An ornithologist’s account of his youthful, year-long, cross-country birdwatching adventure: “A fascinating memoir of an obsession.” —Booklist At sixteen, Kenn Kaufman dropped out of the high school where he was student council president and hit the road, hitching back and forth across America, from Alaska to Florida, Maine to Mexico. Maybe not all that unusual a thing to do in the seventies, but what Kenn was searching for was a little different: not sex, drugs, God, or even self, but birds. A report of a rare bird would send him hitching nonstop from Pacific to Atlantic and back again. When he was broke he would pick fruit or do odd jobs to earn the fifty dollars or so that would last him for weeks. His goal was to set a record—most North American species seen in a year—but along the way he began to realize that at this breakneck pace he was only looking, not seeing. What had been a game became a quest for a deeper understanding of the natural world. Kingbird Highway is a unique coming-of-age story, combining a lyrical celebration of nature with wild, and sometimes dangerous, adventures, starring a colorful cast of characters.
The Story of a Natural Obsession That Got a Little Out of Hand
Author: Kenn Kaufman
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The author recounts his trek across the country at age sixteen in search of birds, his efforts to set a record for the most North American species seen in a year, and how he gained a deeper understanding of the natural world. Reprint.
America is a nation of ardent, knowledgeable birdwatchers. But how did it become so? And what role did the field guide play in our passion for spotting, watching, and describing birds? In the Field, Among the Feathered tells the history of field guides to birds in America from the Victorian era to the present, relating changes in the guides to shifts in science, the craft of field identification, and new technologies for the mass reproduction of images. Drawing on his experience as a passionate birder and on a wealth of archival research, Thomas Dunlap shows how the twin pursuits of recreation and conservation have inspired birders and how field guides have served as the preferred method of informal education about nature for well over a century. The book begins with the first generation of late 19th-century birdwatchers who built the hobby when opera glasses were often the best available optics and bird identification was sketchy at best. As America became increasingly urban, birding became more attractive, and with Roger Tory Peterson's first field guide in 1934, birding grew in both popularity and accuracy. By the 1960s recreational birders were attaining new levels of expertise, even as the environmental movement made birding's other pole, conservation, a matter of human health and planetary survival. Dunlap concludes by showing how recreation and conservation have reached a new balance in the last 40 years, as scientists have increasingly turned to amateurs, whose expertise had been honed by the new guides, to gather the data they need to support habitat preservation. Putting nature lovers and citizen-activists at the heart of his work, Thomas Dunlap offers an entertaining history of America's long-standing love affair with birds, and with the books that have guided and informed their enthusiasm.
Polar bears in the high Arctic. Butterflies on Mexico’s mountains. Gray whales in Baja California. Golden toads in Costa Rica. Parrots in the West Indies. Albatrosses off the Olympic Peninsula. Whether on their own or as tour leaders for the Smithsonian Institution and other organizations, John and Gloria Tveten have encountered the world’s wildlife with an unfailing appreciation not only for animals of all kinds but also for the places those animals call home. For more than two decades, from some of the most beautiful and fascinating locations in the Western Hemisphere, the Tvetens brought their adventures alive for the readers of their weekly “Nature Trails” column in the Houston Chronicle. Here, with contemporary notes and updates, the Tvetens have gathered a sampling of their favorite, most recommended, most unforgettable trips to see wildlife and nature, which also include the Guatemalan Highlands, the International Crane Foundation, the Andes, the Grand Canyon, and Utah’s Redrock Country.
In the past thirty years biodiversity has become one of the central organizing principles through which we understand the nonhuman environment. Its deceptively simple definition as the variation among living organisms masks its status as a hotly contested term both within the sciences and more broadly. In Eden’s Endemics, Elizabeth Callaway looks to cultural objects—novels, memoirs, databases, visualizations, and poetry— that depict many species at once to consider the question of how we narrate organisms in their multiplicity. Touching on topics ranging from seed banks to science fiction to bird-watching, Callaway argues that there is no set, generally accepted way to measure biodiversity. Westerners tend to conceptualize it according to one or more of an array of tropes rooted in colonial history such as the Lost Eden, Noah’s Ark, and Tree-of-Life imagery. These conceptualizations affect what kinds of biodiversities are prioritized for protection. While using biodiversity as a way to talk about the world aims to highlight what is most valued in nature, it can produce narratives that reinforce certain power differentials—with real-life consequences for conservation projects. Thus the choices made when portraying biodiversity impact what is visible, what is visceral, and what is unquestioned common sense about the patterns of life on Earth.
