Saturday, January 27, 2018

Far From Land

What better way to slowly work my way back into blogging than a book review?

This one is FAR FROM LAND, The Mysterious Lives of Seabirds, by Michael Brooks.

Let's talk about what this book is.  What it is is an about 200 page review of Seabird Biology divided into 10 chapters on topics such as migration, breeding biology, feeding habits, etc.  It focuses mainly on tubenoses, penguins, auks, and pelagic terns; basically colony nesters who feed out in the ocean.

Seabirds are difficult birds to study for obvious reasons, but there has been a huge expansion of knowledge over the last decade or so thanks to miniaturization of tracking devices.  This book summarizes many of these papers in very readable prose.  Did you know frigatebirds can sleep with one side of their brain at a time (and occasionally both sides!) while flying?  Do you want to learn about Ashmole's Halo and how it applies to the distance birds can reach feeding areas from their colonies?  This book is a wealth of information giving background on a set of birds we don't know a ton about.

What it isn't is an identification guide.  There's also fairly limited illustration.  My honest guess is that sales of this book would be doubled with photographic eye candy.  It's mostly illustrated with well-done black and white drawings, as well as figures showing migration tracks of tagged birds and the like.  That being said I'm sure that cost would go up with a ton of glossy color photos as well; clearly the publishers felt this was the best marriage between information and shelf appeal.

Who is interested in this book?  Any birder who's working their way through slow winter months may enjoy reading a section of a chapter and getting a little birding fix, especially if they are interested in learning more about birds rather than just passively looking at them.  It definitely should appeal to the birder who is planning on a pelagic and wants to be able to put the birds in better context than just ticks on a list. 

This book will be available for purchase in March; Princeton Press provided me a review copy.

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