April’s Science Picks

Birds rule the roost in the latest crop of arrivals to the science section. Read about extraordinary owls, an epic migration journey, and a heart-warming penguin. The list is rounded off with two recommended reads – a sneak look into the life of bats, and the wonderful contribution that microbes make to Earth.

Syndetics book coverThe penguin lessons : what I learned from a remarkable bird, by Tom Michell.
A real-life story of the extraordinary bond between a young English teacher who rescues a penguin from an oil slick in Uruguay. The penguin refuses to leave his rescuer’s side. “That was the moment at which he became my penguin, and whatever the future held, we’d face it together,” says Michell. He names the penguin Juan Salvador (“John Saved”), but Juan Salvador, as it turns out, is the one who saves Michell. This is a witty and yet inspirational book.

Syndetics book coverGods of the morning : a bird’s-eye view of a changing world, by John Lister-Kaye.
This follows the year through the seasons at Aigas, the Highlands estate which the author has transformed into a world-renowned wildlife centre. The early morning brings with it twenty-nine distinct calls. Yet in the Highland glens, bird numbers plummet as their food supplies – natural fruits and every kind of creeping, crawling, slithering or flying bug–begin to disappear. …By the first frosts the hills will have emptied down to a few hardy stalwarts such as the golden eagles, the raven and the irrepressible hooded crows. The few species that are left frequent a changed world. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe secret lives of bats : my adventures with the world’s most misunderstood mammals, by Merlin Tuttle.
Ever since discovering a colony in a cave as a boy, Tuttle has realized how sophisticated and intelligent bats are. As he began to study bats all over the world, he also served tirelessly as their advocate, convincing farmers, landowners, and city dwellers that bats are beneficial members of their local ecosystems. But it was when he discovered that no one had ever produced good photographs of bats exhibiting their natural behaviours that a conservation star was born …. Tuttle’s tales of stalking bats, and of the discoveries he and fellow researchers have made, will make bat lovers out of every reader. (drawn from Booklist review, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverParrots of the wild : a natural history of the world’s most captivating birds, by Catherine A. Toft and Timothy F. Wright ; foreword by James D. Gilardi.
Drawing on over 2,400 scientific studies, this outlines the social behaviour, foraging, mating, intelligence, and conservation status of around 350 species. A worthy celebration of this appealing bird.

Syndetics book coverThe house of owls, by Tony Angell ; foreword by Robert Michael Pyle.
For a quarter of a century, Tony Angell and his family kept journals of their observations of pairs of western screech owls that occupied a nesting box outside the window of their forest home. His illustrations show owls at work and play – hunting, courting, or raising families. He shares their unique characteristics that distinguish owls from other bird species and provides a fascinating overview of the impact owls have had on human culture and thought.

Syndetics book coverLife’s engines : how microbes made Earth habitable, by Paul G. Falkowski.
From his last chapter “Thanks be to microbes for making this speck of detritus in the stardust of the universe a great place to live for their overgrown relatives, the animals and plants that temporarily decorate and rent the small dot from their microbial ancestors, who maintain it for their future relatives.” Easily understood by anyone with a passing knowledge of science – highly recommended and readable.

Syndetics book coverWild foods : looking back 60,000 years for clues to our future survival, by Vic Cherikoff.
Explores the consequences of eating a modern diet sprayed with pesticides and lacking in essential dietary fibre, protein and micro-nutrients. You will find how wild foods can help correct the imbalance and strengthen our health. Illustrated with beautiful colour photographs, this is a must-have guide for anyone who wants to live healthier lives.

Syndetics book coverThe narrow edge : a tiny bird, an ancient crab, and an epic journey, by Deborah Cramer.
Each year, red knots (sandpipers) weighing no more than a coffee cup, fly a near-miraculous 19,000 miles from the tip of South America to their nesting grounds in the Arctic and back. Along the way, they double their weight by gorging on millions of tiny horseshoe crab eggs which have conveniently been laid by their parents – ancient animals that come ashore but once a year. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverUnseen city : the majesty of pigeons, the discreet charm of snails & other wonders of the urban wilderness, by Nathanael Johnson.
It all started with Nathanael Johnson’s decision to teach his daughter the name of every tree they passed on their walk to day care in San Francisco. This project turned into a quest to discover the secrets of the neighbourhood’s flora and fauna, and yielded more than names and trivia: Johnson developed a relationship with his nonhuman neighbours. Johnson argues that learning to see the world afresh, like a child, shifts the way we think about nature. (drawn from the publisher’s description)