a historical overview in each chapter before covering topical developments (such as hummingbird feeding and birdbaths). On the one hand, they show that the story of bird feeding is one of entrepreneurial invention; on the other hand, they reveal how Americans, through a seemingly simple practice, have come to value the natural world.

 

A history of bird-feeding? Yes, and it’s actually interesting.

 

Feeding Wild Birds in America: Culture, Commerce, and Conservation
by Paul J. Baicich, Margaret A. Barker, and Carrol L. Henderson
Flexicover; 319 pages
Texas A&M University Press; March 30, 2015
ISBN: 978-1623492113
$27.95

The House of OwlsThe House of Owls
by Tony Angell

From Yale University Press:

For a quarter of a century, Tony Angell and his family shared the remarkable experience of closely observing pairs of western screech owls that occupied a nesting box outside the window of their forest home. The journals in which the author recorded his observations, and the captivating drawings he created, form the heart of this compelling book—a personal account of an artist-naturalist’s life with owls. Angell’s extensive illustrations show owls engaged in what owls do—hunting, courting, raising families, and exercising their inquisitive natures—and reveal his immeasurable respect for their secret lives and daunting challenges.

Angell discusses the unique characteristics that distinguish owls from other bird species and provides a fascinating overview of the impact owls have had on human culture and thought. He also offers detailed scientific descriptions of the nineteen species of owls found in North America, as well as their close relatives elsewhere. Always emphasizing the interaction of humans and owls, the author affirms by his own example the power of these birds both to beguile and to inspire.

 

Yes, another book about owls. But from what I understand, this is a good one.

 

The House of Owls
by Tony Angell
Hardcover; 224 pages
Yale University Press; April 28, 2015
ISBN: 978-0300203448
$30.00

The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird an Ancient Crab and an Epic JourneyThe Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey
by Deborah Cramer

From Yale University Press:

Each year, red knots, sandpipers weighing no more than a coffee cup, fly a near-miraculous 19,000 miles from the tip of South America to their nesting grounds in the Arctic and back. Along the way, they double their weight by gorging on millions of tiny horseshoe crab eggs. Horseshoe crabs, ancient animals that come ashore but once a year, are vital to humans, too: their blue blood safeguards our health. Now, the rufa red knot, newly listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, will likely face extinction in the foreseeable future across its entire range, 40 states and 27 countries. The first United States bird listed because global warming imperils its existence, it will not be the last: the red knot is the twenty-first century’s “canary in the coal mine.” Logging thousands of miles following the knots, shivering with the birds out on the snowy tundra, tracking them down in bug-infested marshes, Cramer vividly portrays what’s at stake for millions of shorebirds and hundreds of millions of people living at the sea edge. The Narrow Edge offers an uplifting portrait of the tenacity of tiny birds and of the many people who, on the sea edge we all share, keep knots flying and offer them safe harbor.

 

The connections between Red Knots, Horseshoe Crabs, people, and, now, climate change are fascinating. It’s also something that we need to be aware of in order to prevent the extinction of this amazing bird, and possibly others.

 

The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey
by Deborah Cramer
Hardcover; 304 pages
Yale University Press; April 28, 2015
ISBN: 978-0300185195
$28.00

Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg RockProject Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock
by Stephen W. Kress and Derrick Z. Jackson

From Yale University Press:

Project Puffin is the inspiring story of how a beloved seabird was restored to long-abandoned nesting colonies off the Maine coast. As a young ornithology instructor at the Hog Island Audubon Camp, Dr. Stephen W. Kress learned that puffins had nested on nearby islands until extirpated by hunters in the late 1800s. To right this environmental wrong, he resolved to bring puffins back to one such island—Eastern Egg Rock. Yet bringing the plan to reality meant convincing skeptics, finding resources, and inventing restoration methods at a time when many believed in “letting nature take its course.”

Today, Project Puffin has restored more than 1,000 puffin pairs to three Maine islands. But even more exciting, techniques developed during the project have helped to restore rare and endangered seabirds worldwide. Further, reestablished puffins now serve as a window into the effects of global warming. The success of Dr. Kress’s project offers hope that people can restore lost wildlife populations and the habitats that support them. The need for such inspiration has never been greater.

 

This is truly an amazing story, and its success deserves to be proudly proclaimed.

 

Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock
by Stephen W. Kress and Derrick Z. Jackson
Hardcover; 376 pages
Yale University Press; April 28, 2015
ISBN: 978-0300204810
$30.00

Birding Hot Spots of Santa Fe, Taos, and Northern New MexicoBirding Hot Spots of Santa Fe, Taos, and Northern New Mexico
by Judith Liddell and Barbara Hussey

From Texas A&M University Press:

In their second guide to birding in New Mexico, Judy Liddell and Barbara Hussey share their experiences and intimate knowledge of the best places to find birds in and around Santa Fe and other areas in northern New Mexico.

Following the same format as their book on the Albuquerque area, the authors describe 32 sites organized by geographic regions. Along with a general description of each area, the authors list target birds; explain where and when to look for them; give driving directions; provide information about public transportation, parking, fees, restrooms, food, and lodging; and give tips on availability of water and picnic facilities and on the presence of hazards such as poison ivy, rattlesnakes, and bears. Maps and photographs provide trail diagrams and images of some of the target birds and their environments.

A “helpful information” section covering weather, altitude, safety, transportation, and other local birding resources is included along with an annotated checklist of 276 bird species seen with some regularity in and around Santa Fe.

 

This new bird-finding guide complements the authors’ previous Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico. This area is definitely somewhere I need to get to, especially if I’m able to find the cover bird!

