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.)

Killing more cormorants

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: August 5, 2014 - 11:06 PM

Double-crested Cormorants are in the news again, for the usual reason. This time the federal government wants to kill 16,000 of this native bird species because of complaints from fishermen in the estuary of the Columbia River on the Oregon coast. When fishing slows, cormorants beware! We've had two bouts of that in Minnesota in recent years, several years ago in Leech Lake, two years ago on Lake Waconia. One study after another confirms that cormorants are not the cause of diminishing fish resources regardless of where or what species. A University of Minnesota biologist, Linda Wires, has written a book about this problem: "Double-crested Cormorant -- Plight of a Feathered Pariah." It's been published by Yale University Press. An on-line review said, "...it should infuriate everyone who cares about the environment, and the importance of factual information over absurb myth." Amen.

Read the book, and be ready to go to bat for this bird when next it comes under the gun here. It's just a matter of time.

Double-crested Cormorant diving

build a nest

Posted by: Jim Williams under Nesting Updated: August 5, 2014 - 7:38 PM

A very short entertaining video on building a bird nest, as created by Marinda Brandon.


Bought your duck stamp yet?

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: August 16, 2014 - 10:49 AM


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