Bird Fact Friday – When is the best time to go bird watching in Botswana?

From page 17 of Birds of Botswana:

The best time to bird watch in Botswana is during the wet summer months. In addition to the 595 bird species currently on record, numerous migrants boost the population. Many of these birds breed during the summer and are conspicuous in their nuptial finery. A birder’s paradise!

Birds of Botswana
Peter Hancock & Ingrid Weiersbye
Sample Entry

BotswanaHere is the ultimate field guide to Botswana’s stunningly diverse birdlife. Covering all 597 species recorded to date, Birds of Botswana features more than 1,200 superb color illustrations, detailed species accounts, seasonality and breeding bars, and a color distribution map for each species. Drawing on the latest regional and national data, the book highlights the best birding areas in Botswana, provides helpful tips on where and when to see key species, and depicts special races and morphs specific to Botswana. This is the first birding guide written by a Botswana-based ornithologist and the only one dedicated specifically to Botswana.

Portable and easy to use, Birds of Botswana is the essential travel companion for anyone visiting this remarkable country.

Bird Fact Friday – How do birds produce such varied songs?

From page 12 of Birds of South America: Passerines:

Have you ever stopped to notice the beauty of birdsong? It turns out birds are built for singing! Birds produce sound in the syrinx (as opposed to the larynx, where humans and other mammals produce sound) located deep in their chests where the trachea splits into two bronchi. Many birds can produce sound in both bronchi, making it possible for them to produce two notes at once. No wonder they have so much range!

Birds of South AmericaBirds of South America: Passerines
Ber van Perlo
Sample Entry

This comprehensive field guide to the birds of South America covers all 1,952 passerine species to be found south of Panama, including offshore islands such as Trinidad, the Galapagos, and the Falklands, and the islands of the Scotia Arc leading to the Antarctic mainland. It features 197 stunning color plates and detailed species accounts that describe key identification features, habitat, songs, and calls. All plumages for each species are illustrated, including males, females, and juveniles. This easy-to-use guide is the essential travel companion for experienced birdwatchers and novice birders alike.

Bird Fact Friday – Albatross

From page 26 of Offshore Sea Life ID Guide: West Coast:

The Black-footed Albatross is common offshore from spring to fall and uncommon in the winter. It often follows boats and scavenges. It is dark overall with a white noseband and a dusky bill. Older adults have white tail coverts; some birds bleach to whitish on their head and neck. It breeds in November and December, mostly in Hawaii.

Offshore Sea Life ID Guide: West Coast
Steve N.G. Howell & Brian L. Sullivan

k10465Two-thirds of our planet lies out of sight of land, just offshore beyond the horizon. What wildlife might you find out there? And how might you identify what you see? This Offshore Sea Life ID Guide, designed for quick use on day trips off the West Coast, helps you put a name to what you see, from whales and dolphins to albatrosses, turtles, and even flyingfish. Carefully crafted color plates show species as they typically appear at sea, and expert text highlights identification features. This user-friendly field guide is essential for anyone going out on a whale-watching or birding trip, and provides a handy gateway to the wonders of the ocean.

• First state-of-the-art pocket guide to offshore sea life
• Over 300 photos used to create composite plates
• Includes whales, dolphins, sea lions, birds, sharks, turtles, flyingfish, and more
• Accessible and informative text reveals what to look for
• Great for beginners and experts alike

Bird Fact Friday – Warblers

From page 539 of The Warbler Guide:

17D_SpeciesAccounts_422-511A Yellow-rumped Warbler can be identified in flight by a numbers of features. It’s slight is bouncy and strongly tacking with irregular wing beats that are mostly below the body. It takes short glides, both open- and closed-winged and often mixes flight with chip calls. It is large, stocky, and hunchbacked with long blunt wings. Its color is overall gray with yellow shoulders, wing bars and rump.


The Warbler Guide
Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle

k9968Warblers are among the most challenging birds to identify. They exhibit an array of seasonal plumages and have distinctive yet oft-confused calls and songs. The Warbler Guide enables you to quickly identify any of the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. This groundbreaking guide features more than 1,000 stunning color photos, extensive species accounts with multiple viewing angles, and an entirely new system of vocalization analysis that helps you distinguish songs and calls.

The Warbler Guide revolutionizes birdwatching, making warbler identification easier than ever before. For more information, please see the author videos on the Princeton University Press website.

Download the app here!


