City of Ravens: The Extraordinary History of London, the Tower and its Famous Ravens by Boria Sax. Published 2011. As reviewed and pictured: hardcover, 206 pages.
Any landmark with as much history as the famous Tower of London should surely have a folklore full of tall tales, exaggerations, and outright lies. In City of Ravens, Boria Sax delves into the convoluted story of a group of “longtime” castle residents: the Tower Ravens.
Superstition says that there must be at least six Common Ravens in residence at the Tower at all times, else very bad things will happen to Britain (ie crown and country will fall).
Author Sax explores the true history of the resident birds, from the popular story of their beginnings in the 17th century, to their documented, known first occurrence in the Tower some two hundred plus years later. In the book we learn about the natural history of Common Ravens in the United Kingdom as we follow the metamorphosis of their legendary status at the Tower.
Though interesting, I thought the language in the book was a bit too academic at times to be a truly enjoyable read all the way through. Some passages were a bit tough to get past, but overall I did like this book. I certainly learned a lot about the famous avian residents of the Tower of London! I give City of Ravens: The Extraordinary History of London, the Tower and its Famous Ravens 3.5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Disclosure: This is my own original, honest review of City of Ravens, a copy of which was provided to me free of charge by the publisher.
Wisdom, The Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and other Disasters for over 60 Years by Darcy Pattinson and Kitty Harvill (art). Published 2012. As reviewed and pictured: softcover, 32 pages.
It’s rather uncommon for an individual wild bird to be so well known that it becomes a media sensation, but that is what happened (again) earlier this month when a very special Laysan Albatross known as Wisdom successfully hatched an egg this breeding season. Why is she so famous? Wisdom was first banded as an adult bird back in 1956 — making her at least 62 years old in 2013. She is the oldest known living wild bird.
Wisdom has survived all of the threats facing a wild bird in the world today, and then some. She has flown at least 2 million miles during her lifetime. She has probably laid over 35 eggs, raising many chicks to fledge. For the last six years (and likely much longer), she has nested on Midway Atoll. She and her precious chick survived the destructive earthquake-triggered tsunami of 2011.
This remarkable bird is the subject of a wonderful illustrated children’s book, Wisdom, the Midway Albatross. The book, subtitled Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and other Disasters for over 60 Years, tells Wisdom’s story and spells out many of the man-made and natural threats that she has faced and overcome. Wisdom’s remarkable story is accompanied by beautiful watercolor illustrations.
The theme of the book is survival, with threats ranging from plastic pollution in the ocean and scary stormy weather explained in simple but scientifically accurate language appropriate for young children. The environmental message is especially very clear without being too overbearing. The conclusion to each interlude is always the same – the positive message that Wisdom has survived.
I think this is a great picture book with a positive message to share with children. I give Wisdom 5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Disclosure: This is my own original, honest review of Wisdom, a copy of which was provided to me free of charge by the publisher.
Two-Fisted Birdwatcher is giving away a blog-branded mug. Find this month’s hidden bird (Bar-headed Goose) to be eligible for the drawing. This regular giveaway usually ends by the end of the month, so be quick and submit your answer before February is over! See the contest page for details.
A while back I came across a funny typo on Amazon.com. The title of the book RSPB British Birdfinder was instead indicated to be a Nirdfinder. The error has since been corrected.
click to embiggen to full screen shot
If you see an error in a product description or title on Amazon, it’s easy to submit editing suggestions. Just scroll down to the bottom of the product page to the blue Feedback box and click on the appropriate link to either update product information or provide feedback on images or price.
The Bird Photo Booth Facebook page is having a caption contest. The prize is a Bird Photo Booth; enter your best caption for this photo by February 24th. The top three “like”-getters will be entered in a bird-driven random drawing.
Regional versions of BirdLog are on sale for just 99c each, through February 18th. The sale applies to both iPhone and Android versions. The promotion is in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count which takes place next weekend. I think BirdLog is a fabulous app and this is a great sale. Birders, take note!
This short promotional video does a good job of explaining how some birders use birding smartphone apps in the field.
The New Birder from Mitchell Waite on Vimeo.
NatureShare is holding a caption contest. Add your best caption to the comments on this photo for your chance to get in the drawing for a copy of Derek Lovitch’s book How to Be a Better Birder. The winner will be randomly selected on 26 January at 10AM EST.
Wil Shriner’s Hoot tells the story of three young environmental warriors who band together to save a colony of Burrowing Owls from the bulldozers of development in Florida. Hoot is based upon a young adult novel by Carl Hiassen.
The story revolves around new kid in town Roy as he tries to overcome local bullies and fit in to his new school. Roy befriends classmate Beatrice and her oddball brother Mullet Fingers. The three young adults band together to stop goofball construction foreman Curly (Tim Blake Nelson) from razing a Burrowing Owl colony in favor of a pancake restaurant.
Hoot is a comedy with a serious underlying message of conservation. The kids use some questionable methods to try and save the owl colony (like releasing potentially owl-eating snakes to combat guard dogs) and confrontations between the conservationists and those who would kill the owls range from silly to over-the-top dramatic. Looking over these goofy plot conventions, I enjoyed Hoot for the most part. The owls were cute (of course), the kids were passionate about their cause, and the anti-development message was clear.
The Hoot DVD is full of extras, including short documentaries on costar Jimmy Buffet and the three young stars, backyard habitat and animals in action. The most enjoyable for me was a short piece entitled “Visit an Animal Rescue Center.” Bloopers and deleted scenes are also included in the extras. The DVD has one of the cutest menu navigations I’ve ever seen.
I give Hoot 3.5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Hoot is available for purchase via Amazon. It is also regularly available for immediate trade via SwapADVD.
Submit a comment on this blog post by Audubon Magazine for a chance to win an Eagle Owl print by Edward Lear. Drawing takes place 31 January 2013.