The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Outdoors

December 1, 2013

Good books make great holiday gifts

CAMERON — For the nature lovers on your holiday gift list, a good book is always appreciated. Here are a few titles I’ve recently discovered that any nature lover will enjoy.

Reserves of Strength: Pennsylvania’s Natural Landscape, by Michael Gadomski (2013, $34.99, Schiffer Publishing), is a coffee table book that features the natural heritage of my home state. Gadomski is a veteran naturalist and skilled photographer who has explored every corner of Penn’s Woods.  A short caption identifies each of the 400-plus images, and often includes interesting bits of natural history. I was especially pleased to find my favorite place in Pennsylvania, Rickett’s Glen State Park, featured in a number of photos. I was also pleased that I didn’t find a single human in any of the photos.

Bugs Rule! An Introduction to the World of Insects, by Whitney Cranshaw and Richard Redak (2013 $55.00, Princeton), is an entomology textbook written for non-science majors.  With a heavy emphasis on natural history, “Bugs Rule!” will appeal to a much broader audience than traditional entomology texts. Imagine that, a textbook that can be read for pleasure.  More than 800 color photos and many informational sidebars enhance the book’s readability.

The Private Life of Spiders, by Paul Hillyard (2011, $19.95, Princeton), reviews the most interesting aspects of spider biology, from hunting behavior to the use of webs, trapdoors, and venom.  It also explains how spider silk is made and that it is twice as strong as silkworm silk. The final chapter explores the dread many humans feel toward spiders. Reading this book many not eliminate a fear of spiders, but it will certainly engender a bit of respect and maybe even a little admiration.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees, 2nd edition, by David More and John White (2013, $49.95, Princeton), is exactly what the title suggests — everything you’d like to know about trees. At more than 800 pages it is definitely not a field guide, but neither is it a botanical textbook. It is more a celebration of trees that any curious naturalist can appreciate. The highlights of the book are the thousands of beautiful color illustrations depicting everything from entire trees to flowers, leaves, bark, fruits, and seeds.

Speaking of trees, Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees, by Nancy Ross Hugo (2011, $29.95, Timber Press) is an introduction to tree biology and a detailed examination of ten familiar species. The author calls them “intimate views.”  Wherever you live, you’ll know at least one of these featured species. The list of species includes American beech, American sycamore, black walnut, eastern red cedar, ginkgo, red maple, southern magnolia, tulip poplar, white oak, and white pine. Hugo writes of these species as the old friends they have come to be.

Birds & People by Mark Cocker and David Tipling (2013, $65.00, Jonathan Cape), is a richly illustrated tome (592 pages) that explores the rich historic and cultural interactions between birds and people. We’ve used bird’s meat, eggs, and decorative feathers, for example, since the dawn of time. “Birds & People” is arranged by bird families, though some of the smaller groups are ignored.  Open it to any page, and you’ll be hooked for an hour. The hundreds of color images that illustrate the book include penguins, hummingbirds, bowerbirds, and birds of paradise by photographer Tipling. At some point, “Birds & People” should receive a lifetime achievement award for both Cocker and Tipling.

 Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas D. Seeley (2010, $29.95, Princeton), explores how honeybee swarms create new hives. Turns out it’s a group effort by many individuals. Over the course of hours to days, hundreds of bees explore possible new hive sites and then somehow make a group decision. The cooperative behavior of the most familiar and most important insect on the planet makes fascinating reading.

And if anyone on your gift list enjoys feeding birds and prefers getting books at the library, a big red bow taped to a 20-pound bag of black-oil sunflower seed or sunflower kernels will surely please.   

1
Text Only
Outdoors
  • 071714 Coda and Callie.jpg Coda and Callie’s excellent adventure

    How is it something that you profess to love so much can cause you so much anxiety and grief? No, I’m not talking about dealing with your children (or your spouse). This is worse. This is about dogs. More specifically, hunting dogs. 

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071314 Chris Ellis.jpg DNR’s ‘outdoor summer school’

    Attention all West Virginia hunters and trappers. It is once again time for outdoor summer school and the course materials are hot off the presses.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meet the Eurasian collared-dove

    Back in 1974 a local pigeon fancier imported a flock of about 50 Eurasian collared-doves to the Bahamas. Ultimately he released the birds, and they took to living in the West Indies. By the late 1970s some had reached south Florida, and by the late 1980s, some had been seen in Georgia and Arkansas.

    July 13, 2014

  • July in W.Va.: Recreational opportunities abound

    It’s July in the West Virginia mountains, which brings vibrant orange tiger lilies, blooming rhododendron, and of course fireworks. Usually the heat and humidity is in full force, but so far the weather has been nice.

    July 13, 2014

  • Shotgun 101: Shoot more and live better

    “God is not on the side of big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.”
    — Voltaire

    July 9, 2014

  • Fireflies are living lights

    At recent Fourth of July fireworks displays, spectators squealed with delight at the annual spectacle that illuminated the night sky. And I’m sure more than a few compared the spectacular pyrotechnics to the subtler displays of fireflies that punctuate backyards, parks, and campgrounds all summer long. We call these displays “nature’s fireworks.”

    July 5, 2014

  • Get on up, or you’ll get left behind

    “Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” —
    William Shakespeare

    July 3, 2014

  • Catfish, it's whats for dinner

    I think for far too long the catfish has had an image problem. They seemed to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the fish world. You know, they got no respect. Fortunately though (maybe unfortunately if you are a catfish), that seems to be in the past. They are a fish whose time has come.

    June 28, 2014

  • It’s more than a boat, it’s an adventure

    Growing up on Elk River, I couldn’t help being connected to the river and its waters. It is where I caught my first fish, learned to swim, paddle a canoe, to read water and throw a buzz bait, killed my first duck, gigged frogs and spent many a Saturday night fishing for catfish. We lived in a river bank community, and the Elk provided us with everything from water for our homes to all the recreation a young boy would need to fill his youthful requirements for adventure.

    June 28, 2014

  • Old friends at the beach

    If your summer vacation plans include a trip to an east coast beach, I can’t predict everything you might see. But one bird that I guarantee you’ll encounter many times is the laughing gull.

    June 28, 2014

Web Special Sections
  • Special Web Sections

    Click HERE for stories about natural gas and Marcellus shale gas extraction.

    Click HERE for stories about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

    Click HERE for stories about the passing of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

    Click HERE for stories from The Greenbrier Classic PGA TOUR event.

    August 6, 2010

Helium debate
Helium
AP Video
Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires