Weekly Wanderlust: Cruises

Cruises are the perfect getaway, combining the allure of the vast open sea with a boat full of activities and nightlife, while offering the unique opportunity to experience the ocean in a way that would never be possible from the shore. Before your ocean adventure, check out some of the sea life you could encounter!

Howell Jacket Two-thirds of our planet lies out of sight of land, just offshore beyond the horizon. What wildlife might you see out there? This handy guide, designed for quick use on day trips off the East Coast, helps you put a name to what you find, from whales and dolphins to shearwaters, turtles, and even flying fish. Carefully crafted color plates show species as they typically appear at sea, and expert text highlights identification features. Essential for anyone heading out on a whale-watching or birding trip, this guidebook provides a handy gateway to the wonders of the ocean.
Howell jacket If your ocean adventure takes you off the west coast, this Offshore Sea Life ID Guide, designed for quick use on day trips off the West Coast, helps you identify whales and dolphins, 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.
Howell jacket If you travel the open ocean anywhere in the tropics, you are very likely to see flyingfish. These beautifully colored “ocean butterflies” shoot out of the water and sail on majestic, winglike pectoral fins to escape from predators such as dolphins, swordfish, and tuna. Some can travel for more than six hundred feet per flight. The ideal gift for fish lovers, seasoned travelers, and armchair naturalists alike, The Amazing World of Flyingfish provides a rare and incomparable look at these spectacular marine creatures.
Ebert Jacket This is the first field guide to identify, illustrate, and describe the world’s 501 shark species. Its compact format makes it handy for many situations, including recognizing living species, fishery catches, or parts sold at markets. The book also contains useful sections on identifying shark teeth and the shark fins most commonly encountered in the fin trade. A Pocket Guide to Sharks of the World is an essential resource for fisheries management, international trade regulation, and shark conservation.
Palumbi Jacket The ocean teems with life that thrives under difficult situations in unusual environments. The Extreme Life of the Sea takes readers to the absolute limits of the ocean world—the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans. It dives into the icy Arctic and boiling hydrothermal vents—and exposes the eternal darkness of the deepest undersea trenches—to show how marine life thrives against the odds.

Weekly Wanderlust: Yellowstone

Yellowstone is the world’s first national park, and home to some of the oldest and most awe inspiring sites in the United States. Commonly known for tourist attractions such as the geyser Old Faithful, Yellowstone is a complex geothermal area containing half the world’s natural geysers. It is also a highly valued protected ecosystem, home to some of the most amazing wildlife, from grizzly bears and wolves, to herds of bison and elk. The human story of Yellowstone spans more than 11,000 years, making the area an important archaeological site as well.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

Excelsior geyser

Excelsior geyser


Whether you plan to camp, hike, fly-fish, or immerse yourself in the region’s history, you may want to check out Justin Farrell’s new book, The Battle for Yellowstone for some background on the park’s moral, cultural, and spiritual roots.

Farrell jacketYellowstone is globally recognized as the crown jewel of modern environmental preservation. But the park and its surrounding regions have recently become a lightning rod for environmental conflict, plagued by intense and intractable political struggles among the federal government, National Park Service, environmentalists, industry, local residents, and elected officials. The Battle for Yellowstone asks why it is that, with the flood of expert scientific, economic, and legal efforts to resolve disagreements over Yellowstone, there is no improvement?

Justin Farrell argues that the battle for Yellowstone has deep moral, cultural, and spiritual roots that until now have been obscured by the supposedly rational and technical nature of the conflict. Tracing the moral causes and consequences of large-scale social change in the American West, he describes how a “new-west” social order has emerged that has devalued traditional American beliefs about manifest destiny and rugged individualism.

Justin Farrell is assistant professor of sociology in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. You can read a Q&A with him here.

Photos of Yellowstone courtesy of Claudia Classon

Weekly Wanderlust: The Caribbean

Southeast of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean (taken from Caribs, an ethnic group native to the Lesser Antilles and parts of South America at the time of the Spanish conquest) is home to over 700 islands and reefs. With its warm water, proximity to ports, and easy accessibility from the mainland US, the islands have long been a popular vacation destination. Whether you enjoy swimming with the dolphins in the islands of Aruba or taking advantage of the Bahamas’ extensive nightlife scene, the Caribbean offers enough variety in activities, climate, and geography for everyone. Make sure to make time during your trip for plenty of snorkeling with the migratory schools of fish, and exploring the wildlife that can only be found in these islands. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catching a glimpse of some of the unusual animals inhabiting the area.

