News of the World, February 7, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


Stop what you’re doing and take a breath. No, this isn’t a stress-relief exercise. (Although if you’re looking to unwind with a great book this weekend, you’ve come to the right place!) How much do you know about the air that we breathe every day? Donald E. Canfield has your answers.

His new book, Oxygen: A Four Billion Year History, was reviewed in Nature this week. This PUP book — which gives a rundown of all things “O” — is described as “engaging and authoritative.” Donald Canfield — one of the world’s leading authorities on geochemistry, earth history, and the early oceans — covers the vast history of oxygen on Earth, emphasizing its relationship to the evolution of life and the evolving chemistry of the Earth. With an accessible and colorful first-person narrative, he draws from a variety of fields, including geology, paleontology, geochemistry, biochemistry, animal physiology, and microbiology, to explain why our oxygenated Earth became the ideal place for life. Before you take another breath, check out Chapter 1 here.


Spending too much time this afternoon scrolling through #Sochi news? To get ready for the Russian-hosted games, we turn to PUP author Angela Stent. The Times Higher Education reviewed Stent’s new book, The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century, just in time for the upcoming games. Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman of the THE writes, “Stent, a Sovietologist who served in government under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, expertly condenses the past two decades of this tumultuous relationship with an insider’s command of detail.”

Want to learn more about the host of the games? Pick up a copy of Angela Stent’s book for a look into what political issues may be the backdrop of the competition. You can view the introduction of the book here. Also, check out this NYT video, “Think Back: Olympics Meets Politics,” which highlights the inevitable political element that accompanies the world’s biggest games.

 


We jet-set to another area of the world, and another time, for our next book: Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr. This book received a starred review in Library Journal this week:

Starr is that rare scholar with the horsepower to write about the medieval culture of this vast region that is bounded by Persia to the west, and China to the east, and India to the southeast….An indispensable title for scholars, this lively study should prove equally compelling to serious lay readers with an interest in Arabic and medieval thought.

In this sweeping and richly illustrated history, S. Frederick Starr tells the fascinating but largely unknown story of Central Asia’s medieval enlightenment through the eventful lives and astonishing accomplishments of its greatest minds–remarkable figures who built a bridge to the modern world. PUP readers can view Chapter 1 here.

World News 2-7


What to do instead of waiting in line at Home Depot for rock salt and shovels? Pass the time with this new weather-related op-ed from PUP author Ian Roulstone. Roulstone takes on the question of how weathermen (and women) fare versus Mother Nature, writing:

We are often described as a nation preoccupied by weather, and we’ve certainly had plenty to talk about over the last few weeks. The wind and rain continue their relentless assault, and the headlines focus, quite rightly, on the plight of those worst affected – what should be done to help? Meanwhile flood waters continue to rise and this is not unexpected. The weather forecasters have done their job well: no Michael Fish moments to distract our attention from what’s important. Indeed, the last few winters have been marked by extremes – from snowbound Gatwick Airport to the St Jude Day Storm – and the weathermen have stayed ahead of the game. So is Mother Nature’s number finally up when it comes to blowing us away with a storm from out of the blue?

Can meteorologists, with the advanced technology of today, finally state that they have won the battle, out-predicting any storm that comes their way? For Roulstone’s answer, check out the full op-ed, which ran on Huff Post UK. You can also view chapter one of his and John Norbury’s book, Invisible in the Storm.

 

Fall Warbler Sighting!

Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson, authors of The Warbler Guide, are busy all month with events (see here), but that won’t stop us from keeping their awesome warbler images coming!

The photo below from The Warbler Guide is of a female Black-and-white Warbler in the fall, snapped by none other than Scott Whittle himself. And don’t worry, we promise the bird is upside down, not your computer!

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Have you spotted any interesting birds this migration season? Let us know in the comments below!

Author Derek Lovitch’s Birding at Monhegan Island

Keeping with this feathered trend, Derek Lovitch, author of How to Be a Better Birder, has been blogging full steam ahead about his birdwatching this fall, including his adventures on Monhegan Island earlier this week. While there weren’t too many birds to be spotted this week, it didn’t stop Lovitch from taking some cool pictures and having a few rare sightings!

Be sure to check out Lovitch’s blog, MaineBirdingFieldNotes, and to scroll to the bottom of the page to check out our Fall Migration Giveaway.


Monhegan Island, 9/20-22/2013

On a morning with a big overnight migration in the fall, there’s no where I’d rather be than SandyPoint.  I just wish there was a direct ferry from there right to MonheganIsland.  Any other time, I would just rather be on Monhegan.

While our annual MonhegZEN Fall Migration Weekend coming up this weekend (still some space available), Jeannette and I headed to the island Friday through Sunday for a few days of birding and visiting with friends.  It was kinda odd being there without a group!  Not surprisingly, I did not bird much less hard.

I’ll post some radar images from the weekend on a forthcoming blog entry that I hope to post by day’s end.  A decent flight Thursday night into Friday produced a fair amount of birds on the island, even after our late (relatively speaking) arrival at 10:00am, and even though it seemed – as is often the case on calm mornings – birds that arrived at dawn continued on to the mainland.  Three of our first handful of species, however, were Philadelphia Vireo, Cape May Warbler, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  Welcome (back) to Monhegan.