Bird Fact Friday – Rose-Crowned Fruit Dove

From the Pigeons and Doves section of Birds of Australia:

Rose Crowned Fruit Dove

© Birds of Australia, Pg. 69

The Rose-crowned Fruit Dove can be found in tropical areas, particularly within monsoon vine forests. It spends its time in the canopy of fruiting trees where it makes soft cooing calls. Despite it’s beautiful plumage, it’s hard to spot because of it’s size, it’s ability to blend in, and the fact that it tends to stay in one place for long stretches of time.

Birds of Australia: A Photographic Guide
Iain Campbell, Sam Woods & Nick Leseberg
Photography by Geoff Jones
Sample Entry

k10338Australia is home to a spectacular diversity of birdlife, from parrots and penguins to emus and vibrant passerines. Birds of Australia covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants and features more than 1,100 stunning color photographs, including many photos of subspecies and plumage variations never before seen in a field guide. Detailed facing-page species accounts describe key identification features such as size, plumage, distribution, behavior, and voice. This one-of-a-kind guide also provides extensive habitat descriptions with a large number of accompanying photos. The text relies on the very latest IOC taxonomy and the distribution maps incorporate the most current mapping data, making this the most up-to-date guide to Australian birds.
• Covers all 714 species of resident birds and regularly occurring migrants
• Features more than 1,100 stunning color photos
• Includes facing-page species accounts, habitat descriptions, and distribution maps
• The ideal photographic guide for beginners and seasoned birders alike

Weekly Wanderlust: Africa

photo 4Africa has long been an object of fascination for travelers. When Herodotus wrote his Histories, the Pyramids and burial complex at Giza were already ancient, extraordinary monuments to the power and engineering capabilities of Egypt in the age of the Pharaohs. The natural wonders of the continent are no less impressive: thousands travel every year to attempt the challenging ascent of snow-capped, volcanic Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at nearly 6000 meters in elevation the highest in Africa. Separating Zambia and Zimbabwe, the magnificent Victoria Falls are the largest in the world, more than double the height of Niagara, and over a mile in width. But perhaps the greatest natural wonder of Africa is its wildlife, which includes many rare and endangered species. The name Africa conjures visions of lions, giraffes, gorillas, rhinoceros, elephants and countless other beautiful animals known to most only through the world’s zoos. For many, a safari through the Serengeti in Tanzania is the vacation of their dreams.

The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals book jacket The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals is the essential companion for anyone going on safari or interested in African mammals—no other field guide covers the whole continent in a portable format. Now fully revised and updated, it covers all known species of African land mammals and features 780 stunning color illustrations. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, distribution, habitat, food, behavior, adaptations, and conservation status. This new edition includes many newly recognized species, and classification has been fully updated.
Birds of Botswana book jacket Covering all 597 species recorded to date, Birds of Botswana features more than 1,200 superb color illustrations, detailed species accounts, seasonality and breeding bars, and a color distribution map for each species. Drawing on the latest regional and national data, the book highlights the best birding areas in Botswana, provides helpful tips on where and when to see key species, and depicts special races and morphs specific to Botswana. This is the first birding guide written by a Botswana-based ornithologist and the only one dedicated specifically to Botswana.
Animals of the Serengeti book jacket Containing 146 stunning color photos, Animals of the Serengeti is a remarkable look at the mammals and reptiles most likely to be encountered in the world-famous Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. With an eye-catching layout, accessible text, and easy-to-use format, this detailed photographic guide includes 89 species of mammal and reptile. Useful “Top Tips”—shared by local Tanzanian guides that work in the region—provide visitors with insights into behavioral habits and how to locate specific animals. Filled with vivid anecdotes, Animals of the Serengeti will enable any safari traveler to identify the area’s wildlife with ease.

Bird Fact Friday – Passenger Pigeons

From the appendix of The Passenger Pigeon:

The Passenger Pigeon had a typical high-speed wing, a feature shared with other fast-flying birds such as the Peregrine Falcon, in which the wings are long and narrow. The Passenger Pigeon was one of the fastest-flying birds.

The Passenger Pigeon
Errol Fuller

k10337At the start of the nineteenth century, Passenger Pigeons were perhaps the most abundant birds on the planet, numbering literally in the billions. The flocks were so large and so dense that they blackened the skies, even blotting out the sun for days at a stretch. Yet by the end of the century, the most common bird in North America had vanished from the wild. In 1914, the last known representative of her species, Martha, died in a cage at the Cincinnati Zoo.