Become a better birder with brief portraits of 200 top North American birds. This friendly, relatable book is a celebration of the art, science, and delights of bird-watching. How to Know the Birds introduces a new, holistic approach to bird-watching, by noting how behaviors, settings, and seasonal cycles connect with shape, song, color, gender, age distinctions, and other features traditionally used to identify species. With short essays on 200 observable species, expert author Ted Floyd guides us through a year of becoming a better birder, each species representing another useful lesson: from explaining scientific nomenclature to noting how plumage changes with age, from chronicling migration patterns to noting hatchling habits. Dozens of endearing pencil sketches accompany Floyd's charming prose, making this book a unique blend of narrative and field guide. A pleasure for birders of all ages, this witty book promises solid lessons for the beginner and smiles of recognition for the seasoned nature lover.
[2015 Reprint] Roger Tory Peterson—the Renaissance man who taught Americans the joy of watching birds—also invented the modern field guide. His 1934 landmark Field Guide to the Birds was the first book designed to go outdoors and help people identify the elements of nature. This self-proclaimed “student of nature” combined spectacular writing with detailed illustrations to ultimately publish many other books, winning every possible award and medal for natural science, ornithology, and conservation. Birdwatcher is a comprehensive, illustrated biography of Roger Tory Peterson--a hero in the conservation world--including interviews with friends, family, and protégés.
With stories of sighting rare birds ranging from an Eskimo Curlew to the cranes of Asia, one of America's foremost birders recalls a lifetime of birding adventures, including friendships with luminaries Roger Tory Peterson, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton.
One woman . . . one year . . . 723 species of birds. . . In 2008, Lynn Barber's passion for birding led her to drive, fly, sail, walk, stalk, and sit in search of birds in twenty-five states and three provinces. Traveling more than 175,000 miles, she set a twenty-first century record at the time, second to only one other person in history. Over 272 days, Barber observed 723 species of birds in North America north of Mexico, recording a remarkable 333 new species in January but, with the dwindling returns typical to Big Year birding, only eight in December, a month that found her crisscrossing the continent from Texas to Newfoundland, from Washington to Ontario. In the months between, she felt every extreme of climate, well-being, and emotion. But, whether finally spotting an elusive Blue Bunting or seeing three species of eiders in a single day, she was also challenged, inspired, and rewarded by nearly every experience. Barber's journal from her American Birding Association-sanctioned Big Year covers the highlights of her treks to forests, canyons, mountain ranges, deserts, oceans, lakes, and numerous spots in between. Written in the informal style of a diary, it captures the detail, humor, challenges, and fun of a good adventure travelogue and also conveys the remarkable diversity of North American birds and habitat. For actual or would-be “travel birders,” Lynn Barber’s Extreme Birder provides a fascinating, binoculars-eye view of one of the best-loved pastimes of nature lovers everywhere. "Lynn Barber challenges a traditionally male-dominated pursuit--the birding big year--and is successful beyond her wildest dreams. She is an inspiration for all who love adventure, nature, and birds."--Lynn Hassler, author, Birds of the American Southwest
Aerial delights: A history of America as seen through the eyes of a bird-watcher John James Audubon arrived in America in 1803, when Thomas Jefferson was president, and lived long enough to see his friend Samuel Morse send a telegraphic message from his house in New York City in the 1840s. As a boy, Teddy Roosevelt learned taxidermy from a man who had sailed up the Missouri River with Audubon, and yet as president presided over America's entry into the twentieth century, in which our ability to destroy ourselves and the natural world was no longer metaphorical. Roosevelt, an avid birder, was born a hunter and died a conservationist. Today, forty-six million Americans are bird-watchers. The Life of the Skies is a genre-bending journey into the meaning of a pursuit born out of the tangled history of industrialization and nature longing. Jonathan Rosen set out on a quest not merely to see birds but to fathom their centrality—historical and literary, spiritual and scientific—to a culture torn between the desire both to conquer and to conserve. Rosen argues that bird-watching is nothing less than the real national pastime—indeed it is more than that, because the field of play is the earth itself. We are the players and the spectators, and the outcome—since bird and watcher are intimately connected—is literally a matter of life and death.
