Book News

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
$24.95

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
$29.95

Phillipps' Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and their EcologyPhillipps’ Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and Their Ecology: Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan
by Quentin Phillipps and Karen Phillipps

From Princeton University Press:

This is the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and easily accessible field guide to the mammals of Borneo–the ideal travel companion for anyone visiting this region of the world. Covering Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan, the book provides essential information on 277 species of land and marine mammals and features 141 breathtaking color plates. Detailed facing-page species accounts describe taxonomy, size, range, distribution, habits, and status. This unique at-a-glance guide also includes distribution maps, habitat plates, regional maps, fast-find graphic indexes, top mammal sites, and a complete overview of the vegetation, climate, and ecology of Borneo.

  • Covers 277 species–from orangutans and clouded leopards to otters and other marine mammals
  • Features 141 superb color plates
  • Includes facing-page species accounts, distribution maps, fast-find graphic indexes, and more
  • Describes Borneo’s vegetation, climate, and ecology

 

I don’t often cover non-bird field guides, but I have to make an exception for this one. The Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, from the same authors, is one of my favorite field guides because of how it integrates ecology and natural history without sacrificing utility in identification or much in the way of space. This new companion guide to mammals does the same – it not only will help you ID these creatures, in the process you will learn much about them and the island of Borneo itself. It even includes extensive information on where to find these animals as well. Altogether, this is a guide you would definitely want with you.

 

Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and Their Ecology: Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan
by Quentin Phillipps and Karen Phillipps
Paperback; 400 pages
Princeton University Press; May 10, 2016
ISBN: 9780691169415
$35.00

Nightingales in November: A Year in the Lives of Twelve British BirdsNightingales in November: A Year in the Lives of Twelve British Birds
by Mike Dilger

From Bloomsbury:

Have you ever wondered what British birds get up to when they’re not pinching peanuts, pilfering pyracantha berries, or nesting under the eaves? The One Show’s natural history star, Mike Dilger, offers answers in Nightingales in November.

This beautifully illustrated almanac tells the different stories of twelve well-known birds we deign to call “British.” Through a lyrical narrative, Nightingales in November showcases amazing avian facts gleaned over decades by birdwatchers, ringers, and nest and migration recorders. The perfect “dip-into” book, any inquiring naturalist will be able to find out such facts as where British breeding swallows spend Christmas Day, when to look out for juvenile tawny owls, or when to listen for nightingales.

By using a combination of cutting-edge satellite technology and millions of ringing records, Nightingales in November reveals the mysteries of migration, tracking the regular movements of, for example, cuckoos for the eight months they’re not in the UK, or divulging why not all robins are the “stay-at-home” territorial types they were once imagined to be.

Illustrated throughout by Christina Holvey, the birds featured include a rich mix of resident birds, summer visitors, winter visitors, and passage migrants. Nightingales in November is a great read for both novice and avid birders alike.

 

This looks like an interesting book for British birders, or anyone who wants to learn more about their birds. The birds included are: Bewick’s Swan, Peregrine, Lapwing, Puffin, Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, Kingfisher, Swallow, Robin, Nightingale, Waxwing, and Blue Tit.

 

Nightingales in November: A Year in the Lives of Twelve British Birds
by Mike Dilger
Hardcover; 368 pages
Bloomsbury; July 19, 2016
ISBN: 9781472915351
$30.00

Birds of MontanaBirds of Montana
by Jeffrey S. Marks, Paul Hendricks, and Daniel Casey

From Buteo Books:

Accounts for each of the 433 species of birds documented in Montana between statehood in 1889 and January 1, 2016.

Birds of Montana is the first comprehensive reference on the state’s birds since Saunders published A Distributional List of the Birds of Montana in 1921, and it is the only work that provides a thorough review of the status, distribution, relative abundance, ecology, and conservation of the 433 bird species that have been found in the state since Montana entered the Union in 1889.

Introductory chapters describe Montana’s geography, topography, and habitat types; thoroughly review the vast historical literature on the state’s birds beginning with the journals of Lewis and Clark; and summarize conservation issues and actions that will affect the health of bird populations for decades to come. Detailed species accounts provide a range map for selected species and summarize information under the subheadings Status and Occurrence, Habitat, Conservation, Historical Notes, Contemporary Work, and Banded Birds.

A modern account of the status, biology, and conservation of Montana’s birds is long overdue. Birds of Montana fills that need and will be a valuable reference that will increase the public’s knowledge of the state’s birds, enhance awareness of conservation issues affecting birds and their habitats, and establish a benchmark against which changes in Montana’s bird populations can be measured in the future.

155 color range maps, 73 original illustrations of individual species, and 16 full-color habitat photos.

 

Quite simply, this is a treasure trove for birders under the Big Sky. Visiting birders will find some interesting information – I particularly enjoy the historical notes – but a bird-finding guide this is not. Residents, however, will find it indispensable.

