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

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.

Poetry -- Bright Wings

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: July 1, 2014 - 6:06 PM

Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds, edited by Billy Collins with paintings by David Allen Sibley, Columbia University Press, paperback edition, 268 pages, $16.95. When I read the hardcover release I wrote, “An intelligent assembly of poems that take us places where prose cannot go.This little book is a reminder that everything important about birds can’t be found in guide books or scientific papers.”

Book review -- Ten Thousand Birds

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: June 17, 2014 - 10:23 AM

Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin, Tim Burkhead, Jo Wimpenny, and Bob Montgomery, Princeton University Press, hardcover, 524 pages, illustrated with photos and artwork, with notes, references, and index, $45.

Here in summary is everything we know about birds told through the achievements of the people who made the discoveries and did the science. You will recognize some of the names, but probably not all of them. You will be impressed, however, with the work of all of them. The book begins with yesterday’s birds, and ends with tomorrow’s. Discussed are the origin and distribution of species, ecological adaptations, form and function, instinct, behavior, sexual selection, and population studies. Twenty-four other histories of ornithology are briefly described in an appendix, offering opportunity to fill in the few blanks that one might find in this very accomplished examination of bird science. A second appendix offers very brief biographies of 500 ornithologists. You know birds. With this book you will know the people and work that made that knowledge possible. Chances are, you had no idea.

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