Friday, July 4, 2014

WE ARE ALL STAR STUFF: COSMOS FOR JUL/AUG/SEP

Our gaze turns skyward to Carl Sagan's COSMOS, written to accompany the groundbreaking COSMOS television series. The book is the biggest selling science book of all time, surpassed only by Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. Although some of the science explored in this book has since progressed to new insights, Sagan's personality, humanity and unique perspective makes this still a very worthwhile and illuminating read.  At the time it was written, the cold war and the prospect of nuclear annihilation permeated everyone's subconscious, and this theme is repeatedly touched on in the book. Now we face a different type of end time scenario due to climate change, so this may be a very timely selection to follow Apocalyptic Planet.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Singing in the Wilderness of an Apocalyptic Planet APR/MAY/JUN 2014

For April, May and June, we combine voices from the past and present.  Our selections are The Singing Wilderness by Sigurd Olson and Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth by Craig Childs, winner of the 2013 Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. For information on Mr. Olson, one of our most revered authors and environmentalists, check out The Listening Point Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving his wilderness retreat and advancing his legacy of wilderness education. See Mr. Child's website here for details on his book. It will be interesting and to contrast these two writers and their perspectives.


Note: Google now will not allow me to upload photos unless I download their improved surveillance browser Google Chrome, so until that time, this blog will be unadorned with images, unfortunately. Please go to the websites listed for images of the authors and their books.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

JAN-MAR 2014: JON YOUNG's WHAT THE ROBIN KNOWS

“Jon Young is one of the heroes of the new nature movement, an expansion of traditional environmentalism.
With What the Robin Knows, he opens a door to a universe that overlaps modern life, a world lost to most, but found by some—because of teachers like Jon. This elegant book will deepen the kinship between humans and other species. It decodes our common language.”
—Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods
“Here is the ancestral wisdom passed down from Apache elder Stalking Wolf to renowned tracker Tom Brown to Jon Young himself, who in turn passes on to the reader the art of truly listening to the avian soundscape. With all senses more finely tuned, you’ll find yourself more aware of your surroundings, slowing down, and reconnecting with a native intelligence and love of the natural world that lies deep within each of us.”
—Donald Kroodsma, author of The Singing Life of Birds and Birdsong by the Seasons
What the Robin Knows is a fascinating introduction to nature study beyond putting names on what we see, not just a guide to paying attention outdoors but full of tips on how to do it. It should help us discover the world of nature around us, often glimpsed but too often overlooked. This is less a book to read than one to use, one that will enrich our hours outdoors.”
Thomas R. Dunlap, author of In the Field, Among the Feathered
“Jon Young knows birds, and you will, too, after reading his marvelous book. You’ll discover a universal bird language that will speak to you wherever you go outdoors. Every nature lover should read this book.“
Joseph Cornell, author of Sharing Nature with Children and John Muir: My Life with Nature.
“This book turns us inside out, opening our minds onto the wider mind of the land itself. It’s a brilliant work, born of a lifetime of listening, teaching, and tracking what really matters. By waking our animal senses, Jon Young’s work replenishes our humanity.”
David Abram, author of Becoming Animal and The Spell of the Sensuous
“Naturalist Young (co-author: Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature, 2008) explains how to understand the language of birds.
Trained in anthropology at Rutgers, the author’s passion for bird-watching began in the salt marshes of southern New Jersey where he was raised, but he attributes his real learning to a series of mentors who trained him in Native American traditions.
Young believes that native and scientific knowledge about nature are complementary, and that animal communication is “never just the robins communicating with other robins”—they transmit information to other species, which follow their calls. In his wilderness-training classes, Young teaches students how to listen and understand these communications. However, he notes, it’s a skill that can be practiced by anyone in the backyard or a local park, by choosing a “sit spot” and quietly observing what is happening in the same area every day.
Young stresses the need to sit quietly, allowing the birds to accept our presence; after first flying away in alarm, they will return to their territory. “If we learn to read the birds…we can read the world at large,” he writes.
“The types of birds seen or heard, their numbers and behaviors and vocalizations, will reveal the locations of running water or still water, dead trees, ripe fruit, a carcass, predators, fish runs, insect hatches, and so much more.”
This information, shared by all the birds and animals living in a habitat, was crucial to the survival of hunter-gatherer societies. A trained tracker can learn to recognize how the variations in birdcalls and their behavior when alarmed can identify different predators such as hawks, crows and cats.
A sophisticated guide for amateur bird watchers and a door-opener for newbies.”
-Kirkus’ Reviews
 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

THOR HANSON's FEATHERS FINISHES 2013

I have started reading our last selection of 2013, Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle by Thor Hanson. Its one of those books that I want to savor since there is so much information, so many exciting ideas, presenting a multi-faceted perspective of the subject, and all written in a very engaging and often humorous first person.  It even has illustrations! So I'm dedicating both November and December to give the book the attention it deserves. Hanson's book
is critically acclaimed, and won the John Burroughs medal, one of the highest honors in nature writing. Here is the back cover copy:

A sparkling history...popular natural history at its best. NEW SCIENTIST

 Feathers are an evolutionary wonder: aerodynamic, insulating, beguiling. From flying dinosaurs to showgirls on the Las Vegas Strip, their story spans hundreds of millions of years--yet has never been fully told.  In Feathers, biologist Thor Hanson details a sweeping natural history of how feathers have been used to soar, attract, and adorn through time.  Enlivened by the author's field experience and wide-ranging research, Feathers is a captivating account of the human fascination with this most enchanting subject.