The fascinating development of natural history studies in North America is portrayed through the life stories of 22 naturalists. The hope is that once people personally encounter the natural world and become aware of its intricacy, fragility, beauty, and significance, they will recognize the need for conservation.
Human Perceptions, Attitudes and Approaches to Management
Author: Ian D. Rotherham
There have been many well-publicized cases of invasive species of plants and animals, often introduced unintentionally but sometimes on purpose, causing widespread ecological havoc. Examples of such alien invasions include pernicious weeds such as Japanese knotweed, an introduced garden ornamental which can grow through concrete, the water hyacinth which has choked tropical waterways, and many introduced animals which have out-competed and displaced local fauna. This book addresses the broader context of invasive and exotic species, in terms of the perceived threats and environmental concerns which surround alien species and ecological invasions. As a result of unprecedented scales of environmental change, combined with rapid globalisation, the mixing of cultures and diversity, and fears over biosecurity and bioterrorism, the known impacts of particular invasions have been catastrophic. However, as several chapters show, reactions to some exotic species, and the justifications for interventions in certain situations, including biological control by introduced natural enemies, rest uncomfortably with social reactions to ethnic cleansing and persecution perpetrated across the globe. The role of democracy in deciding and determining environmental policy is another emerging issue. In an increasingly multicultural society this raises huge questions of ethics and choice. At the same time, in order to redress major ecological losses, the science of reintroduction of native species has also come to the fore, and is widely accepted by many in nature conservation. However, with questions of where and when, and with what species or even species analogues, reintroductions are acceptable, the topic is hotly debated. Again, it is shown that many decisions are based on values and perceptions rather than objective science. Including a wide range of case studies from around the world, his book raises critical issues to stimulate a much wider debate.
A natural history of birds provides information on more than nine hundred species of birds, including what they eat, where they build their nests, how many eggs they lay, what habitat they choose, when they migrate, and their current conservation status.
Adventurous Tales of Wildlife and Conservation on Planet Earth
Author: Jane Alexander
Category: Biography & Autobiography
In Wild Things, Wild Places actress, author, and conservationist Jane Alexander offers a moving first-hand assessment of what is being done to help the planet’s most at risk animals. In short reflections on her travels to some of the most remote and forbidding areas, she describes the ways in which human incursions into the natural world are destroying wildlife around the globe. With a clear eye and a keen grasp of the issues, Alexander highlights the remarkable work being done in the fields of science and conservation, and introduces readers to the field biologists, zoologists, environmentalists, and conservationists—the “prophets in the wilderness”—who have committed themselves to this essential effort. Inspiring and enlightening, Wild Things, Wild Places is a deeply personal look at the changing face of wildlife on planet Earth.
“In the grandest sense, the Big Year is more than just a game. Though few mortals will ever tackle the endeavor, most of us can appreciate the decision to follow a passion to its outer limits. Dedicating a whole year to birds is an exhausting, exhilarating, occasionally demoralizing, and addictive pursuit, and anyone crazy enough to go the distance is in for a wild ride.” —Noah Strycker, Audubon "What makes this big-year book different is the father-son bonding element . . . the picture of a teenager that emerges has the ring of truth. A proficient storyteller, Collard writes with style about their travels together . . ." —Kirkus Reviews From the killer bee-infested border region of southeast Arizona to the sultry islands of the Galapagos, Warblers & Woodpeckers recounts the quest of a father and his thirteen-year-old son to see as many birds as possible in a single year. With a measured blend of humor, natural history, and adventure, this tale takes readers to great birding hotspots of America and beyond, both to experience their incredible avian wealth and to experience the focused, often eccentric, world of ornithological travel. Along the way, readers share the ups and downs of the relationship between a father and his teenage son. Writer Sneed Collard and his son Braden set out to establish their own personal Big Year bird species count record. In Warblers & Wood peckers, Sneed shares the excitement, challenges, perils, and insights that come with crisscrossing the country in search of some of Earth’s most remarkable creatures. It’s a father-and-son tale, in which the adventure is in the journey and the surprising discoveries and encounters with our wondrous feathered friends. Sneed brings a fast-paced yet generous voice to the attempt, and readers of all stripes will appreciate the way backyard birders can create their own Big Year.
The noted bird expert provides an authoritative introduction to the world of birding, outlining the tools and techniques of birdwatching, ten simple keys to bird identification, the art of birding by sound and by scope, how to locate difficult to find birds, and more. Original.