Cover image for Earth, water, and sky : a naturalist's stories and sketches
Title:
Earth, water, and sky : a naturalist's stories and sketches
Author:
Johnsgard, Paul A.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Austin, Tex. : University of Texas Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvii, 165 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
Language:
English
Subject Term:
ISBN:
9780292740587

9780292740594
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library QL673 .J625 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

"As I write this, I am sitting in a cabin at Cedar Point Biological Station in southwestern Nebraska.... The glorious elemental mixture of earth, water, and sky around me is the home of nearly three hundred species of birds, and comprises one of my favorite places in the world. Here no radio stations blare out the most recent results of meaningless sports events ... no traffic noises confound the senses. Instead the wind is the unquestioned dominating summer influence. The prairie grasses bend willingly and gracefully before it, and the leaves of the cottonwood trees convert its breezes into soft music." Paul Johnsgard is one of America' most prominent ornithologists and a world authority on waterfowl behavior. In these popularly written, often lyrical essays, he describes some of his most fascinating encounters with birds, from watching the annual mating displays of prairie-chickens on a hilltop in Pawnee County, Nebraska, to attempting to solve some of the mysteries surrounding Australia' nearly flightless musk duck. Reflecting his worldwide interests and travels, the birds Johnsgard describes inhabit many parts of the globe. Grouping the birds by the element they frequent most—earth, water, or sky—he weaves a wealth of accurate natural history into personal stories drawn from a lifetime of avian observation. And, as a bonus, Johnsgard' lovely pen-and-ink drawings illustrate each species he describes.


Summary

"As I write this, I am sitting in a cabin at Cedar Point Biological Station in southwestern Nebraska.... The glorious elemental mixture of earth, water, and sky around me is the home of nearly three hundred species of birds, and comprises one of my favorite places in the world. Here no radio stations blare out the most recent results of meaningless sports events ... no traffic noises confound the senses. Instead the wind is the unquestioned dominating summer influence. The prairie grasses bend willingly and gracefully before it, and the leaves of the cottonwood trees convert its breezes into soft music."

Paul Johnsgard is one of America's most prominent ornithologists and a world authority on waterfowl behavior. In these popularly written, often lyrical essays, he describes some of his most fascinating encounters with birds, from watching the annual mating displays of prairie-chickens on a hilltop in Pawnee County, Nebraska, to attempting to solve some of the mysteries surrounding Australia's nearly flightless musk duck.

Reflecting his worldwide interests and travels, the birds Johnsgard describes inhabit many parts of the globe. Grouping the birds by the element they frequent most--earth, water, or sky--he weaves a wealth of accurate natural history into personal stories drawn from a lifetime of avian observation. And, as a bonus, Johnsgard's lovely pen-and-ink drawings illustrate each species he describes.


Author Notes

Paul A. Johnsgard is a Foundation Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.


Paul A. Johnsgard is a Foundation Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Not stories after all but brief, accessible essays, these instructive writings by ornithologist Johnsgard (a professor at the University of Nebraska) cover the lives, behaviors and habitats of many North American birds, from "The Tree Quail of Mexico" to "The Elusive Musk Duck." (Some first appeared in the magazine Natural History.) The intriguing lead essay describes the collective, synchronized mating dances of grouse, performed in arena-like spaces called "leks," which pose a Darwinian puzzle: why would sexual selection favor a system where males "perform the same displays in exactly the same ways?" Other essays cock an ear for quails' complex duets, distinguish and explain "the evolution of the train of the peacock" and "the even more wonderful ball-and-socket" tail designs of the Great Argus pheasant, and lay out facts about the bustard, the world's heaviest flying bird. Johnsgard's expert knowledge of waterfowl is apparent on every page; he neither talks down to his readers nor assumes technical knowledge. (The titular "sketches" are simply careful drawings of birds.) In the tradition of Konrad Lorenz, Johnsgard often ties neat facts about birds to current theories about the evolution of animal behavior. Sociobiological parallels between pheasants and human beings are, however, mercifully absent. Instead, Johnsgard injects personal asides, describing his rural upbringing in a quick preface and detailing the beautiful (and, often, endangered) habitats where his fascinating avians flourish. Literate bird-watchers will enjoy the details; readers of modern biological essays (Stephen Jay Gould's, say) will find Johnsgard's eminently worthwhile. 25 b&w drawings. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Choice Review