Caribbean Image

Perhaps these books will help you familiarize yourself with the Caribbean’s natural offerings.

Raffaele Jacket Wildlife of the Caribbean is the first comprehensive illustrated guide to the natural world of the Caribbean islands. It contains 600 vivid color images featuring 451 species of plants, birds, mammals, fish, seashells, and much more. While the guide primarily looks at the most conspicuous and widespread species among the islands, it also includes rarely seen creatures—such as the Rhinoceros Iguana and Cuban Solenodon—giving readers a special sense of the region’s diverse wildlife.
Kohn Jacket Conus is the largest genus of animals in the sea, occurring throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical oceans and contributing significantly to marine biodiversity. The shells of these marine mollusks are prized for their amazing variety and extraordinary beauty.  This beautifully illustrated book identifies 53 valid species of the southeastern United States and the Caribbean, a region that supports a diverse but taxonomically challenging group of Conus.
Lieske Jacket Expanded and updated to include an additional 44 species, Coral Reef Fishes is a handy guide to those fishes that are likely to be observed by anybody visiting or diving on the coral reefs of the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific to a depth of sixty meters. Accessible to amateur marine life enthusiasts, this book is the first comprehensive guide of its kind. It enables the reader to quickly identify 2,118 species of fish and includes over 2,500 color illustrations depicting the major forms of each species–male, female, immature, or geographical varieties.

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.

Weekly Wanderlust: Australia

Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon

Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon

The only country which is also a continent, Australia is a nature-lover’s paradise. Ranging from the tropical swamps of northern Queensland to the arid deserts of the center of the continent, the diversity of Australia’s climate is extraordinary. Millions of years of isolation have allowed the evolution of countless animals, birds and plants found nowhere else in the world, including the emu, the koala, the kangaroo, and perhaps the oddest of all, the platypus: a mammal that lays eggs rather than giving birth. The biggest challenge facing visitors to Australia is the impossibility of seeing everything. Will you take in the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the world? The monumental red sandstone rock formations of Uluru? The 110 million year old Daintree Rainforest? Or would you prefer to spend your evenings sitting on the quays of Sydney, the Opera House glowing in the setting sun, sipping a Barossa Valley Shiraz?

Koala in tree

The Koala

Wildlife of Australia book jacket Ideal for the nature-loving traveler, Wildlife of Australia is a handy photographic pocket guide to the most widely seen birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and habitats of Australia. The guide features more than 400 stunning color photographs, and coverage includes 350 birds, 70 mammals, 30 reptiles, and 16 frogs likely to be encountered in Australia’s major tourist destinations.
Birds of Australia book jacket 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.
Birds and Animals of Australia's Top End book jacket One of the most amazing and accessible wildlife-watching destinations on earth, the “Top End” of Australia’s Northern Territory is home to incredible birds and animals—from gaudy Red-collared Lorikeets to sinister Estuarine Crocodiles and raucous Black Flying-foxes. With this lavishly illustrated photographic field guide, Birds and Animals of Australia’s Top End, you will be able to identify the most common creatures and learn about their fascinating biology—from how Agile Wallaby mothers can pause their pregnancies to why Giant Frogs spend half the year buried underground in waterproof cocoons.
Why Australia Prospered book jacket Why Australia Prospered is the first comprehensive account of how Australia attained the world’s highest living standards within a few decades of European settlement, and how the nation has sustained an enviable level of income to the present.

Weekly Wanderlust: New York City

Home to Basquiat, micro-apartments, and some of the best rooftop bars and restaurants, New York City is the melting pot of America, a city whose attractions will continue to unfold for as much time as you have to spend there. You may already plan to visit Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock Observation Deck, with its iconic skating rink and opportunity to peer into NBC Studios; spend a day browsing the renowned Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Islamic exhibits at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or get your Alice in Wonderland fix at Alice’s Tea Cup. But be sure to leave plenty of unscheduled time for off-the-beaten-track destinations and neighborhoods as well.

