Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Birds and The Bees...in new books that is...



 There's nothing like a new book about bees to make you think spring may actually show up this year! Bumble Bees of North America by Paul Williams, Robbin Thorp, Leif Richardson and Sheila Colla from Princeton University Press is making me feel all warm and buzzy!

Over the past two years I've been watching and photographing the bees that visit the native flowers in our gardens. I was amazed at the variety. I always thought a bumble bee was a bumble bee...until I started to look closer. Now there's an outstanding field guide to the 46 species that live in North America. AND it's easy enough for even me!

In the introduction they note that "everybody likes bumble bees." Their big fuzzy buzzing bodies zoom around our gardens seemingly ignoring our presence. They are one of the main pollinators of our food supplies, there pollination service is estimated to be worth $10 billion dollars every year.

I think you are aware of the colony collapse of honey bees, evidence is now showing the same fate may befall the bumble bees as well. Too many chemicals and pesticides are being used in factory farms as well as residential areas. Everyone wants a pretty weed free lawn it seems...at the expense of the future of these lovely insects.

Franklin's Bumble Bee is thought to be extinct. The Rusty-patched Bumble Bee is now listed as Endangered in Canada. You can do something by joining Bumble Bee Watch . It's free and you can download your photos of bees and help this citizen science project.

Oh, and buy the guide too. Then you'll realize how many different buzzy things are in your garden!
 
 The information is very easy to use. Range maps and color patterns are shown for every species in addition to seasonal occurrences.
 
 Now to get to work finding the names for all of my bumbles...
 

 And then there's "Ten Thousand Birds, Ornithology Since Darwin." I've had this book for a while now...and I'm still reading it! Tim Birkhead, Jo Wimpenny and Bob Montgomerie did a fantastic job with this book. I'm one of those short attention span folks...if it has more than ten pages and isn't illustrated on every page, I'll fall asleep. I was surprised and delighted when I discovered that this rather large and detailed tome was so easily readable.

The first chapter mesmerized me."Yesterday's Birds" concerns the discovery of fossilized remains of lizards and what was soon  learned to be the earliest records of birds. Every important name in the historical records of ornithology is included.

It's broken down by the major areas of ornithology, including evolution, classification, migration and more. And yes, there are great illustrations and photographs throughout. This is a fine and easy to read history of the fathers of birding and ornithology.


 This illustration of Archaeopterxy by Rudolf Freund was for an article in Life magazine on evolution in 1959.

An Anhinga from Florida in 2006...by me. 
Of no historical importance.