Nature

Read an Excerpt from “Blood Ties: A Story of Falconry and Fatherhood” by Ben Crane

August 20, 2020
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Spring and Summer of 2020 have been unlike any in our collective memory. But as we’ve spent these months in relative isolation, socially distanced from our loved ones, many of us have awakened to details of the changing seasons that we seemed somehow to have forgot in our normal daily lives. We’ve noticed the feel of cool, green moss; the hum of bees in city parks; the smell of blooming lindens. In the news, we’ve read about the return of wild boars, goats, fish, and dolphins to city streets, rivers, and ports. Something in this is comforting. Copublished with UK publisher Head of Zeus, Ben Crane’s Blood Ties is a potent reminder that if we open our senses to nature, we are never truly alone. It is also so much more. Both an uncannily brilliant evocation of the falconer’s art and a moving story of a man’s discovery of how to be a father, Blood Ties is a memoir as compelling and feathered with insights into the natural world and human heart as the beloved H Is for Hawk—and yet, it is a story wholly its own. At once deeply personal and soaring across the globe, bringing us eye to . . .

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Recommended Readings for Garden Season

June 18, 2020
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The warmth of the summer sun beckons new life out from the dirt and into our hearts. Summer gardening is an avid pastime for many, but now with the current restrictions and precautions, more people than ever are dedicating time and space to their gardens. Whether you have a green thumb and a full backyard or are just beginning with a modest kitchen window planter, this reading list is sure to dig up information and inspiration for your gardening pursuits. Discoveries in the Garden, by James B. Nardi  “Nardi’s wonderful new book is a must for anyone who wants to be an informed observer of and participant in the life of their garden. From the architecture of plant tissue to the magic shop of plant chemistry, Nardi shows how plants have evolved strategies to help them thrive and offers simple experiments allowing readers to ask them questions. I will never look at the brilliant colors of fall leaves or sniff the fragrance my tomato plants leave on my hands without thanking him for this book.” Kristin Ohlson, author of The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet Darwin’s Most Wonderful . . .

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Celebrate #WorldMigratoryBirdDay with “The Art of the Bird”

October 12, 2019
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Celebrate #WorldMigratoryBirdDay with “The Art of the Bird”

Each year, the second Saturday in October marks the autumn celebration of World Migratory Bird Day, a biannual, international “awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats.” Stretched along Lake Michigan and sitting squarely on the Mississippi Flyway, the Chicago region is an incredibly important habitat for migratory birds—and a great place to go birdwatching. This October 12 and beyond, take a peek (or beak?) inside the recently published The Art of the Bird: The History of Ornithological Art through Forty Artists by expert ornithologist Roger J. Lederer. Lavishly illustrated with 200 color plates, this is a coffee table book that art lovers and birdwatchers alike will flock to. Below, we include some of the birds (or their cousins) to watch out for in Chicago this autumn. If you’ve hung hummingbird feeders in your garden, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a migrating ruby-throated hummingbird. These (not ruby-throated) hummingbirds, painted by American artist Arthur B. Singer (1917–90), were featured on the cover of Alexander Skutch’s The Life of the Hummingbird in 1973. As Lederer writes, Singer’s “reputation was made in 1961 with Oliver Austin’s Birds of the World book, which . . .

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Read an Excerpt from “An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion”

August 13, 2019
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Although Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) was one of the most famous scientists in the world at the time of his death at the age of ninety, today he is known to many as a kind of “almost-Darwin,” a secondary figure relegated to the footnotes of Darwin’s prodigious insights. But this diminution could hardly be less justified. Research into the life of this brilliant naturalist and social critic continues to produce new insights into his significance to history and his role in helping to shape modern thought. Wallace declared his eight years of exploration in Southeast Asia to be “the central and controlling incident” of his life. As 2019 marks one hundred and fifty years since the publication of The Malay Archipelago, Wallace’s canonical work chronicling his epic voyage, read on for an excerpt from the editors’ introduction to An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion—a collaborative, interdisciplinary new book that celebrates Wallace’s remarkable life and diverse scholarly accomplishments. Although Wallace’s four years in the Amazon Valley had convinced him he was on the right track as regards a causal relationship between geography and evolution, his thoughts on the mechanism of transmutation had actually not advanced much, nor did he now have collections . . .

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It’s Independence Day! Read an Excerpt from “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose”

July 4, 2019
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In the years after the Revolutionary War, the fledgling republic of America was viewed by many Europeans as a degenerate backwater, populated by subspecies weak and feeble. Chief among these naysayers was the French Count and world-renowned naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, who wrote that the flora and fauna of America (humans included) were inferior to European specimens. Thomas Jefferson spent years countering the French conception of American degeneracy. The American moose, which Jefferson claimed was so enormous a European reindeer could walk under it, became the cornerstone of his defense. Convinced that the sight of such a magnificent beast would cause Buffon to revise his claims, Jefferson had the remains of a seven-foot ungulate shipped first class from New Hampshire to Paris. Unfortunately, Buffon died before he could make any revisions to his Histoire Naturelle, but the legend of the moose makes for a fascinating tale about Jefferson’s passion to prove that American nature deserved prestige. In Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose, first published in 2009 and reissued in paperback this year, Lee Alan Dugatkin vividly recreates the origin and evolution of the debates about natural history in America and, in so doing, returns the prize moose to its rightful place in . . .

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Earth Day: Read the Entry for Today from “A Year with Nature”

April 22, 2019
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Herpetologist and natural history writer Marty Crump is a collector of wild tales; and in this bedside book for nature lovers, her treasure chest of stories opens wide. Gathering science and lore, wit and wisdom into a day-by-day, charmingly illustrated wander through the year, A Year with Nature is a quotidian companion that doesn’t eschew conservation issues even as it encourages contemplation, awe, and fun. On April 17, we read a dispatch from the annual Black Bear Festival in Louisiana; on August 12, we learn about World Elephant Day; and on November 13, the day that Coleridge published his famous Rime of the Ancient Mariner, we fly with the albatross (of course). From pythons to oceans, from the moon to the Hope Diamond, the world that this joyful book celebrates is one that is still wild and wonderful—and worth protecting. This Earth Day, read on for A Year with Nature’s inspiring April 22 entry celebrating photographer and preservationist Ansel Adams, who died thirty-five years ago today. APRIL 22 Photography and Wilderness Preservation You don’t take a photograph, you make it. —ANSEL ADAMS, photographer Naturalists, conservationists, environmentalists, and others who dedicate their lives to preserving landscapes strive to accomplish their goals in different ways . . .

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