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.

Posts about Bird books

A book on the history of feeding birds

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: August 28, 2014 - 9:33 AM

Carrol Henderson has a new book close to publication. Henderson is superintendent of non-game wildlife for the Minnesota Department of Conservation. He also is one of Minnesota's most prolific authors of books about birds, often supporting his text with excellent photographs.

 

The new book is entitled “Feeding Wild Birds in America.” It's a history of the pastime that involves so many of us. The book will be published next spring by Texas A & M University Press.

 

Henderson’s co-authors are Paul J. Baicich, Maryland writer and avitourism consultant, and Margaret A. Barker, former coordinator of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch, and author of a book on bird feeding.

 

The book was originally conceived and commissioned by the Wild Bird Centers of America to be a short narrative describing this curiously widespread pastime. 

 

The authors discovered that bird feeding is much more a part of our culture than anyone guessed. Thus, a book.

 

The story begins in the late 19th century. It moves decade-by-decade through historical context, discussing into traditions, innovations, and business concerns. The authors write that this simple practice has been a social cause, a trendy curiosity, an agricultural obligation, a serious hobby, a billion-dollar industry, a basis for scientific study, and, as most of us know it, pure entertainment. 

 

GrrlScientist -- check her out

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: August 14, 2014 - 11:39 AM

GrrlScientist, a.k.a. Devorah the Ornithologist and Devorah Bennu, PhD, writes one of the most interesting bird blogs you can find. She occasionally posts to the national birding email list BirdChat/. Her post today is about, in her words, “A recently published study finds that competition for ecological niches limits the evolution of new species. Further, this study finds that speciation rate slows or even stops as available ecological niches fill up.” 

It’s science, and it reads like science, but certainly is broadly accessible. It also is very interesting. She offers several ways to find her work, some of which begins with publication in "The Guardian," a British newspaper and web site. Her interests are catholic, not parochial, her curiosity boundless. Give her a look. One of the more interesting blogs linked to her homepage contains reviews of books about birds.

birdologist@gmail.com 
http://about.me/grrlscientist <http://gplus.to/grrlscientist>
http://www.grrlscientist.net/
http://twitter.com/GrrlScientist
http://www.theguardian.com/science/grrlscientist
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/grrlscientist>

The Three-minute Outdoorsman: Wild Science ...

Posted by: Jim Williams 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.)

"The Three-Minute Outdoorsman"

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: July 25, 2014 - 2:32 PM

This should be a good read. University of Minnesota ornithologist Dr. Robert Zink has a book out entitled “The Three-minute Outdoorsman : Wild Science from Magnetic Deer to Mumbling Carp.” It’s published by the University of Minnesota Press. Book stores should have it; the Hennepin County library does. I’ve read one piece from the collection, and it was informative and entertaining. I can tell you more once the library delivers the copy I’ve requested.

The Three-Minute Outdoorsman

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: July 15, 2014 - 2:21 PM

This should be a good read. University of Minnesota ornithologist Dr. Robert Zink has written a book entitled “The Three-minute Outdoorsman : Wild Science from Magnetic Deer to Mumbling Carp.” It’s published by the University of Minnesota Press. Book stores should have it; the Hennepin County library does. I’ve read one piece from the collection, and it was informative and entertaining. I can tell you more once the library delivers the copy I’ve requested.

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