 

Birds of Montana
by Jeffrey S. Marks, Paul Hendricks, and Daniel Casey
Hardcover; 672 pages
Buteo Books; July, 2016
ISBN: 9780931130199
$75.00

In Praise of Poison Ivy: The Secret Virtues, Astonishing History and Dangerous Lore of the World's Most Hated PlantIn Praise of Poison Ivy: The Secret Virtues, Astonishing History and Dangerous Lore of the World’s Most Hated Plant
by Anita Sanchez

From Taylor Trade Publishing:

Deadly. Powerful. Beautiful. The much-hated plant called poison ivy is all of these—and more.

Poison ivy has long irritated humans, but the astounding paradox is that poison ivy is a plant of immense ecological value. In Praise of Poison Ivy explores the vices and virtues of a plant with a dramatic history and a rosy future. Once planted in gardens from Versailles to Monticello, poison ivy now has a crucial role in the American landscape. The detested plant is a lens through which to observe the changes and challenges that face our planet.

For centuries, poison ivy has bedeviled, inconvenienced, and downright tortured the human race. This book covers the unique history of the plant, starting with the brash and adventurous explorer Captain John Smith, who “discovered” poison ivy the hard way in 1607. Despite its irritating qualities, the magnificent scarlet-and-gold autumn foliage lured Virginia entrepreneurs to export the vine to Europe, making it one of the earliest documented New World plants to cross the Atlantic, and its meteoric rise to fame as–of all unlikely things—a garden plant. Showcased in the pleasure grounds of emperors and kings, poison ivy was displayed like a captive tiger, admired by Thomas Jefferson, Marie Antoinette, and Josephine Bonaparte.

Today, poison ivy is valued by environmentalists and native plant enthusiasts who name it one of our most important plants for wildlife as well as for soil conservation. In Praise of Poison Ivy will reveal why, in its native American habitat, poison ivy is a plant of astonishing ecological value. Poison ivy leaves are an important wildlife food, and the berries are a crucial source of winter nutrition for beloved bird species like robins, bluebirds and cardinals. On a national listing of hundreds of native plants that are of value to wildlife, poison ivy ranks seventh in importance.

In Praise of Poison Ivy also explores the question of why this plant is apparently on a mission to give us humans grief, from itchy ankles to life-threatening medical emergencies. The book will examine why poison ivy targets humans, but no other species, and explain the mystery of why a privileged few are immune to its itchy consequences.

 

I hate poison ivy, why would I ever want to read a book about it? I wouldn’t blame you for thinking such thoughts – I would have too, before I read the description of this book. But it sounds really interesting. And – this being a website about bird books, after all – it is relevant because poison ivy is an important food source for birds. That I knew, but I’ve always been curious how birds could eat it. It turns out the answer is right there in the press release – poison ivy only affects humans. Naturally, my next question is why would that be? I guess I’ll have to read the book…

 

In Praise of Poison Ivy: The Secret Virtues, Astonishing History and Dangerous Lore of the World’s Most Hated Plant
by Anita Sanchez
Hardcover; 208 pages
Taylor Trade Publishing; April 1, 2016
ISBN: 9781630761318
$24.95

Birds of Western Ecuador: A Photographic GuideBirds of Western Ecuador: A Photographic Guide
by Nick Athanas and Paul J. Greenfield

From Princeton University Press:

Western Ecuador is famed for its astonishingly diverse birdlife, from colorful hummingbirds and outrageous toucans to more difficult groups like raptors, flycatchers, and ovenbirds. Here is the ultimate photographic guide to the spectacular birds of this region. Featuring nearly 1,500 stunning color photos of 946 species, this richly detailed and taxonomically sophisticated field guide will help you with even the toughest identification challenges. Species accounts, photos, and color distribution maps appear side by side, making it easier than ever to find what you are looking for, whether you are in the field or preparing for your trip.

  • Features nearly 1,500 photos of 946 species
  • Includes facing-page species accounts, photos, and maps
  • Provides photos of multiple plumages for many species
  • Helps you to differentiate between similar species

 

Despite covering half of a small country, this photo guide is roughly the size and weight of the “big” Sibley guide. That’s because it features 946 species (which is more than Sibley) with relatively large photographs. You probably won’t be using this in the field, but it should make a nice reference that you can keep in your vehicle or room.

For more “behind the scenes” information on this guide, here’s a nice interview with the authors.

 

Birds of Western Ecuador: A Photographic Guide
by Nick Athanas and Paul J. Greenfield
Paperback; 448 pages
Princeton University Press; June 14, 2016
ISBN: 9780691157801
$45.00

Hummingbirds: Volume 1Hummingbirds: Volume 1 (North America, Central America & Caribbean)
by John C. Arvin

From Gorgas Science Foundation:

As the distinguished ornithologist Alfred Newton noted in 1881, “There is hardly a precious stone ruby, amethyst, sapphire, emerald, or topaz the name of which may not fitly, and without any exaggeration, be employed in regard to hummingbirds.”

