Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Birdbooker Report 113-114

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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.

The Birdbooker Report is a special weekly report of a wide variety of science, nature and behavior books that currently are, or soon will be available for purchase. This report is written by one of my Seattle birding pals and book collector, Ian “Birdbooker” Paulsen, and is edited by me and published here for your information and enjoyment. Below the fold is this week’s issue of The Birdbooker Report which lists ecology, environment, natural history and bird books that are (or will soon be) available for purchase.


  1. Newton, Ian. Bird Migration. 2010. Collins. Paperback: 596 pages. Price: $50.00 U.S. [Amazon: $37.05].
    SUMMARY: This is the latest title in the British New Naturalist series.The book is divided into four main sections: the first is introductory, describing the different types of bird movements, methods of study, and the main migration patterns seen around the British Isles; the second part is concerned mainly with the process of migration – with timing, energy needs, weather effects and navigation; the third with evolution and change in migratory behavior; and the fourth with the geographical and ecological aspects of bird movements.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those interested in bird migration or the New Naturalist series.

New and Recent Titles:

  1. Serjeantson, Dale. Birds. 2009. Cambridge University Press. Paperback: 486 pages. Price: $43.00 U.S. [Amazon: $43.00].
    SUMMARY: This is the first book to examine bird remains in archaeology and anthropology. Providing a thorough review of the literature on this topic, it also serves as a guide to the methods of study of bird remains from the past and covers a wide range of topics, including anatomy and osteology, taphonomy, eggs, feathers, and, bone tools. It examines the myriad ways in which people have interacted with birds in the past. The volume also includes discussion on the consumption of wild birds, the domestication of birds, cockfighting and falconry, birds in ritual and religion, and the role of birds in ecological reconstruction, providing an up-to-date survey of current knowledge on these topics.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in archaeology or ethno-ornithology.
  2. Darwin, Charles. Insectivorous Plants. 2009. Cambridge University Press. Paperback: 462 pages. Price: $29.99 U.S. [Amazon: $29.99].
    SUMMARY: Charles Darwin (1809-1882) had long been fascinated by insectivorous plants, from the round-leafed sundew and bladderworts to the exotic Pinguiculas (butterworts) and Nepenthes (pitcher plants) which he encountered during the Beagle voyage. This book shows the results of his experiments on these plants that showed evolutionary adaptation in their highly specialised methods of obtaining nutrients.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those interested in the works of Charles Darwin or insectivorous plants.
  3. Cribb, Phillip and Johan Hermans. Field Guide to the Orchids of Madagascar. 2009. Kew Publishing. Hardbound: 456 pages. Price: $99.00 U.S. [Amazon: $99.00].
    SUMMARY: Madagascar is a world hot-spot for orchids. The largest family of flowering plants on the island, almost 1000 species make up some 10% of Madagascar’s flora; 90% of them are endemic. They occur in almost every habitat, from coastal and montane forests to cold mountain tops and dry spiny forest. This field guide, the first of its kind for Madagascan orchids, will enable you to identify these showy, and often spectacular plants. Each species is given a range map and about 40% of the species are given a color photograph.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those interested in orchids or the flora of Madagascar.
  4. Dingus, Lowell and Mark A. Norell. Barnum Brown: The Man Who Discovered Tyrannosaurus rex. 2010. University of California Press. Hardbound: 368 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S. [Amazon: $19.77].
    SUMMARY: From his stunning discovery of Tyrannosaurus rex one hundred years ago to the dozens of other important new dinosaur species he found, Barnum Brown led a remarkable life (1873-1963), spending most of it searching for fossils — and sometimes oil — in every corner of the globe. One of the most famous scientists in the world during the middle of the twentieth century, Brown — who lived fast, dressed to the nines, gambled, drank, smoked, and was known as a ladies’ man — became as legendary as the dinosaurs he uncovered. Barnum Brown brushes off the loose sediment to reveal the man behind the legend. Drawing on Brown’s field correspondence and unpublished notes, and on the writings of his daughter and his two wives, it discloses for the first time details about his life and travels — from his youth on the western frontier to his spying for the U.S. government under cover of his expeditions. This absorbing biography also takes full measure of Brown’s extensive scientific accomplishments, making it the definitive account of the life and times of a singular man and a superlative fossil hunter.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those interested in paleontological history.
  5. Horn, James. A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. 2010. Basic Books. Hardbound: 296 pages. Price: $26.00 U.S. [Amazon: $17.16].
    SUMMARY: In 1587, John White and 117 men, women, and children landed off the coast of North Carolina on Roanoke Island, hoping to carve a colony from fearsome wilderness. A mere month later, facing quickly diminishing supplies and a fierce native population, White sailed back to England in desperation. He persuaded the wealthy Sir Walter Raleigh, the expedition’s sponsor, to rescue the imperiled colonists, but by the time White returned with aid the colonists of Roanoke were nowhere to be found. He never saw his friends or family again. In this gripping account based on new archival material, colonial historian James Horn tells for the first time the complete story of what happened to the Roanoke colonists and their descendants. A compellingly original examination of one of the great unsolved mysteries of American history, A Kingdom Strange will be essential reading for anyone interested in our national origins.
    RECOMMENDATION: An interesting read on a mysterious chapter of American colonial history.
  6. Fry, Juliane L. et al. The Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate Change: A Complete Visual Guide. 2010. University of California Press. Hardbound: 512 pages. Price: $39.95 U.S. [Amazon: $26.37].
    SUMMARY: This comprehensive and up-to-date volume covers in amazing depth all aspects of the world’s weather. Liberally illustrated with more than 2,000 color photographs, supplemental maps, diagrams, and other images, The Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate Change takes the reader beyond simple definitions to explore where weather comes from and the roles played by oceans and water cycles, and explains such related phenomena as the shaping of landforms, the creation of biological provinces, and the lasting ramifications of climate change. It also discusses how humans have survived and adapted in extreme climates like deserts, jungles, and icy regions. Each of the book’s six sections is written and vetted by a different expert. “Engine” discusses what weather is, the solar powerhouse that supplies it, and Earth’s atmospheric systems and seasons. “Action” delves into the dynamics of various weather forms. “Extremes” covers blizzards, heat waves, wildfires, and more. “Watching” tracks how weather is measured, mapped, monitored, and forecast. “Climate” delineates the continental climate zones and describes the plant, animal, and human adaptations for each. “Change” considers the history of climate change — ice ages, dinosaur extinction, melting glaciers, human impact, and more — and what we can expect in the future.
    RECOMMENDATION: A good introduction on the subjects of weather, climate and climate change.
  7. Impey, Chris. How It Ends: From You to the Universe. 2010. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 352 pages. Price: $26.95 U.S. [Amazon: $17.79].
    SUMMARY: The author examines how things come to an end (die). He starts out with humans and ends up with the universe. The author often uses humor to lighten up this dark topic.
    RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the ultimate end of everything.

You can read all the Birdbooker Reports in the archives on this site, and Ian now has his own website, The Birdbooker Report, where you can read his synopses about newly published science, nature and animal books. But Ian assures me that he still loves us here, so he’ll still share his weekly Birdbooker Reports with us!