Johnsgard (Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln), one of America's most prominent ornithologists, is well known for his studies of waterfowl behavior and his volumes on the life histories of various groups of birds. This book, in contrast, is written for the general reader interested in birds. It is a collection of updated articles on personal experiences with birds that appeared in Natural History, Animals, Bird World, and others publications in the 1960s and '70s. The articles are grouped into the three elements named in the title, the three most used by birds. "Earth" deals with territorial behavior and courtship displays; "Water" contains essays on such topics as waterfowl behavior, and the author's experiences studying the nearly flightless musk duck of Australia. "Sky" relates to migratory behavior of cranes, sea ducks, curlews, and golden plovers. Attractive pen-and-ink drawing by the author, also an accomplished artist, accompany each article. This interesting book will provide a few hours of enjoyable reading; though not meant for academic collections, it will find its niche on the natural history reading shelf. All levels. R. L. Smith; West Virginia University


Publisher's Weekly Review

Not stories after all but brief, accessible essays, these instructive writings by ornithologist Johnsgard (a professor at the University of Nebraska) cover the lives, behaviors and habitats of many North American birds, from "The Tree Quail of Mexico" to "The Elusive Musk Duck." (Some first appeared in the magazine Natural History.) The intriguing lead essay describes the collective, synchronized mating dances of grouse, performed in arena-like spaces called "leks," which pose a Darwinian puzzle: why would sexual selection favor a system where males "perform the same displays in exactly the same ways?" Other essays cock an ear for quails' complex duets, distinguish and explain "the evolution of the train of the peacock" and "the even more wonderful ball-and-socket" tail designs of the Great Argus pheasant, and lay out facts about the bustard, the world's heaviest flying bird. Johnsgard's expert knowledge of waterfowl is apparent on every page; he neither talks down to his readers nor assumes technical knowledge. (The titular "sketches" are simply careful drawings of birds.) In the tradition of Konrad Lorenz, Johnsgard often ties neat facts about birds to current theories about the evolution of animal behavior. Sociobiological parallels between pheasants and human beings are, however, mercifully absent. Instead, Johnsgard injects personal asides, describing his rural upbringing in a quick preface and detailing the beautiful (and, often, endangered) habitats where his fascinating avians flourish. Literate bird-watchers will enjoy the details; readers of modern biological essays (Stephen Jay Gould's, say) will find Johnsgard's eminently worthwhile. 25 b&w drawings. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Choice Review

Johnsgard (Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln), one of America's most prominent ornithologists, is well known for his studies of waterfowl behavior and his volumes on the life histories of various groups of birds. This book, in contrast, is written for the general reader interested in birds. It is a collection of updated articles on personal experiences with birds that appeared in Natural History, Animals, Bird World, and others publications in the 1960s and '70s. The articles are grouped into the three elements named in the title, the three most used by birds. "Earth" deals with territorial behavior and courtship displays; "Water" contains essays on such topics as waterfowl behavior, and the author's experiences studying the nearly flightless musk duck of Australia. "Sky" relates to migratory behavior of cranes, sea ducks, curlews, and golden plovers. Attractive pen-and-ink drawing by the author, also an accomplished artist, accompany each article. This interesting book will provide a few hours of enjoyable reading; though not meant for academic collections, it will find its niche on the natural history reading shelf. All levels. R. L. Smith; West Virginia University


Table of Contents

Preface
I Earth: Stray Feathers in the Dust
Sacred Places and the Voices of Ancestors
Dawn Rendezvous on the Lek
The Elusive Tree Quails of Mexico
Quail Music
On Display: The Pheasants
Bustards: Stalkers of the Dry Plains
Glittering Garments of the Rainbow
II Water: A River of Time
Adrift in Time on the Niobrara River
The Evolution of Duck Courtship
The Elusive Musk Duck
The Unlikely Ruddy Duck
Torrent Ducks of the Andes
Seabirds of the Pribilofs
III Sky: Migrations of the Imagination
The Gifts of the Cranes
Flight of the Sea Ducks
The Triumphant Trumpeters
The 6,000-mile Odyssey of a Globe-trotting Bird
Where Have All the Curlews Gone?
The Geese from beyond the North Wind
Suggested Readings
Citations for Previously Published Articles
Index
Preface
I Earth: Stray Feathers in the Dust
Sacred Places and the Voices of Ancestors
Dawn Rendezvous on the Lek
The Elusive Tree Quails of Mexico
Quail Music
On Display: The Pheasants
Bustards: Stalkers of the Dry Plains
Glittering Garments of the Rainbow
II Water: A River of Time
Adrift in Time on the Niobrara River
The Evolution of Duck Courtship
The Elusive Musk Duck
The Unlikely Ruddy Duck
Torrent Ducks of the Andes
Seabirds of the Pribilofs
III Sky: Migrations of the Imagination
The Gifts of the Cranes
Flight of the Sea Ducks
The Triumphant Trumpeters
The 6,000-mile Odyssey of a Globe-trotting Bird
Where Have All the Curlews Gone?
The Geese from beyond the North Wind
Suggested Readings
Citations for Previously Published Articles
Index

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