NYC picture

One World Trade Center

Whether your interests lean artsy, sociological, or completely open-ended, you can get a taste of the Big Apple before your visit with books that chronicle everything from the city’s rich past, to the idiosyncratic art scene and hidden neighborhoods.

Basquiat_Notebooks_S15 Brooklyn-born Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88) was one of the most important artists of the 1980s. A key figure in the New York art scene, he inventively explored the interplay between words and images throughout his career, first as a member of SAMO, a graffiti group active on the Lower East Side in the late 1970s, and then as a painter acclaimed for his unmistakable Neoexpressionist style. From 1980 to 1987, he filled numerous working notebooks with drawings and handwritten texts. This facsimile edition reproduces the pages of eight of these fascinating and rarely seen notebooks for the first time.
 j8758  Which is more important to New York City’s economy, the gleaming corporate office–or the grungy rock club that launches the best new bands? If you said “office,” think again. In The Warhol Economy, Elizabeth Currid argues that creative industries like fashion, art, and music drive the economy of New York as much as–if not more than–finance, real estate, and law. And these creative industries are fueled by the social life that whirls around the clubs, galleries, music venues, and fashion shows where creative people meet, network, exchange ideas, pass judgments, and set the trends that shape popular culture.
j10396 Once known for slum-like conditions in its immigrant and working-class neighborhoods, New York City’s downtown now features luxury housing, chic boutiques and hotels, and, most notably, a vibrant nightlife culture. While a burgeoning bar scene can be viewed as a positive sign of urban transformation, tensions lurk beneath, reflecting the social conflicts within postindustrial cities. Upscaling Downtown examines the perspectives and actions of disparate social groups who have been affected by or played a role in the nightlife of the Lower East Side, East Village, and Bowery. Using the social world of bars as windows into understanding urban development, Richard Ocejo argues that the gentrifying neighborhoods of postindustrial cities are increasingly influenced by upscale commercial projects, causing significant conflicts for the people involved.
j10060 As a child growing up in Manhattan, William Helmreich played a game with his father called “Last Stop.” They would pick a subway line, ride it to its final destination, and explore the neighborhood. Decades later, his love for exploring the city is as strong as ever. Putting his feet to the test, he decided that the only way to truly understand New York was to walk virtually every block of all five boroughs—an astonishing 6,000 miles. His journey took him to every corner of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Helmreich spoke with hundreds of New Yorkers from every part of the globe and all walks of life. He finds that to be a New Yorker is to struggle to understand the place and to make a life that is as highly local as it is dynamically cosmopolitan.

Weekly Wanderlust: Cape Cod

Over the next month, we’ll be highlighting various vacation destinations and the books that can assist in your planning or make your experience a little bit richer. Cape Cod, the first destination on our list, is also among the first places in North America to be settled by the pilgrims. Once a haven for artists like E.E. Cummings and Eugene O’Neill, who inhabited the spartan ‘dune shacks’ reputedly built from the timber of wrecked ships, Cape Cod with its 40 miles of protected seashore remains a national treasure. In describing the great Outer Beach in 1800, Henry Thoreau called it “another world”, and it’s still easy to see why.

Sunken Meadow Beach

Sunken Meadow Beach

Cape Cod jetty

Jetty in Falmouth

Whether you’re watching a glassblowing presentation at the enchanting Sandwich Glass Museum, going whale watching off Provincetown, or planning a day of birding at the Welfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, where nature trails wind through salt marsh, pine woods, heathland, and freshwater ponds, Cape Cod is an unforgettable trip. While dreaming up your agenda, check out these books.

sealife The tides of the North Atlantic are the world’s highest, and they reveal a world of amazing seashore life–from jellies and sea anemones, to clams and crabs, to seaweeds and lichens. With some 300 crisp, vibrant color photographs and brief, precise descriptions, A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life in the North Atlantic: Canada to Cape Cod makes it easier than ever to identify Atlantic seashore life from Canada to Cape Cod.
j7112 Encounters with the ocean dominate Cape Cod, from the fatal shipwreck of the opening chapter to his later reflections on the Pilgrims’ landing and reconnaissance. Along the way, Thoreau relates the experiences of fishermen and oystermen, farmers and salvagers, lighthouse-keepers and ship captains, as well as his own intense confrontations with the sea as he travels the land’s outermost margins. Chronicles of exploration, settlement, and survival on the Cape lead Thoreau to reconceive the history of New England—and to recognize the parochialism of history itself.

