Birdbooker Report 311

10 March 2014 by GrrlScientist, posted in Birdbooker Report

SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts.


“Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin.
Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.)

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.

~ Arnold Lobel [1933-1987] author of many popular children's books.

Compiled by Ian "Birdbooker" Paulsen, the Birdbooker Report is a weekly report that has been published online for years, listing the wide variety of nature, natural history, ecology, animal behaviour, science and history books that have been newly released or republished in North America and in the UK. The books listed here were received by Ian during the previous week, courtesy of various publishing houses.

New and Recent Titles:

  1. Greenberg, Joel. A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction. 2014. Bloomsbury. Hardbound: 290 pages. Price: $26.00 U.S. [Amazon UK/audio download UK; Amazon US/kindle US/audible US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In the early nineteenth century 25 to 40 percent of North America’s birds were passenger pigeons, traveling in flocks so massive as to block out the sun for hours or even days. The down beats of their wings would chill the air beneath and create a thundering roar that would drown out all other sound. Feeding flocks would appear as “a blue wave four or five feet high rolling toward you.”
    John James Audubon, impressed by their speed and agility, said a lone passenger pigeon streaking through the forest “passes like a thought.” How prophetic -- for although a billion pigeons crossed the skies 80 miles from Toronto in May of 1860, little more than fifty years later passenger pigeons were extinct. The last of the species, Martha, died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914.
    As naturalist Joel Greenberg relates in gripping detail, the pigeons’ propensity to nest, roost, and fly together in vast numbers made them vulnerable to unremitting market and recreational hunting. The spread of railroads and telegraph lines created national markets that allowed the birds to be pursued relentlessly. Passenger pigeons inspired awe in the likes of Audubon, Henry David Thoreau, James Fenimore Cooper, and others, but no serious effort was made to protect the species until it was way too late. Greenberg’s beautifully written story of the passenger pigeon provides a cautionary tale of what happens when species and natural resources are not harvested sustainably.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: Anyone with an interest in this species should read this book!
  2. Jachowski, David. Wild Again: The Struggle to Save the Black-footed Ferret. 2014. University of California Press. Hardbound: 241 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: This engaging personal account of one of America's most contested wildlife conservation campaigns has as its central character the black-footed ferret. Once feared extinct, and still one of North America's rarest mammals, the black-footed ferret exemplifies the ecological, social, and political challenges of conservation in the West, including the risks involved with intensive captive breeding and reintroduction to natural habitat.
    David Jachowski draws on more than a decade of experience working to save the ferret. His unique perspective and informative anecdotes reveal the scientific and human aspects of conservation as well as the immense dedication required to protect a species on the edge of extinction.
    By telling one story of conservation biology in practice -- its routine work, triumphs, challenges, and inevitable conflicts -- this book gives readers a greater understanding of the conservation ethic that emerged on the Great Plains as part of one of the most remarkable recovery efforts in the history of the Endangered Species Act.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: Anyone with an interest in this species or in endangered species should read this book.
  3. Tuttle, Russell H. Apes and Human Evolution. 2014. Harvard University Press. Hardbound: 1056 pages. Price: $59.95 U.S. [Amazon UK; Amazon US].
    PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In this masterwork, Russell H. Tuttle synthesizes a vast research literature in primate evolution and behavior to explain how apes and humans evolved in relation to one another, and why humans became a bipedal, tool-making, culture-inventing species distinct from other hominoids. Along the way, he refutes the influential theory that men are essentially killer apes—sophisticated but instinctively aggressive and destructive beings.
    Situating humans in a broad context, Tuttle musters convincing evidence from morphology and recent fossil discoveries to reveal what early primates ate, where they slept, how they learned to walk upright, how brain and hand anatomy evolved simultaneously, and what else happened evolutionarily to cause humans to diverge from their closest relatives. Despite our genomic similarities with bonobos, chimpanzees, and gorillas, humans are unique among primates in occupying a symbolic niche of values and beliefs based on symbolically mediated cognitive processes. Although apes exhibit behaviors that strongly suggest they can think, salient elements of human culture -- speech, mating proscriptions, kinship structures, and moral codes -- are symbolic systems that are not manifest in ape niches.
    This encyclopedic volume is both a milestone in primatological research and a critique of what is known and yet to be discovered about human and ape potential.
    IAN'S RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in the subject.

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Ian "Birdbooker" Paulsen is an avid book collector who is especially well-known to the publishing world. Ian collects newly-published books about nature, animals and birds, science, and history, and he also collects children's books on these topics. Ian writes brief synopses about these books on his website, The Birdbooker Report.

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