For thousands of years, these dazzling little birds have captivated and inspired mankind. Hummingbird symbols and impressions can be found in prehistoric petroglyphs, deities, totems, costumes, pottery, and more.

From the world s smallest bird, the Cuban Bee Hummingbird, which weighs less than a penny, to the South American Sword-billed Hummingbird, the only bird which has a bill longer than the length of its own body, hummingbirds have adapted to live and thrive in an incredible assortment of habitats. Found only in the Americas, over 370 species range from Canada to Chile and the Caribbean islands.

In celebration of these flying jewels, Gorgas Science Foundation has worked for years to publish volume one of a two volume set of large format, fine-art books which showcase the remarkable beauty and diversity of hummingbirds. Every species of hummingbird has been illustrated in a manner that showcases both male and female, an aspect of their behavior, and a glimpse into their natural environment.

Measuring in at 12 x 16 inches in size, 216 pages in length, and containing 100 full color plates, which feature 127 species of hummingbird, this book is big, bold, and beautiful!

The first of a two volume set, this first volume showcases the 127 species of hummingbird found throughout North America, Central America, and the Caribbean Islands.

Proceeds from the sale of this volume will help go towards the production and publication of volume 2.

 

Wow. If you thought the days of the old-school family monograph were gone, then think again. As you can see, this book is huge and quite pleasing to the eye (here’s a more in-depth look inside, but trust me, the images on the web don’t do the art justice!). If you like hummingbirds – or large, gorgeous bird books – this is a bargain.

comparison of Hummingbirds Volume 1 and the Sibley Guide hummingbird plate comparison

 

Hummingbirds: Volume 1
by John C. Arvin
Hardcover; 216 pages
Gorgas Science Foundation; June 12, 2016
ISBN: 9781615845149
$60.00

New Book: Soar

June 28, 2016 | Comments (0)

SoarSoar
by Tracy Edward Wymer

From Aladdin (Simon & Schuster):

Seventh grader Eddie is determined to honor his father’s legacy and win the school science fair in this fun and quirky debut novel.

Eddie learned everything there is to know about birding from his dad, including the legend of the Golden Eagle, which Dad claimed he saw once down near Miss Dorothy’s pond. According to his dad, the Golden Eagle had wings wider than a creek and talons the size of bulldozer claws. But when Eddie was in sixth grade, Dad “flew away” for good, leaving Eddie on his own to await the return of the elusive raptor.

Now Eddie is starting seventh grade and trying to impress Gabriella, the new girl in town. The annual seventh grade Science Symposium (which Dad famously won) is looming, and Eddie is determined to claim the blue ribbon for himself. With Mr. Dover, the science teacher who was Dad’s birding rival, seemingly against him, and with Mouton, the class bully, making his life miserable on all fronts, Eddie is determined to overcome everything and live up to Dad’s memory. Can Eddie soar and make his dream take flight?

 

This is a rare birding-related novel for elementary to middle schoolers (approximately 8-12 year olds).

 

Soar
by Tracy Edward Wymer
Hardcover; 288 pages
Aladdin; July 5, 2016
ISBN: 9781481447119
$17.99

Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big YearLost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year
by Neil Hayward

From Bloomsbury:

Early in 2013 Neil Hayward was at a crossroads. He didn’t want to open a bakery or whatever else executives do when they quit a lucrative but unfulfilling job. He didn’t want to think about his failed relationship with “the one” or his potential for ruining a new relationship with “the next one.” And he almost certainly didn’t want to think about turning forty. And so instead he went birding.

Birding was a lifelong passion. It was only among the birds that Neil found a calm that had eluded him in the confusing world of humans. But this time he also found competition. His growing list of species reluctantly catapulted him into a Big Year–a race to find the most birds in one year. His peregrinations across twenty-eight states and six provinces in search of exotic species took him to a hoarfrost-covered forest in Massachusetts to find a Fieldfare; to Lake Havasu, Arizona, to see a rare Nutting’s Flycatcher; and to Vancouver for the Red-flanked Bluetail. Neil’s Big Year was as unplanned as it was accidental: It was the perfect distraction to life.

Neil shocked the birding world by finding 749 species of bird and breaking the long-standing Big Year record. He also surprised himself: During his time among the hummingbirds, tanagers, and boobies, he found a renewed sense of confidence and hope about the world and his place in it.

 

Yes, another big year book. This one has plenty of birds, Hayward did break the ABA record after all (sorry, but I don’t consider that a spoiler since the publisher mentions it above). But it also has a great story outside of the birds, which makes this a good read even if you aren’t a fan of the big-year-type book.

 

Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year
by Neil Hayward
Hardcover; 416 pages
Bloomsbury; June 7, 2016
ISBN: 9781632865793
$28.00