 

Birding Hot Spots of Santa Fe, Taos, and Northern New Mexico
by Judith Liddell and Barbara Hussey
Flexicover; 304 pages
Texas A&M University Press; April 15, 2015
ISBN: 978-1623492540
$27.00

Cuckoo Cheating by NatureCuckoo: Cheating by Nature
by Nick Davies

From Bloomsbury:

The familiar call of the common cuckoo, ‘cuck-oo,’ has been a harbinger of spring ever since our ancestors walked out of Africa many thousands of years ago. However, for naturalist and scientist Nick Davies, the call is an invitation to solve an enduring puzzle: how does the cuckoo get away with laying its eggs in the nests of other birds and tricking them into raising young cuckoos rather than their own offspring?

Early observers who noticed a little warbler feeding a monstrously large cuckoo chick concluded the cuckoo’s lack of parental care was the result of faulty design by the Creator, and that the hosts chose to help the poor cuckoo. These quaint views of bad design and benevolence were banished after Charles Darwin proposed that the cuckoo tricks the hosts in an evolutionary battle, where hosts evolve better defenses against cuckoos and cuckoos, in turn, evolve better trickery to outwit the hosts.

For the last three decades, Davies has employed observation and field experiments to unravel the details of this evolutionary ‘arms race’ between cuckoos and their hosts. Like a detective, Davies and his colleagues studied adult cuckoo behavior, cuckoo egg markings, and cuckoo chick begging calls to discover exactly how cuckoos trick their hosts. For birding and evolution aficionados, Cuckoo is a lyrical and scientifically satisfying exploration of one of nature’s most astonishing and beautiful adaptations.

 

While I’m sure that pretty much everyone is aware of the cuckoo’s habit of nest parasitism, I’m sure there’s much more to the story. I must admit that I don’t know all that much about these birds, but am looking forward to reading this book to rectify that.

 

Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature
by Nick Davies
Hardcover; 320 pages
Bloomsbury; April 7, 2015
ISBN: 978-1620409527
$27.00

The MerlinThe Merlin
by Richard Sale

From Snowfinch Publishing:

The Merlin is a fascinating small falcon, standing outside the usual grouping of the ‘True Falcons’, and with a range that is confined to northern climes, an exclusive preference that is shared by only one other, the much larger Gyrfalcon.

This is the first comprehensive book on the species, covering its complete circumpolar range. The book starts with a general comments on the evolution of the True Falcons and thoughts on their grouping, then covers the general characteristics of the Merlin, the species’ habitat, its diet, breeding (territory, displays, pair formation, nest sites, eggs, chick growth, nest predation and breeding success), migration and wintering, survival, the Merlin’s friend and foes, and estimations of the world population. It also includes data gathered with a unit flown on a male Merlin.

Previous books by the author include the award-winning Gyrfalcon (co-produced with Russian expert Eugene Potapov), the Snowy Owl (also with Eugene Potapov), the first field guide to birds and mammals of the Arctic, A Complete Guide to Arctic Wildlife, and The Arctic: The Complete Story which covered all aspects of the area.

 

An in-depth, photograph-rich look at this small falcon.

 

The Merlin
by Richard Sale
Hardcover; 304 pages
Snowfinch Publishing; March, 2015
ISBN: 9780957173217
$65.00

You Nest Here With MeYou Nest Here With Me
by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

From Boyds Mills Press:

With rhyming text, this soothing bedtime book is an ode to baby birds everywhere and sleepy children home safe in their own beds. As a mother describes to her child how many species of birds nest, from pigeons on concrete ledges to owls in oak tree boles to swallows above barn doors. The soothing refrain of “you nest here with me” eases her little one and readers alike to slumber. Combining their poetic writing and their love of birding, mother and daughter Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple have written what is sure to become a bedtime classic.

 

My five-year-old really enjoyed this book. It also has an afterword that gives additional information on the included birds.

 

You Nest Here With Me
by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Hardcover; 40 pages
Boyds Mills Press; March 3, 2015
ISBN: 978-1590789230
$16.95

The Great Horned Owl: An In-depth Study, by Scott RashidThe Great Horned Owl: An In-depth Study
by Scott Rashid

From Schiffer Publishing:

The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl found throughout most of North America. Adult owls are between eighteen to 24 inches from head to tail and can have a wing span of more than four feet. Their long ear tufts and cryptic coloration enables them to remain well hidden during the day, often out of sight of sharp-eyed diurnal raptors and eagle-eyed birders. Through more than 130 photographs and illustrations, take an in-depth look into the life of this very impressive and formidable bird. Explore the owls food habits, nesting sites, how they raise their young, and the rehabilitation of injured owls. The one-of-a-kind photographs and comprehensive descriptions make this a must-have treasure to be enjoyed by all ages. It is sure to become the go-to reference on the Great Horned Owl.

 

You’ve got to respect a bird like the Great Horned. This book looks like a great study on these awesome birds.

 

The Great Horned Owl: An In-depth Study
by Scott Rashid
Hardcover; 112 pages
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.; March 9, 2015
ISBN: 978-0764347665
$34.99

H is for HawkH is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald

From Grove Press:

When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood—she’d never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself “in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her” tested the limits of Macdonald’s humanity and changed her life.

Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer’s eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.

 

I recently saw this book on the bestsellers shelf in an airport newsstand. That has to be the first time I’ve seen a bird book there! But with all the great press about this book, I’m not surprised. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

 

H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald
Hardcover; 288 pages
Grove Press; March 3, 2015
ISBN: 978-0802123411
$26.00