Sparrows are everywhere and wear many guises. Able to live in the Arctic and the desert, from Beijing to San Francisco, the house sparrow is the most ubiquitous wild bird in the world. They are the subject of elegies by Catullus and John Skelton and listed as “pretty things” in Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book—but they’re also urban vermin with shocking manners that were so reviled that Mao placed them on the list of Four Pests and ordered the Chinese people to kill them on sight.
In Sparrow, award-winning science and natural history writer Kim Todd explores the bird's complex history, biology, and literary tradition. Todd describes the difference between Old World sparrows, like the house sparrow, which can nest in a garage or in an airport, and New World sparrows, which often stake their claim to remote islands or meadows in the high Sierra. In addition, she looks at the nineteenth-century Sparrow War in the United States—a battle over the sparrow’s introduction—which set the stage for decades of discussions of invasive species. She examines the ways in which sparrows have taught us about evolution and the shocking recent decline of house sparrows in cities globally—this disappearance of a bird that seemed hardwired for success remains an ornithological mystery.
With lush illustrations, ranging from early woodcuts and illuminated manuscripts to contemporary wildlife photography, this is the first book-length exploration of the natural and cultural history of this beloved, reviled, and ubiquitous bird.
Chrysalis, Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis
Before Darwin, before Audubon, there was Merian. An artist turned naturalist known for her stunning butterfly images, she was born just sixteen years after Galileo proclaimed that the earth orbited the sun. But at the age of fifty she sailed from Europe to the New World on a solo scientific expedition to study insect metamorphosis—an unheard-of journey for any naturalist at that time, much less a woman. When she returned she produced a book that secured her reputation, only to have it savaged in the nineteenth century by scientists who disdained the work of “amateurs.”
Tinkering with Eden, A Natural History of Exotics in America
Tinkering with Eden, a Natural History of Exotics in America, tells the stories of non-native species and how they arrived in the United States. Species covered range from pigeons, brought over by some of the earliest colonists, to starlings, imported by a man who wanted to bring all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare to Central Park. The book explores our developing understanding of exotic species as we become more aware of the potential problems they may pose for native ecosystems. Tinkering with Eden received the PEN/Jerard Award and the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award and was selected as one of Booklist’s Top Ten Science/Technical Books for 2001.
Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015
"Guest editor Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) gleans this year's stellar compendium of essays from established print publications, including Audubon, the New Yorker, and Orion, as well as newer online magazines such as Matter. In her introduction, Skloot invites readers to engage with moments that are "spurred by the novel, the complex, the ambiguous, the uncertain, and the surprising," such as those described in Kim Todd's exploration of curiosity, Amy Maxmen's story on how tool use by humans may be 800,000 years older than previously thought, Elizabeth Kolbert's profile of some New Zealand conservationists' drive to kill all of the island nation's mammals, and Lisa M. Hamilton's appraisal of a proposal that open-source programming protocols be applied to plants."--Publishers Weekly
Pacific Crest Trailside Reader, Oregon and Washington
Exploring the people, places, and history of the Pacific Crest Trail as it ranges 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, The Pacific Crest Trailside Reader, Oregon and Washington, brings together short excerpts from classic works of regional writing and boot-tested stories from the trail.
City Birding, True Tales of Birds and Birdwatching in Unexpected Places
"Over a dozen first-rank birding writers and ornithologists, including Paul A. Johnsgard and James Gorman, contribute a quirky piece of material each to build this prose nest. They take a sidelong view of themselves as well as their subjects in the "unexpected places," which are mostly urban—many in the New York City area."--Publishers Weekly review
Two in the Wild, Tales of Adventure from Friends, Mothers, and Daughters
Thelma and Louise get sporty (and survive) in this anthology of true stories about women whose idea of fun involves sharing adventures--big and small--in the great outdoors. In essays that not only take you to mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers but also explore the powerful and intimate bond of female companionship, the editor of Solo: On Her Own Adventure introduces sixteen daring women and their travel mates as they ski, climb, hike, bike, and drive all over the world.
Torn, True Stories of Kids, Career, and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood
“[TORN] is filled with the voices of women trying to solve an impossible equation, all doing the best they can. These nearly four dozen writers include a wide swath of the real world – attorneys and professors, software designers and social workers, soldiers and stay-at-home moms. They live on good incomes, and reduced incomes, and, in one case, on welfare. They are married, divorced and single. They are, as a group, far more educated than average, but so, too, I have learned, are Motherlode readers. They write about big things (cancer, depression, regrets, teen pregnancy, readjusting to being a mom after being a soldier in Iraq) and small (worm bins, cupcakes, speeding tickets, Dora the Explorer, dirty diapers.) All of them have one thing in common – they have all compromised. Whether theirs is a compromise they can live with is the central question.” – Lisa Belkin, The New York Times “Motherlode” Columnist
Waste Land (Smithsonian)
Some white storks are giving up migration to live off a junk food diet at landfills.
The Language of Sparrows (Bay Nature)
In the San Francisco Bay area, white crowned sparrow songs are evolving to compete with urban noise.
Reintroductions and Other Translocations (Guernica)
An essay exploring the personal and politicial in wildlife reintroductions.
Road Warrior (River Teeth "Beautiful Things" series)
Once you notice the hawks along the highway, you'll see them everywhere.
Google Honors a Feminist Original (Salon.com)
Centuries before Sandberg and Friedan, there was Maria Sibylla Merian -- mother and pioneering naturalist.
Paper Weight (Skirt!)
Life, love, and the Oxford English Dictionary.
Rebuilding a River as Washington's Elwha Dams Come Down (High Country News)
The largest dam removal project in the U.S. gets underway.
Walking Woman (High Country News)
The Owens River is flowing again--and Mary Austin's Land of Little Rain is rejoicing.
Trumpet of the Swan (Orion)
Childhood memories stand the test of time, but a fragile species may be another story.
Hostile Takeover (High Country News)
Barred owls are driving spotted owls out of their territory. Is it time to shoot them?
Dad Reckoning (Grist)
How my father taught me to leave cars behind.
Tracking the Snow Cat (Sierra)
Hot on the trail of the North woods most secretive predator.
Botanically Correct (Grist)
A new language is needed to win the day for native species.