Monday, June 29, 2009

New Sibley Books

Bookstores are my crack houses. I can't resist entering, buying a cup of coffee and browsing books. I just can't. The same is true of online bookstores. Not quite as fun, but engrossing nonetheless. Coffee's not quite as good, but hey, I get to wear my pajamas. Anyway, I'm browsing Amazon for bird-related and road trip-related items, when I run across two new Sibley books that will be available in the coming months.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior looks really interesting. It might have helped me with my chickadee question in my last post, and a slew of other questions I have while watching birds. I can't always have an ornithologist at my side, so maybe this will be the next best thing.

I want it to be exhaustive, but it can't be, but at 608 pages, it's not exactly light reading, either. The description does say that he's broken it down by bird family. Maybe that's all that's necessary for the recreational birder. Hopefully, there's more informatio than you'll find from some of the free online resources, like Cornell Lab of Ornithology's, All About Birds, but for those of us infinitely more curious, will Sibley's book have more or less information than Cornell's pay for use guide, Birds of North America Online. I guess we'll see.

The Sibley Guide to Trees sounds interesting, but I'm honestly not sure if I'll buy it. I am interested in habitat, and I can name most trees in my region, but beyond that, I'm more of a, "Ooohhh, what a pretty tree!" This is definitely one that I think I will have to flip through at the store and read the reviews for.

The interview with David Sibley in the Amazon description has some interesting information and is worth a read. Below is just a small excerpt from the interview.
The tallest tree ever measured was a Coast Redwood in California at 377 feet tall. The largest single tree by volume was another Coast Redwood with a trunk measuring over 88,000 cubic feet of wood and estimated to weigh over 3300 tons! The oldest tree is a Bristlecone Pine in Nevada known to be nearly 5000 years old. But these records of age and volume are both challenged by the Quaking Aspen, which often grows multiple trunks from a single large root system, and can be considered a single organism. One such plant in Utah covers over 100 acres with 47,000 trunks, and contains an estimated 6000 tons of wood, making it the largest single organism known. Estimates of its age range from 80,000 years up to one million years. The average age of any individual trunk is about 130 years, new trunks are constantly being produced by the root system.
He also talks a little bit about trees that are facing extinction, and he mentions the American Chestnut, which was wiped out by the Chestnut Blight of the 1900s, which reminded me of Bill Bryson, author of A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. He discussed the loss of native plants in North America and the ever changing landscape, even in protected lands, but he specifically mentioned the American Chestnut. By the way, if you like to hike or you love nature and quirky facts, you have got to read that book. I finished this book a few months ago, and I highly recommend it. It has inspired me to try to hike the Pacific Coast Trail... in sections... but I'm still inspired!

Certain oaks are experiencing strain on their populations. In California, the coast live oaks are faced with Sudden Oak Death disease, which can adversely affect the foraging activities of many of the birds that rely on oak arthropods. Chickadees may survive, but the oak titmouse will have more difficulty. I've been trying to photograph a titmouse, but no luck yet.

I've found a hummingbird nest and baby. I'll post that a bit later.


Kelly said...

I can't wait to see your hummingbird nest and baby!
...and thanks for the book post. I too am always looking for guides with more than the usual information in them. Sounds like the new Sibley guide might be nice.

Ratty said...

I'm usually drawn to books too. I usually go more for fiction though. I'd love to have a few field guides on whatever I find, but I like not knowing what kind of plant or animal I'm seeing at first. It makes things a fun mystery for me. I'm looking forward to your hummingbird.

Chris Petrak said...

Thanks for joining my site. I am the same with bookstores as you. I find Sibley's bird behavior a good resource - go to it a couple of times a month. Birds of America is a massive resource. I have not subscribed because I am afraid I won't use it enough and am too tightfisted. Similar (though somewhat dated) is the series by Arthur Cleveland Bent - Life Histories. I finally assembled the 25 volumes of the Dover edition pb from various sources. Long out of print, but a great resource.

Anonymous said...

I hope you get a shot of the oak titmouse. We have hardly any oaks in our area because the disease is rampant.

Good fortune on finding the hummingbird nest. I have a flurry of activity at my house over these stalk things I save for them every year. I don't trim them even when the neighbors complain because I know the hummingbirds will come for them.

Rene said...

@Kelly - I hope so. I can't wait to peruse them!

@Ratty - I usually don't know what I'm looking at, at first. Of course, now I know some species of fauna at a glance, but it's when I get home with the photographs that I can examine field markings and make IDs. I love fiction, too!

Chris Petrak - Thanks! I will have to look into the Life Histories book.

@crazy57bus - SOD is rampant, isn't it? Oaks are so important to our ecosystem in NorCal. I really hope they find a way to combat it soon.