Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

The Three-minute Outdoorsman: Wild Science ...

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird books Updated: August 12, 2014 - 2:26 PM

OK, now I've read "The Three-minute Outdoorsman," the book I liked so much before reading it that I posted the same preview twice.

And, it's as good as I anticipated.

Dr. Robert Zink, holder of the Breckenridge Chair of Ornithology at the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota, author of this book, deserves a shorter title: guy who has a lot of fun outdoors.

This is not a book you would expect a university ornithologist to write. lt is, well, fun as well as informative. Zink takes personal experiences as a hunter -- yes, he hunts -- and weaves them into science-based adventure stories. The unusual and enjoyable thing is his continual reference to scientific work to explain what he sees or does, explanations that come as easily as stories over beer.

On days when a personal experience does not rise to meet his deadline (many of the book's brief chapters once were columns in "Outdoor News" or "The American Waterfowler"), Zink finds other interesting pegs from which to hang his stories. Sample chapter titles:

"It's Taken Centuries, But Now We Know Why Deer Don't Ask to Use Your Compass"

"Sounding the Alarm, Mourning Dove Style"

"Recreational Fishing Alters Fish Evolution"

"Long-term Sexual Tensions between Male and Female Ducks" (this does sound thesis-like, but it isn't)

"Never Be a Baby Bird"

"Loon Hunting: A Bygone Tradition"

"Out-foxed Again: Foxes Use Built-in Range Finder"

"Neck-deep in Guano: A Recent History of Chimney Swifts"

and so on.

He explains in the book's preface that he saw an opportunity to connect the pleasures he found as a hunter and fisherman and the science behind all of the creatures and places involved. It is a unique look at the outdoors, from a guy who obviously has a lot of fun there.

Buy the book. (Soft cover, University of Minnesota Press, 246 pages, $17.95.)

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