The birding improved in the afternoon, highlighted by a Western Kingbird.
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A Lark Sparrow and two Dickcissels – all present for a few days – were enjoyed (here, one of the Dickcissels with the Lark Sparrow and a White-throated Sparrow in the background). Typical “Monhegan Trash Birds:” birds that are noteworthy anywhere else in the state but are fully expected in an autumn visit here.
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We ended up with 67 species of birds on the day, including 11 species of warblers.  Yup, a slow day of birding on Monhegan beats a good day of birding almost anywhere else.  Light southerly winds that developed over the course of the day became calm by nightfall, and call notes early in the night were suggestive of birds departing the island.
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With a southerly flow aloft, I didn’t have high hopes of a lot of new arrivals for the next morning.  The radar image, simply put, was weird – some sort of temperature anomaly or perhaps a malfunction, so I couldn’t use that to confirm or alleviate my concerns.  A mere handful of bird overhead at dawn on Saturday morning confirmed it though – there was not much on the move overnight.

Fog rolled in and out for most of the morning, clearing out in the afternoon on an increasing south to southwesterly breeze.  We beat the bush hard, and covered a lot of ground, but birds were hard to come by.  There were quite a few more Yellow-rumped Warblers around than on previous mornings, Kristen noted, and we added plenty of species to our trip list over the course of the day.  While the Dickcissels apparently departed, the Lark Sparrow continued, and the island was now up to three Clay-colored Sparrows.
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Clay-colored Sparrows, Dickcissels, and Lark Sparrow, check:  the triumvirate of Midwestern regular-rarities out here.  Two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a tarrying Eastern Kingbird, a Semipalmated Plover, and a good afternoon Northern Gannet show were the other highlights of what amounted to be an exceptionally slow day of birding for Monhegan in the fall.  Nevertheless, complaints were not uttered – we were on Monhegan! – and besides, I got to mooch a TV (Thanks Paul and Sue!) to watch Rutgers come from behind to defeat Arkansas in an exciting finish, and we visited the Monhegan Brewing Company.  Yup, tough day.
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This young Peregrine Falcon – with a bulging crop from its last meal – also had a good day.

Unfortunately, an increasing southerly wind overnight precluded much in the way of any migration.  Take a look at the next blog to see what “almost nothing” looks like on a radar image.  Clouds were thick by dawn, too, but the rain held off until after breakfast.  After another fulfilling and scrumptious breakfast at the Trailing Yew, Jeannette, Kristen, and I headed down to Lobster Cove for a bit of seawatching.  We could see the wall of rain on the radar, and we could now see it on the horizon.  But as it marched closer, tubenoses joined the gannets.  In a mere 15 minutes or so, 20+ Great Shearwaters and 6+ Sooty Shearwaters zoomed through my scope.  And then the skies opened up.  This is what a line of rain – ahead of a cold front – looks like on the radar.
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The southerly winds were diminishing as the rain tapered off rather quickly over the course of the morning, but seawatching was less productive before lunchtime – apparently those tubenoses were all on the move just ahead of the precipitation.  But with the sun beginning to peak out after lunch, at least more birds were more visible again: two of the Clay-colored Sparrows, a Philly Vireo, etc.  Joined by Paul and Doug, we encountered a – or the – Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and then a calling flyover Lesser Yellowlegs became my 202nd species on Monhegan.

Moments later, Paul spotted a night-heron in a narrow drainage, and Doug soon relocated it.  A juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron!  Once a more regular bird in Maine, and even on Monhegan, it had been about a decade since one had made an appearance on the island.  But this bird showed up a couple of weeks ago, and was often seen foraging on grasshoppers in lawns.  Rumors of its continued presence were circulated, but there were no confirmed sightings for over a week.  Until today.
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Monhegan bird #203!  And two island birds in about 10 minutes.  Now that’s the way to finish strong.

When it was time to go, we were very happy to see the waves were rapidly dropping off.  Seven foot seas this morning had been reduced to 3-4 at most as we hopped on the Hardy Boat for the trip back.  A Great Cormorant on the Outer Ducks was our 88th species for the Monhegan tally for this trip, but 88 –including a mere 13 species of warblers – was a fairly low total for three days out here at this time of year.  That being said, it could have been much lower had we not continued to beat the bush.

Two juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls joined some hopeful Herring Gulls following the boat to shore, and westerly winds were increasing as the cold front pushed through.  There would no doubt be a lot of new birds come morning on Monhegan.  While I would be sorry to miss them, I knew fun was going to be had at SandyPoint, so I was not upset.

And I was right…


How To Be A Better BirderDon’t forget to check out our Rafflecopter giveaway event!

Our prize package includes a copy of The Warbler Guide, The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, and How to Be a Better Birder, a pair of Zeiss TERRA binoculars, and the audio companion for The Warbler Guide.

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And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, click on the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos.