Book Review

Butterfly Gardening: North American Butterfly Association Guide, by Jane Hurwitz 

Published by Princeton University Press 

This very attractive book is a good introduction to gardening for butterflies. Interspersed with lots of great photos you will find an overview of the main butterfly families and some guidance on identification. If you have enjoyed some butterflies in your yard and are thinking about making it more attractive to a wider variety of butterflies, this book is a good place to start. 

Some butterfly books and articles focus only on nectar plants for your garden, but this book spends equal time on the plants that support the caterpillars. You will see that various species feed on grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees. 

I also learned that not all butterflies consume flower nectar; some eat tree sap, rotting fruit and animal dung. This isn’t going to help you select plants for your front yard, but you might consider setting up a hanging shelf for watermelon rinds or other fruit. 

Nearly half the book describes gardens and gardening tips for different parts of the country. The two chapters most relevant for our area are “Butterfly Gardening with Trees: Eastern Deciduous Forest” and “Prairie-Plant Inspired Butterfly Gardens: the Grasslands”. 

In the Resources – Plant and Garden Design section of Butterfly Gardening, I was pleased to see Heather Holm’s book Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants. 

You will also want to look for local plant information – e.g. the plant list at http://nababutterfly.com/regional-butterfly-garden-guides/ and click on the Minneapolis one, written by Kathy Heidel. Some of you will remember Kathy Heidel from her years as a naturalist with Three Rivers Park District and the MRVAC bird ID classes she co-taught with Karol Gressor. 

Or try the plant list from the Xerces Society: https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/plant-lists/ 

If you want detailed information on Minnesota native plants including photos of the plant in all stages of development with details on growth habit, bloom time, color and where it is found in the state, visit https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/ 

Book Review: Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East

Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle EastBirds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East: A Photographic Guide 

  • By Frédéric Jiguet & Aurélien Audevard; translated by Tony Williams
  • Published by Princeton University Press
  • Paper list $29.95; ISBN 9780691172439
  • 448 pages; 5×7 ½ ; 2,200 color photos and maps
  • Publication date: March 22, 2017

This is a new field guide for the birds of Europe. It’s small enough to carry with you in the field (if you don’t mind toting a 1 ¾ lb. book). It has photographs, not drawings, and the authors have pointed out the field marks for each bird commonly found in the area, but the field marks are not emphasized as much as they might be in a drawn guide.

There are photos of the male, female, and juveniles where the plumage differs, and flight photos for many species where that might help identification. There are also some photos of vagrants that do not have the field marks identified. (European warblers tend to look pretty drab—to me—so you can get a warbler “color fix” by looking at American warblers in the vagrant section in the back, although most are shown in winter plumage.)

In the identification section of each species they give the average length or wingspan, and note any characteristic behaviors, as well as differences between races or subspecies where relevant. Where appropriate, they describe the male’s song and often the normal species contact call. Then a description of the normal habitat for the species is given where not obvious (e.g., at sea). Range maps showing the breeding, wintering and resident areas are included.

All the data is located on the same page; you don’t have to refer to a different section for any data. They have followed the “modern” taxonomic order as far as possible, but recognize that the order(s) has been subject to change in light of recent developments. Due to the changes, the scientific names may have changed from earlier guides, even if the common names are the same.

This claims to be the first comprehensive field guide to all the species recorded in Europe, including resident winter visitors, common migrants, and rarities. The guide covers 860 species, with 2,200 photographs. This is probably the best guide to have for the most recent scientific data on each species.

Birds of Western Ecuador: A Photographic Guide

by Nick Athanas & Paul J Greenfield. Princeton University, 2016

Review by Anne Hanley

birds-western-ecuador-bookIf you are planning a trip to Western Ecuador, you should check out this field guide. If you’ve never birded Ecuador, you’ll want to after seeing this book.

The first thing you’ll notice are the very appealing photographs. The occurrence maps are on the same two page spread as the photo so you can see the expected range. The text includes the bird’s elevation range and some plumage description, particularly field marks that don’t show in the photo.

Compared to the Birds of Ecuador Field Guide (Robert S Ridgely and Paul J Greenfield), you will find the text abbreviated and if you are used to carrying only the plates from Birds of Ecuador, the Birds of Western Ecuador weighs more – but less than the complete Birds of Ecuador.

Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer

by Peter P. Marra and Chris Santella. Princeton University Press, 2016.

Review by Mark Lystig

cat-wars-bookCats in America are an invasive species. Like other invasive species, free-roaming (feral and pet) cats impact native species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Read this concise book to learn more about free-roaming cats and their diseases and why we must reduce their numbers. The authors are not anti-cat, but are concerned about native wildlife.

We own cats but don’t let our cats out. We keep the cats healthier and keep the cats from killing birds. If you must let your cat out, use a leash. Your cat(s) should be neutered and get rabies shots. Infected cats may spread rabies to other animals or humans. Cats have become the number-one domesticated species passing rabies to humans. Cats may have other diseases that may be transmitted both to other animals and to humans: plague and toxoplasmosis (a possible cause of schizophrenia).

Cats are genetically programmed to be hunters. Cats hunt and kill whatever they can. They don’t need to be hungry; cats hunt because they are hunters. One study concluded that cats kill 1.3-4 billion birds, 6.3-22.3 billion mammals, 95-299 million amphibians, and 258-822 million reptiles annually in the United States. While out hunting cats may also spread diseases that may kill any species that does not have resistance. The diseases may kill animals much larger than cats. You can learn about what cats kill, that Trap-Neuter-Release sounds good but doesn’t work, and also learn about the diseases cats can carry and the threats those diseases pose to wildlife and humans.

This book may change your mind about allowing free-roaming cats.

Book Review: Birds of New Guinea

by Bruce M. Beehler & Thane K. Pratt

Book review by Mark N. Lystig 

Birds of New GuineaOne of the (many) delights of amateur birdwatching is the opportunity to learn more about where to find the birds, why you find birds where they are, what are the birds doing in the places where you find them (what are they eating, how are they adapted to eat what they are eating, how do they construct—if they construct—their nests, and how old do they have to be when they are able to nest), and to learn more about the environment in general. But as you can see from this list, the opportunity to learn a little soon turns into a quest to learn a lot.

Birds of New Guinea, by Bruce M. Beehler & Thane K. Pratt, is a checklist of the birds of New Guinea, intended as a supplement to the authors’ earlier field guide, Birds of New Guinea, Second Edition (Princeton). Whereas you might wish to carry the field guide with you if you go birding in the New Guinea region, you will want to leave this book behind as it is quite heavy

Part I is an introduction to the area studied, but also to the scientific terminology and the difficulty of determining how to identify birds by family, genus, and species or subspecies. There’s an explanation why DNA studies may not be the final solution to identification that many may believe it to be, and the authors explain their choices in their treatments of species and subspecies. The interesting introductory section may be reason enough to consult this book (28 pages).

Part II is the bulk of the book, and contains the accounts of each family, genus, species, and subspecies the authors have identified (485 pages). There are brief general family and genus descriptions, then more specific species and subspecies descriptions for making distinctions. A comprehensive introduction to the birds of New Guinea, this may be more than you need to know.