This stunningly illustrated book tells the astonishing story of North America’s Passenger Pigeon, a bird species that—like the Tyrannosaur, the Mammoth, and the Dodo—has become one of the great icons of extinction. Errol Fuller describes how these fast, agile, and handsomely plumaged birds were immortalized by the ornithologist and painter John James Audubon, and captured the imagination of writers such as James Fenimore Cooper, Henry David Thoreau, and Mark Twain. He shows how widespread deforestation, the demand for cheap and plentiful pigeon meat, and the indiscriminate killing of Passenger Pigeons for sport led to their catastrophic decline. Fuller provides an evocative memorial to a bird species that was once so important to the ecology of North America, and reminds us of just how fragile the natural world can be.

Published in the centennial year of Martha’s death, The Passenger Pigeon features rare archival images as well as haunting photos of live birds.

PUP Op ed Original: Noah Wilson-Rich on why urban dwellers should be raising bees on their rooftops

Belted beeNoah Wilson-Rich studies bees and the diseases that are depleting their colonies. He founded the Best Bees Company, a Boston based beekeeping service and research organization, has given a TED talk, and is now the author of The Bee: A Natural History, recently published by Princeton University Press. Today he shares with us the vital importance of urban beekeeping.

By Noah Wilson-Rich

Nearly a decade after the start of Colony Collapse Disorder (C.C.D.), a bizarre phenomenon whereby honey bees simply vanished from their hives across the United States during 2006-2011, bees are still dying at unsustainable rates today. Across the country, about one in every three hives does not survive the winter. Germany shares this alarming statistic across their apiaries. Bee deaths seem higher in areas with harsh winters and in areas with monoculture agriculture use – but lower death rates in cities. In Boston, urban bees not only survive the winter at higher rates, but they also produce more honey than beehives in surrounding suburban and rural environments.

The Bee jacketBees are vitally important creatures. We tend to give honey bees (Apis mellifera) all the credit for pollination because most people are familiar with the old man beekeeper working his white painted beehives image. Yet, honey bees are only one species of bee from about 20,000 total species worldwide. Their contributions span far past pollinating around 100 fruit and vegetable crops that we rely upon, and an estimated $100 billion to the global economy each year. Of the $15 billion that bees contribute to the United States economy annually, the alfalfa bee alone contributes an estimated $7 billion. The alfalfa bee! (Cattle rely on alfalfa for feed.) If the future of humanity is to involve nutritious food, then we must consider bees.

Regardless of what caused or ended C.C.D., or why bees are thriving in cities, the discovery of urban beekeeping as a safe haven for bees gives us hope. The post-C.C.D. world still has myriad dangers for bees; they are still dying. The three leading hypotheses for what’s killing bees: 1) Diseases, 2) Chemicals (e.g., fungicides, pesticides, etc.), and 3) Habitat loss. The Typhoid Mary event for bees that opened the flood gates to a series of additive plagues was in 1987, when Varroa mites first came to the United States. In 1998, small hive beetles were added. In 2004, imported Australian honey bees brought with them Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. In 2006, C.C.D. began. In 2013, the fungus Nosema ceranae became omnipresent in all 200 hives that my laboratory sampled. And we haven’t even started on the pesticides, fungicides, and habitat loss yet.navigating bee

Spring brings to light the brighter side of things. My beekeeping team was back out this year, tirelessly checking hives, maneuvering rooftop equipment on skyscrapers, trekking through waist-high snow drifts, looking for signs of life. One team returned to our Urban Beekeeping Laboratory and Bee Sanctuary in Boston’s South End, reporting that 100% of the day’s hives visited were alive. I assume they stayed around Boston or Cambridge that day, and my suspicion was right. The next day, another team of beekeepers returned from the field, their faces long trodden and forlorn, with only 1 out of 15 hives visited that day having survived the winter. I assumed they visited countryside beehives; I was right.

Policy makers are increasing their legislative actions to be more permissive for urban beehives, with beekeeping allowed in Seattle in 2008, New York City in 2010, Boston in 2014. San Francisco totally allows beekeeping unrestricted, while Denver limits to 2 hives in the rear 1/3 of a zone lot. Los Angeles is slated to be the next major metro area to allow beekeeping in residential areas. Even Washington, DC now has its first beehives at the White House grounds, in step with President Obama’s 2014 memorandum, “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.”

Urban beekeeping took flight in New York City in March of 2010. It was made illegal by the Giuliani administration in the 1990’s, along with a list of dozens of prohibited animals. In the years since its legalization, the island of Manhattan became a pollinator haven. After my recent talk at the March 30, 2015 meeting of the New York City Beekeepers Association, local beekeepers asked if there were too many beehives in the city. Beekeepers in London talk about this, as well. Is there a saturation point, with too many beehives in the City? That’s how common beekeeping is in New York and London. (One way to measure this is based on the Great Sunflower Project, whereby everyday citizens record the number of bees visiting a flower for 10 minutes each day, as a means of gathering data to measure pollinator abundance; this hasn’t yet been done for cities.)

Los Angeles is the only major city in the United States with illegal beekeeping. The pesticide policy came into effect long ago, way before “killer bees” gave the non-aggressive bees a bad rap. Rather, policy makers received bad info, that bees attack fruit – and decided that the best way to preserve our crops was to ban the bees. We now understand pollination. We know that more bees actually lead to more fruits and vegetables. Yet the law of the land remains, and Angelinos must kill beehives upon site. The future for beekeepers in Los Angeles may be bright, however, with City Councilor Katie Peterson and other policy makers working to legalize beekeeping as soon as within the next few months.

Access to urban beekeeping is a social justice issue. It gives everyone access to local, healthy food. What’s more is that is allows for a new avenue of corporate sustainability, with businesses opting to put beehives on their rooftops as a display of their commitment to the environment. For example, simply reusing a towel or having an herb garden on the rooftop is not necessarily enough these days for a hotel to rise to the top of the sustainability ranks. Beekeeping and pollinator protection are the next step for sustainability branding.

Urban beekeeping is happening across the globe, and it’s a good thing. We should change laws to allow more of it to happen and also educate the public so they can also raise bees on their rooftops to allow for a more sustainable future for both humans and bees, alike.

Noah Wilson-Rich, Ph.D. is founder and chief scientific officer of The Best Bees Company, a Boston-based company. His latest book is THE BEE: A Natural History.

Read the introduction here, and take a peek inside here:

Book Fact Friday – Microbes

From chapter 2 of Life’s Engines:

One of the biggest ironies in biology is that microbes, the oldest self-replicating organisms on Earth, were among the last to be discovered and have largely been ignored.

Life’s Engines: How Microbes Made Earth Habitable
Paul G. Falkowski
Chapter One

k10440For almost four billion years, microbes had the primordial oceans all to themselves. The stewards of Earth, these organisms transformed the chemistry of our planet to make it habitable for plants, animals, and us. Life’s Engines takes readers deep into the microscopic world to explore how these marvelous creatures made life on Earth possible—and how human life today would cease to exist without them.

Paul Falkowski looks “under the hood” of microbes to find the engines of life, the actual working parts that do the biochemical heavy lifting for every living organism on Earth. With insight and humor, he explains how these miniature engines are built—and how they have been appropriated by and assembled like Lego sets within every creature that walks, swims, or flies. Falkowski shows how evolution works to maintain this core machinery of life, and how we and other animals are veritable conglomerations of microbes.

A vibrantly entertaining book about the microbes that support our very existence, Life’s Engines will inspire wonder about these elegantly complex nanomachines that have driven life since its origin. It also issues a timely warning about the dangers of tinkering with that machinery to make it more “efficient” at meeting the ever-growing demands of humans in the coming century.

New Biology 2015-2016 Catalog

Our Biology 2015-2016 catalog is now available.


Don’t miss How to Clone a Mammoth, a look at the extraordinary science behind de-extinction. Evolutionary biologist and “ancient DNA” research pioneer Beth Shapiro shows readers how something that once seemed like science fiction is now possible, and what the implications are for future conservation efforts.

Looking to understand how humans made the transition from our caveman days to today’s globalized society? Look no further than The Secret of Our Success. Joseph Henrich shows us that it is the ability of human groups to socially connect that accounts for our success as a species.

Finally, in The Real Planet of the Apes, David R. Begun draws on the latest discoveries in the fossil record and his own expedition to support his argument that it was Europe, not Africa, where our ape ancestors evolved some of the most important features present in humans today, including bipedalism, dexterous hands, and larger brains.

We invite you to scroll through our catalog above to see these and many more titles!

