More nature books for the holidays


Two weeks ago I recommended some books as holiday gifts, but I ran out of space to include my entire list.

As promised, here are a few more that would make great additions to any nature lover’s library.

Waterfowl ID

The Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl by Richard Crossley, Paul Baicich, Jessie Barry (2017, Crossley Books, $40) is Crossley’s fourth ID guide, and it is written for both hunters and birders.

Crossley’s guides are indeed identification guides as opposed to traditional field guides. You might keep them in your vehicle for quick reference, but they are too large to carry afield.

To address this concern, each book includes a laminated folding field guide that easily fits in a shirt pocket.

The waterfowl guide covers all of North America’s ducks, geese, and swans and features more than 5,000 color photos in Crossley-style scenes.

Birds are illustrated in appropriate habitat, seen from near and far, from different angles, and in various plumages and behaviors, including flight.

Each scene depicts everything a birder or hunter needs to identify waterfowl and features a few to dozens of individuals. Some images are almost portraits; some are more distant views.

Crossley’s guides simulate a field experience, and that’s why I recommend them so highly. Even if you’re just starting to learn waterfowl ID, you can sit at your desk, page through the images, and soon be prepared for a field trip.

The scenes are beautiful, and many include other wildlife that might occur in particular habitats. One wetland scene, for example, includes two species of swallows, two different grebes, a great blue heron, and black terns.

There are also lots of mystery photos to test yourself as you proceed through the book.

Though most ID guides are illustrated with artwork or close-up photos, Crossley uses a new technique. He paints with pixels, and the results are truly amazing.

The visual appeal of Crossley’s work is obvious, but each species is also described in a detailed written account that includes range maps, ID tips, basic natural history, and conservation notes.

I simply cannot imagine a waterfowl hunter or birder who would not be delighted with this book.


It’s common knowledge that the origin of dogs, man’s best friend, can be traced to wolves domesticated by prehistoric people. The association proved mutually beneficial.

But have you ever wondered why foxes never followed the same path?

A red fox is much smaller than a wolf, and its thick luxurious winter pelage would make it a warm sleeping companion.

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut (2017, Univ. of Chicago Press, $26) addresses this question.

The goal was to selectively breed generations of foxes to create a lineage that would be much tamer than wild foxes. It worked.

Since 1959, 57 generations of selective breeding have produced lovable foxes that enjoy human companionship. Such long-term experiments are uncommon, but this book illustrates how important they can be.

Global warming

DRAWDOWN: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken (2017, Penguin Books, $22) makes the case that climate change is real and that there are many things we can do to slow and even reverse its progress.

Solar power, educating girls, improved rice cultivation, walkable cities, and wave and tidal power are just a few of more than 100 specific recommendations the authors make.


This might be the most important nonfiction book of the year. Chippy Chipmunk Feels Empathy (2017, Celtic Sunrise, $19.95) is Kathy Miller’s latest children’s book to feature her outstanding photographs of chipmunks, the little backyard rodent she has come to know and love.

This time she uses chipmunks to encourage kindness, appreciate diversity and feel what others may feel during difficult times.

It’s a bit more anthropomorphic than I like, but I think children aged 4-8 will get the message.

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