Book trailer for Atlas of Cities edited by Paul Knox

Princeton University Press senior designer Jason Alejandro created this book trailer for Atlas of Cities edited by Paul Knox. (The catchy song in the background is the aptly named “Weekend in the City” by Silent Partner.)

8-7 Atlas of Cities Atlas of Cities
Edited by Paul Knox


Fun Facts about Caribbean Wildlife

Raffaele_WildlifeCaribbeanS14Did you know…

  • Residents of colonial Cuba could be punished for insulting the Cuban Trogon, a red-breasted bird whose plumage was seen as representing the red sash worn by Spanish kings.
  • Ackee with salt fish is Jamaica’s national dish, but the fruit can be highly poisonous if harvested or cooked incorrectly
  • The earliest attempt to import breadfruit into the Caribbean was thwarted by a famous mutiny — the one on the H.M.S. Bounty, which was carrying the seedlings among its cargo.
  • You can tell which way the wind blows on a given island by looking at the coconut palm trees, which often leans in the direction of the prevailing breeze.
  • The Caribbean is home to dozens of species of bats, about half of which are endemic to the islands.
  • The Red Junglefowl found in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Grenadines is actually the feral offspring of formerly domesticated roosters and chickens.
  • Crocodiles are native to Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
  • Barracudas have been known to attack divers wearing sparkly clothing, which they can mistake for prey.
  • The black grouper can grow to four feet long and change its sex from female to male.
  • The Caribbean spiny lobster can swim backwards by flipping its tail.

Whether you are traveling to the Caribbean by plane or by cruise ship, make sure you pack a copy of Wildlife of the Caribbean by Herbert A. Raffaele and James W. Wiley so you can learn more about the birds, fish, mammals, and plants you might see.


Credit — these fun facts were included in About.com Caribbean Travel’s review of Wildlife of the Caribbean.

Birding in the Unknown: Tips and Tales from Birds of Peru Author Tom Schulenberg

[Note: Those of you who regularly read Princeton University Press’s blog will have noticed that we have only featured posts by our colleagues and/or authors, however, when someone has the opportunity to travel to Peru, to meet with Tom Schulenberg (the lead author of Birds of Peru), and to see and talk about the birds of Peru at great length–you take them up on the offer of a guest post. We are pleased to present this guest article from Hugh Powell, a science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We welcome your feedback on this type of article — should we do more of this?]



Tom Schulenberg, center, and Dennis Osorio, left, search for an elusive subspecies of Rufous Antpitta in the Cajamarca highlands, Peru. Photo by Hugh Powell.

It’s not often a bird watcher gets the chance to tour a new country accompanied not just by a good field guide but by the field guide’s author. That’s what happened to me in May 2014, when I joined Tom Schulenberg on the World Birding Rally in northern Peru. Schulenberg, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is the lead author of Birds of Peru.

Schulenberg_BirdsPeruSchulenberg describes his role in the book as almost accidental—he began visiting Peru in the late 1970s as a graduate student, and his original role with the book was just to help with maps. The true architects of the book, Schulenberg says, were John O’Neill (“the person who more than anyone else in the modern era put Peru on the ornithological map,” according to Schulenberg), and Ted Parker, the now-legendary field ornithologist whose career was cut tragically short in a plane crash in Ecuador in 1993. In the mid-1990s, Schulenberg took up the mantle of the book, recruiting ornithologists Doug Stotz (Field Museum of Natural History) and Dan Lane (Louisiana State University) as additional coauthors.

The field guide was a major undertaking—Peru is home to 1,800 species of birds, more than any country in the world except Colombia. The book was eventually published in 2007, nearly 35 years after O’Neill and Parker first envisioned it.