An illuminating study of an evolutionary marvel  THE ECONOMIST
A winning book about the extraordinary place of feathers in animal and human history WALL STREET JOURNAL
An impressive blend of beauty, form, and function.  NATURAL HISTORY
Thor Hanson's storytelling is enchanced by his infectious excitement...Feathers is a compelling introduction to one of nature's wonders.  NATURE

Dr. Thor Hanson is a conservation biologist, Switzer Environmental Fellow, and member of the Human Ecosystems Study Group.  His books include The Impenetrable Forest: My Gorilla Years in Uganda and Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle.  In addition to the John Burroughs Medal, Feathers was nominated for The Samuel Johnson Prize.  It also received the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize and a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award.  His many media appearances have included NPR's Fresh Air, PRI's The World, and The Current on CBC.  Hanson lives with his wife and son on an island in the Pacific Northwest.  See his website: http://www.thorhanson.net/

Thursday, October 3, 2013

RAPTORS RULE IN OCTOBER 2013


October is the peak of the autumn raptor migration in the Appalachian flyway.
Beginning in early September we climb to overlook sweeping vistas of ridge-valley terrain, where updrafts of warm air lift the wings of a  fierce procession: broad-winged, sharp-shinned, red-tailed and rough shouldered hawks,  kestrels, ospreys, peregrine falcons, golden eagles and others.  One of the best places to view the phenomenon is Hawk Mountain in the Blue Ridge of eastern Pennsylvania. The area includes 13,000 acres of protected private and public land, including the 2,600 acre Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, where a short hike brings you to incredible scenic views. The site was formerly a killing field, where hunters gathered annually to shoot hundreds of birds of prey, then considered to be pests.

The Sanctuary was incorporated in the late 1930's. The transformation of public awareness about Hawk Mountain and the success of its conservation mission is owed in large measure to Maurice Broun and his wife Irma, the first guardians of the sanctuary.

Broun's book Hawks Aloft: The Story of Hawk Mountain is our October 2013 selection. Members of PVNWG, field glasses at the ready, will also visit the sanctuary which has an 8-mile trail system, visitor center, bookstore, and  interpretive programs.
We give honorable mention to another author Scott Weidensaul. His Raptor Almanac is a compendium of raptor lore and images that provides hours of fascination.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

FOREST UNSEEN FOR SEPTEMBER 2013

Our selection for September 2013 is David Haskell's The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature.
Winner of 2013 Best Book Award from the National Academies
Finalist for 2013 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction
Runner-up for 2013 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
Winner of the 2013 Reed Environmental Writing Award
Winner of the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature

A biologist reveals the secret world hidden in a single square meter of forest
“…a welcome entry in the world of nature writers. He thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist.” James Gorman, The New York Times

“Very much a contemporary biologist in his familiarity with genetics and population ecology, he also has the voracious synthetic imagination of a 19th-century naturalist. Most important, Mr. Haskell is a sensitive writer, conjuring with careful precision the worlds he observes and delighting the reader with insightful turns of phrase.” Hugh Raffles, The Wall Street Journal

“…focusing not on the showy megafauna but on the small and fundamental forest dwellers, from glimmering lichen to slow-moving slugs. He writes with a scientist’s meticulous attention to detail and a poet’s way with words. As he spins his tales of the tiny and the ordinary, we see the big picture issues, from evolution to climate change, unfold in the everyday world.” from the PEN/E. O. Wilson Judges’ Citation

“…a new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry.” Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University

“David Haskell’s The Forest Unseen is a ‘nature book,’ and a great one, but it’s also and less obviously a book about human nature. You can’t read its lyrical, tactile prose without confronting the whole question of our place in the natural order, and of what we’re doing here. If we want to last much longer on this planet, we’ll have to learn to think differently and more deeply about those things, and Haskell can be one of our guides.” —John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
“An extraordinary, intimate view of life… Exceptional observations of the biological world…”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review for “books of remarkable merit.”

The Forest Unseen was published on March 15th, 2012, by The Viking Press, an imprint of Penguin USA. The Penguin paperback edition was published on March 26th, 2013. A short introductory video is available on YouTube.

David Haskell’s interviews on The Diane Rehm Show and  To The Best of our Knowledge are now available online. Links to full reviews are here.

Members of PVNWG will attend an open house at Adkins Aboretum on September 29 to hear the author speak!

NOTE: PVNWG has suspended regular monthly discussion meetings. Comments about books can be made online using the comment feature. Personal book reviews may be submitted to pvnaturewriters@gmail.com for consideration to be posted on the blog. Original nature writing based on personal experience may also be submitted for inclusion on the REFLECTIONS page of the blog.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

MEETING TO DISCUSS TOM BROWN JR CANCELLED

Due to difficulty in scheduling a date, time and place convenient for enough members, the June 2 PVNWG meeting to discuss Tom Brown Jr,'s Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking is cancelled.  We did not choose a book for Summer Hiatus so Brown's field guide can serve as a  challenge for members to enlarge their experience in the next few months using his techniques. We hope to share some tales of wild naturalist adventures when next we meet. The best story wins a prize!