8 great books for bird and animal watchers

  • By Sharon Wootton Herald Columnist
  • Friday, December 14, 2012 9:38pm
  • Life

I recognize at least a few of my so-called limitations.

Math: I once balanced my checkbook every few years by closing the account and starting another.

Speed: My 100-yard dash resembles molasses flowing on an iceberg.

Art: I recently unearthed a teenage ‘painting.’ Let’s just say my skills haven’t improved with age.

But after examining “The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds” ($25) by artist and naturalist John Muir Laws, I surreptitiously tried to mimic the simplest outlined shape. Think I’ll stick to the written word.

Nonetheless, “Laws” is a magical book where lines are transformed into life on a page, where attention to detail takes readers into new territory, where words and 700-plus illustrations deliver color-theory heresy, raptor anatomy, iridescence, leg position and angle, behaviors, waterfowl in motion and more.

And readers don’t have to be artists or birders to appreciate this artist’s perspective.

Here are some other ideas for book-giving:

“Bird Sense: What It’s Like to be a Bird?” ($25). Tim Birkhead’s use of technology and bird behavior gives us the best sense yet of what it’s like to be a bird. The professor of behavioral psychology arranges “Sense” by the senses and applies research and imagination to specific species.

Science allows us to come closer to what it’s like to be a bird, with tantalizing possibilities just beyond the next research project.

“Eating Aliens: One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species” ($15). Jackson Landers’ theory on the plague of invasive species is simple: If you can’t beat them, eat them; or sell them so other people can eat them. Landers hunts down 14 destructive species that don’t belong to the native habit, including pigs, armadillos, Chinese mystery snails and European green crabs. He meets up with regulations seemingly designed to thwart but perseveres.

“Bicycling Science: How Rider and Machine Work Together” ($30). Max Glaskin explores the science behind the sport, something few of the 1.2 billion bicyclists around the world consider.

How does bike geometry relate to gender? Does a tandem have scientific advantages? How does a bike turn effort into speed? How does the air flow around a cyclist? What position is the world’s fastest.

There’s a wealth of fascinating explanations, illustrations and photographs that take riders from wobbling starts to the fastest speeds.

“David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work” ($28). Jack Nisbet’s work on David Douglas’ (Douglas fir and 79 other plants and animals bear his name) exploration of the Northwest offers 191 slick pages of text, photographs, journals and illustrations that places Douglas in the context of 19th-century scientific explorations.

Nisbet writes in detailed but easily read style. Readers learn Douglas could have been killed by a terrifying storm that nearly sank his ship in 1825, about how he interacted with American Indians, about a probable son that he may not have known existed, and about his systematic collection of flora and fauna.

“Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America” ($20), is part of the standard-setting series.

Fiona Reid provides the expected in text and maps, but it’s the plates that go the extra mile with illustrations of species size and color comparisons, and tracks.

“The Secret Lives of Backyard Bugs” ($15). Judy Burris and Wayne Richards created this winner of the National Outdoor Book Award, illustrating that there’s more to your back yard than mowed grass. They introduce about four dozen “bugs” with photographs, life cycles and facts.

Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.

More in Life

The “Hamilton” marquee at The Paramount in Seattle. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
Seattle’s ‘Hamilton’ is everything it’s hyped to be and more

The blockbuster musical at The Paramount in Seattle runs through March 18.

Andrea Rosen, mother of two, quit eating sugar more than 1,000 days ago. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
How kicking her sugar habit changed a Mill Creek mom’s life

Andrea Rosen quit eating sweets 3 years ago, lost weight, felt better and her family also benefited.

Beer of the Week: Hazy IPA, 4-Ways

Four Snohomish breweries decided to brew a single malt hazy IPA made with four different hops.

Tiny book “Tonic” packed with with homeopathic remedies

Tanita de Ruijt’s recipes help support your body’s natural defences and heighten your state of mind.

Exceptional eggplant: 4 recipes with the funny-shaped veggie

By Daniel Neman / St. Louis Post-Dispatch Let’s face it, eggplant is… Continue reading

How to roast Brussels sprouts to crispy goodness

Toss these compact cabbages with toss with homemade sweet and sour vinaigrette.

Ambiguity of ‘The Invisibility Cloak’ by Ge Fei is tantalizing

The story of a man offered to build an incredible sound system delves into odd turns and noir.

These tasty enchiladas take only 5 minutes in the microwave

Serve this Mexican-inspired turkey and refried bean dish with fried corn on the side.

Peanut butter helps West African-style stew find the ‘sweet spot’

This recipe is a colorful medley of sweet potatoes, tomato, bell pepper and collard greens.

Most Read