In late May, at the close of the 8-day rally (during which our group found nearly 800 bird species), I sat down with Schulenberg to learn more about the genesis of the book and the joys of birding in Peru—or, as he put it, “the fun of being completely overwhelmed by what you see.”

Why Peru? Was it just happenstance that you went there instead of somewhere else in the world?

Tom Schulenberg plays the song of a unique subspecies of Rufous Antpitta using his phone. Photo by Flor Ruiz.

It wasn’t happenstance. I joined the AOU when I was in my early teens, and one of the first issues [of the Auk] I received was the issue in which John O’Neill and George Lowery described the Elusive Antpitta from this indigenous village called Balta near the Brazilian border. There was this color frontispiece of an antpitta, and the introduction of the paper talks about how even after years of work, within a few square miles you can still be encountering species you didn’t know were in the area, and sometimes they might even be new to science. I was just totally blown away. I had no idea that people were still discovering new species of birds, and I was completely entranced by this idea of an avifauna so complex that you could be there for years and still be learning new things about it.

So you went to graduate school at Louisiana State University with O’Neill as your mentor. And pretty soon his prediction about finding new birds actually came true for you?

Cloud forest beneath a blanket of cloud at Alto Mayo, San Martin, Peru. Photo by Hugh Powell.

It’s not like I went to Peru really expecting to find new species—I was just trying to work on my life list. But the possibility always was there. And on my [second] trip to Peru we found several species that were undescribed or recently described. We found Cinnamon Screech-Owl, Megascops petersoni [like many tropical ornithologists, Schulenberg reflexively refers to birds by their scientific names in conversation]; Hemitriccus cinnamomeipectus, the Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant; Johnson’s Tody-Flycatcher, Poecilotriccus luluae; which actually had been collected in the 1960s by Ned Johnson from Berkeley, but at that time Ned had not yet gotten around to describing it. Grallaricula ochraceifrons, Ochre-fronted Antpitta, we caught two in a single night in adjacent nets. [But all those were in the process of being described by other scientists, and] “all” we got out of it was the Pale-billed Antpitta. It was a fantastic trip though—I’m not complaining.

What field guide did you use before Birds of Peru?

Now remember that when some of the greats first started going down, people like John Terborgh and John O’Neill, there was literally nothing except the primary literature. But in 1970 an ornithologist [named] Meyer de Schauensee published a one-volume guide to the birds of South America, and it had some illustrations, but the illustrations were not great, and there was basically no attempt to illustrate every species. Instead what you had was about a paragraph on each species.

Chestnut-eared Aracari at Lago Lindo, Peru. Photo by Niall Perrins.

It definitely was difficult to use, and we disparagingly and no doubt unfairly started referring to it as “Meyer de Schloppensee.” But you know, that was our bible from ‘77 until 1986 when Hilty and Brown published the really revolutionary Colombia field guide.

Why did you publish the book with Princeton?

In 1986 Princeton published the Colombia guide by Hilty and Brown, and it was just a total bombshell all across northern South America—it was very good. It was the size of a Manhattan telephone directory. Some birders would even buy copies and rip out the plates, which now that the book is out of print and copies sell for hundreds of dollars, you could cry over that. Anyway the Colombia book was one of the things that made us very comfortable with working with Princeton, because it was so good and set a very high bar.

The modern format of Birds of Peru—text facing illustrations on every page—left little room for text about each species. How did you handle that?

The shorter species accounts were a challenge in many ways. We had only 110 words per species, on average, so there’s no character development that’s for sure. We had to leave out a lot of words.

Tom Schulenberg, right, and Thomas Valqui, are experts on Peruvian birds and served as judges during the 2014 World Birding Rally. Photo by Hugh Powell

Because the illustrations were opposite the text, we rarely describe what the bird looks like, and that saves a lot of space. Instead we focused on things like aspects of its behavior, or its habitat associations, its vocalizations. We tried to point out what you really need to focus on to ID the species. And we got that information from a lot of very knowledgeable people. If you look in the book, I think we have the longest acknowledgments section on record.

Where are the best places to go birding in Peru?

