With a long, hot summer just ahead, a good book on the beach or the back porch of a mountain cabin is always a welcome friend. Here are some recent titles I recommend.
"Deerland: America's Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness" (Globe Pequot Press, 2013) by Al Cambronne celebrates white-tailed deer in America -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Everyone from hunters and deer watchers who love them to insurance companies, farmers, ecologists and gardeners who loathe them can learn a lot about their most- and least-favorite big-game species. In wide-ranging interviews and field trips with hunters, deer biologists and other key players, readers get an inside look at what Cambronne calls "America's deer-industrial complex."
"The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors" (Princeton University Press, 2013) by Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori and Brian Sullivan is not a field guide. It is a large format ID guide best used at a desk. Focusing on sizes, shapes and habitat, Crossley uses digital imagery to illustrate various ages, sexes and plumages of raptors. By placing birds in realistic settings rather than on white backgrounds, Crossley creates "moments of recognition" rather than "challenges for identification." If you love diurnal raptors (vultures, eagles, hawks, kites, falcons), this is a must-have book.
For younger children, "Curious Critters" (Wild Iris Publishing, 2011) by David FitzSimmons is a collection of more than 20 superb photographs of animals against white backgrounds. From bullfrogs and big brown bays to box turtles and opossums, the images are certain to capture the attention of curious kids. Even my 1-year-old grandson loved it -- just have to keep him from ripping out the pages. Each photo is accompanied by a brief passage, which when read aloud by an adult, sounds like the animals are speaking directly to the children.
For pure relaxation, try Lang Elliott's soundscapes (downloadable files $10 each or on CD $12, 2013, www.musicofnature.com). There's no narration, just the soothing sounds of nature. "Birds at Dawn," "Swamp Song" and "Voices of the Night" are just a few of the titles. My favorite is "Thrush Flutesongs," 72 minutes of music performed by seven species of North American thrushes.
Biologist, author and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 9-11 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) and noon-2 p.m. Sundays on 1360 WMNY-AM (Pittsburgh). He can be reached at http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com and 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.