If you’d like updates on new titles sent directly to you, subscribe here.

Shapiro Jacketk10543k10552

Jurassic World Giveaway

In honor of today’s release of Jurassic World, the much anticipated-sequel to Jurassic Park, we’re giving away a special ‘prehistoric package’ of three books to three lucky winners!

They are:

How to Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro


Shapiro spoke to The Telegraph recently on the science of de-extinction and how it can be used to save animals that are endangered today, possibly in Pleistocene Park, a real-life Jurassic Park in Siberia. To learn more, you can loop back to this post.




The First Fossil Hunters by Adrienne Mayor


In The First Fossil Hunters, Mayor shows us that many mythological creatures of the past, including Griffins, Cyclopses, Monsters, and Giants, are in fact based on creatures that used to exist. The ancients knew that different creatures once inhabited the earth, and they came up with sophisticated theories to explain the fossils they found. These first paleontologists are studied in detail in Mayor’s book.




What Bugged the Dinosaurs by George Poinar & Roberta Poinar


Today, we think of the T. Rex as the most ferocious carnivore of the Cretaceous period. However, the Poinars, whose research inspired Jurassic Park, show us that many insects of the time could be just as deadly and that they played a significant role in the demise of the dinosaurs.




To enter, please follow the directions in the box below. The entry period ends June 25, 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Does De-extinction Bring us Closer to a Real Jurassic World? Beth Shapiro Sounds Off

How to Clone a Mammoth, by Beth ShapiroAs we all await the release of Jurassic World this week, (catch the trailer here), the owner of Russia’s vast nature reserve, Pleistocene Park, is awaiting the arrival of an actual woolly mammoth. Pleistocene Park is a major initiative in northern Siberia that includes an attempt to restore the mammoth steppe ecosystem of the late Pleistocene period. The park has been in existence since the 1970s, but given the progress scientists have made this year in sequencing the mammoth genome, one can’t help but wonder if a real life Jurassic World in Siberia is now close at hand. Alex Hannaford reports for The Telegraph, and the takeaway is we shouldn’t get too excited about going on a T-Rex safari anytime soon:

For the last 20 years at least, most scientists have poured scorn on the idea that dinosaurs could be cloned using the method popularised in the first Jurassic Park film — extracting DNA from an insect entombed in resin. A few years ago scientists studying fossils in New Zealand revealed that the bonds that form the backbone of DNA would be entirely degraded — useless — after 6.8 million years. And seeing as dinosaurs last roamed the Earth 65 million years ago, that ruled out any realistic chance of sequencing their genome.

But the wooly mammoth died out far more recently, which makes it quite another story, according to Beth Shapiro, author of How to Clone a Mammoth. She talks to The Telegraph about the more plausible uses of de-extinction technology:

De-extinction, this process of swapping out genomes in existing animals for traits that their ancestors had, but which they could benefit from today, could have other uses, Shapiro says. “Let’s say all of the natural habitat for elephants disappeared. If we could swap those cold-surviving genes [of the mammoth] into elephants, so that we could stick elephants into wild places in Europe or Siberia where elephants used to live, we could use this technology — not to bring mammoths back but to save elephants.”

Shapiro tusk photo

Regardless, de-extinction remains highly controversial, and Shapiro has become a go-to expert on the matter. Carl Zimmer writes in Wall Street Journal, “For anyone who wants a thorough understanding of the technical issues involved in de-extinction, How to Clone a Mammoth should satisfy your curiosity.” During Shapiro’s European tour, she was interviewed about her book for BBC World Service, The Forum and the interview is now available online. Beth was also interviewed for BBC Radio Wales Science Café, as part of a program featuring scientists speaking at Hay Festival. Voice of America aired their interview with Beth recently as well, as did CBC Radio’s national science program Quirks & Quarks.

Shapiro and Kendall

Beth Shapiro and The Forum’s presenter, Bridget Kendall

If you’re looking for eerie similarities between life and art in this case, rest assured they do exist. According to Shapiro, as in real life, “Jurassic Park scientists were only able to recover parts of the dinosaur genome—in the case of the movie, from the mosquito blood that was preserved in amber.” Prospect Magazine’s website has just run an abridged extract from How to Clone a Mammoth where Shapiro elaborates on the real (and not so real) science of Jurassic World. You can also check out the series of original videos by Shapiro on the real life science of de-extinction here.