Tag Archives: IYOB

The Grail Bird By Tim Gallagher

The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

By Tim Gallagher

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2005

Borrowed from the library.

It pains me to think about all of the animals that reach the point of extinction every year.  I am glad that humans have finally come to realize our hand in this destruction.

Tim Gallagher’s book covers much of the history of the search for a bird most believed died out in the 1940’s.  The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Campephilis principalis) lived in the forests of southeastern United States, an area that has been decimated by logging and agriculture since the civil war.  Its last known siting took place in 1944.

Then, in February 2004, a kayaker named Gene Spaulding spotted an unusual bird in a bayou in eastern Arkansas.  Word reached Gallagher, the editor of Cornell’s lab of Ornithology’s Living Bird Magazine, and he was off, traveling to the south, hooking up with his friend Bobby Harrison and beginning a search that continues to this day.

The Grail Bird is an interesting read, mostly about the connections and camaraderie between the searchers, the destruction of Ivory-Billed habitat and the struggle to set up and maintain the search teams.  There are some nice passages about observation, about having to sit still in a swamp.

An hour passed.  Then another hour.  And another.  And another.  And these were not quick hours.  It’s amazing how slowly time can pass when you’re deep in the swamp.  It’s a fluid kind of place;  all of your visual references are gone.  Most of the time you can’t even tell the position of the sun in the sky, so your sole clue to the passage of time is your watch.  The only way to cope is to give in to it.  From page 195.

The existence of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker has not been confirmed but there are people out there, in different places, sitting and watching.  There are audio recorders and cameras hanging in trees.  There is always hope.

For more information about the Grail Bird and a wonderful resource on birds from all over the world visit the Cornell lab of Ornithology.

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Filed under Animals, IYOBChallenge, Nature, New Authors 2010, Science Books 2010

The Tree: A Natural History by Colin Tudge

The Tree: A Natural History of  What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge

Three Rivers Press, New York, 2005

I own this one.

I have a thing about trees.  I climbed them as a child and wanted to live in one particular Dogwood that stood outside my bedroom window.  I can’t help touching them when I walk by them.  I sit under them, listening to them,  almost becoming part of them.  Once, in the Redwoods of California, I felt the redwoods were so angry at us humans that I had to leave, hanging my head in shame.

Weird, I know, but I feel like Colin Tudge and I would understand each other.

Colin Tudge has written a book that is wordy and at times it grew tedious.  It includes so much information about trees that I had to take it in small bits.  I am still reading about our future with trees if, in fact, we have one.  It is a book I will keep close at hand.

Tudge covers what trees are, the kinds of plants they evolved from and how scientists attempt to differentiate species.  His approach is deeply scientific but also reverent in a way that is spiritual.  I understand this, and appreciate it.  Humans would not be here without  these  amazingly diverse and important members of the living world.  We must learn to value their presence instead of considering them just an economic resource or something that stands in the way of agriculture or development.

Coast Redwood

Cherry Trees on the farm.

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Filed under Earth, IYOBChallenge, Nature, Science

The International Year of Biodiversity and a Reading Challenge!

If I stopped to think about what is happening to our planet I would never get up in the morning.  So instead of allowing myself to wallow in the knowledge of the stupidity of much of our human behavior I get excited about events like this,  walk the beach at low tide and introduce people to animals like this,

Burrowing Anemone

and try and learn everything I can about animals and plants that live in my neighborhood.

This year I am going to focus on birds.  How about you?  What trees share your block?  What birds visit  your backyard?

It turns out that there are other readers out there who get as excited about the earth as I do.  Thanks to Eva at A Striped Armchair I learned that Sylvia at Classical Bookworm has created a challenge to celebrate the IYOB.

Here is her discription of the challenge:

As a biologist, I naturally couldn’t let this international year go by without putting together a reading challenge for it! By learning more about biodiversity we can better appreciate its value and do more to ensure its protection at home and around the world. To that end I’ve put together a selection of reading challenges for this year:

Basic: 3 books on any biodiversity topic.

Biomes: 3 books about major world ecosystems: open ocean; coral reefs; lakes and rivers; arctic tundra; boreal forests; temperate forests; tropical forests; savannah; grassland/steppe/ deserts.

Branches: 3 books on different life forms: plants; fungi; invertebrates (including insects); reptiles and amphibians; birds; mammals.

Bye-bye: 2 books about endangered or extinct species or about extinction or conservation.

Back yard: Buy 2 or more field guides to your local flora & fauna and get to know your neighbours.

Biodiversity Bonanza: One of each of the above!

I’ve also devised some “field trips” to get you closer to your subject:

Level 1—Indoorsy: Visit a natural history museum or watch a documentary series on biodiversity (e.g. Planet Earth)

Level 2—Outdoorsy: Take a guided walk or hike in a local park. Check park system websites for schedules.

Level 3—Full Granola: Design your own field trip to go birding, botanizing, field-journaling, or whatever you like. Alternatively, join a local natural history club, or take a course in natural history online or at a college or community centre.

To make all this easier I’ve gathered together some helpful resources here, and will be adding to them throughout the year as I make more discoveries.

I’m signing up at the bonaza level.  How about you?

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Filed under Animals, Earth, Nature