Well the nice thing about watching birds is you can never be bored, and that’s certainly true in Peru. Wherever you end up, you’ll be seeing interesting species about which not much is known. Certainly there are some places that get a lot of attention. The altiplano, though it might not have the most species, has very remarkable things like the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. And then down in the Amazonian lowlands, those are the most species-rich places, and it’s both challenging and very rewarding to bird there. There’s the dry deciduous forest in the northwest, where we were [during the World Birding Rally], it’s got lower diversity but incredibly high numbers of individuals. I’m always amazed to go into those forests and see the sheer number of birds that are in that habitat. And there are the foothills, the places where the Andean habitats mix with Amazonia, and there are lots of species occurring in these narrow elevational bands. Pretty much anywhere you are in Peru, there’s lots there.

What do you look forward to when you go birding in Peru?

Rufous-crested Coquette near Moyobamba, Peru. Photo by Alfredo Fernandez.

Part of the fun of going down there is the experience of being overwhelmed by what you see. Especially in humid forest on the eastern slope, where you start to get the Amazonian influence. You’ll run into a tanager flock, and just the sight of all these birds running around in the treetops, it’s challenging and exciting at the same time.

But if you pay attention to that flock, and if you can get beyond the gaudiness of the Saffron-crowned Tanagers and the Golden Tanagers, there are all these other dull-colored birds. Don’t pass them over too quickly. There’s this whole other set of birds that, as you gain experience, you may find are more interesting. You know, What’s this foliage-gleaner? What’s this antwren? And you’ll start to get sucked into the whole depth of birds Peru has to offer.

People go gaga over Paradise Tanagers, but I’m more likely to get excited by something like a Gray-mantled Wren. That’s a bird that’s at relatively low density, it has a narrow elevational range, so you have to pay attention. But when you see it, it’s sort of a sign that I’m in a really nice spot here, and there are probably other things here that are worth looking for.

Do you have any practical tips for people traveling to Peru?

Well, first is, you should do it.

Looking down the valley of the Utcubamba River near Chachapoyas, Peru. Photo by Hugh Powell.

Then, let’s see: Study your field guide. Look at the range maps. There’s information in those maps, so don’t ignore it. Use eBird—it has become a great supplement to anyone traveling in Peru to find out what’s been seen where. Keep your binoculars clean, and have a great time.

Is there a best season?

Peru is so large and so variable, you can’t go wrong. It’s a little more rainy during our northern winter, especially in the southeast of the country, in Amazonia. You can get into more trouble there with roads that time of year. But it doesn’t really matter what season you go.

And how long a trip should a bird watcher plan to take?

I think something like three years is a good time frame to shoot for.

For the record, he was laughing. But at the same time, he also seemed perfectly serious.

Hugh Powell is a science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Read more about the World Birding Rally on the Cornell Lab blog, the ABA blog, Nature Travel Network, and 10,000 Birds.

Does Santa use a GPS?

Millions of children and their parents will track Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve as he moves with the sunset, from East to West. It may surprise you to learn that mathematicians also spend some time thinking about Santa’s travel plans because Santa Claus is the most efficient business traveler ever known and his navigation across the globe is a prime example of the Traveling Salesman Problem.

So, we are pleased to offer some tools to explore the TSP while you’re waiting for Jolly Old St. Nick to slide down your chimney:

Official NORAD Santa Tracker — the definitive Santa tracker, NORAD provides hour by hour reports of Santa sightings so you can chart his progress.

Santa Claus and the Traveling Salesman Problem in the Orlando Sentinel — a classic article on the Santa Claus problem from 1998. Visualized here.

Concorde TSP Solver — this app allows you to plot your own path around the world. Discover the most efficient ways to travel to all the capitols from Japan to N. America, or plot in U.S. cities to see how Santa most likely makes his way.

In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman by William J. Cook — the definitive book on the TSP problem provides the history of TSP, the challenges to his solution, and the current research being conducted.

Safari Time: Z is for Zorilla


This post is part of a Safari Series to celebrate the publication of Birds of Masai Mara by Adam Scott Kennedy and Animals of Masai Mara by Adam Scott Kennedy and Vicki Kennedy.

Check out additional Safari photographs of birds and animals here.

Animals of the Masai Mara
Adam Scott Kennedy & Vicki Kennedy

Birds of the Masai Mara
Adam Scott Kennedy