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Snowy Egret, Vol. 65, #1
Snowy Egret, Vol. 65, #1


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Book Notes Wild

Morning Comes to Elk Mountain

"The Wichita Mountains exhibit some of the oldest exposed granite in the nation. The uplift occurred hundreds of millions of years ago, long enough for wind and water, freeze and thaw to sculpt the phantasmagoric rock formations that rise several hundred feet in stark contrast to the surrounding plain."

Walking Seasonal Roads

"Walking slows the thoughts to the pace of meditation and mindfulness, There is probably no other activity that affords us the ease of connecting mind, body and place."

"An Insect View of Its Plain"

“Thoreau, Dickinson and Muir had mutual interests in the relationships between science, culture, and nature, relationships that they were partly able to explore and express through the observed habits and experiences of insects. Sharing the belief that nature was a reflection of God's intention... they recognized that insects, like every other particle of nature, were lovingly created by God to serve a unique purpose."

"Thoreau's belief that 'To be awake is to be alive' is ultimately connected to his understanding of the natural harmony of the universe. One of the ways he can 'learn to reawaken and keep [himself] awake not by mechanical means, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn,"'is to heed the persistent whine of the mosquito.



Morning Comes to Elk Mountain: Dispatches from the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, by Gary Lantz. 239pp. University of North Texas Press, 2013

"In many ways October is as near to perfection as life gets here on the weather-challenged Southern Plains. The heat of summer has faded, January's chill is still months away. October rains refresh the grass, refill the streams, and bring wildflowers back for an encore."

Structured in the form of a journal with entries stretching across the course of a single year, this narrative incorporates the author Gary Lantz's ten years of observations in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge of Oklahoma. It begins with a January walk through Styx Canyon, an improbable wilderness amid geometrical wheat fields and county road grids, and concludes along the headwaters of Medicine Creek with largemouth bass, a mature golden eagle, migrating mountain bluebirds, and one of the refuge's signature buffalo.

Established in 1905 in order to reintroduce buffalo to the plains and save the species from extinction, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is one of the nation's oldest. It lies in the southwest corner of Oklahoma and includes the Charons Garden wilderness, Bat Cave Mountain, Fort Sill, Osage Lake, Medicine Bluffs and Mount Sheridan.

A native Oklahoman and local feature writer, Lantz demonstrates an obvious affection for the place and a depth of knowledge that he's eager to share. His "dispatches" are personal, poetic, and perceptive.


Walking Seasonal Roads, by Mary A. Hood. 168pp. Syracuse University Press, 2012.

"Seasonal roads" are rights-of-way or routes of travel not maintained throughout the year. No snowplow clears these lanes in winter and only the change of seasons reopens them for passage. Many are used to connect two more traveled roads and most pass through wooded or natural areas.

In this book, poet and conservationist Mary A. Hood describes her walks on fifteen such roads in rural Steuben County of southwestern New York State, immediately north of the Pennsylvania border.

"Each road provides and opening into events and issues concerning the environment," Hood explains. "Sometimes the road triggers what I know about certain plants and animals; sometimes the road leads into a natural history of a place; sometimes it leads to thoughts on the meaning and the ecology of our lives. The roads offer a means of relections, and, out of that thinking, an understanding of what is of value and how we might protect it may emerge."

"An Insect View of Its Plain" Insects, Nature and God in Thoreau, Dickinson and Muir, by Rosemary Scanlon McTier. 212pp. McFarland, 2013.

A work of literary criticism with an ecological bent, this book examines the writings of three prominent 19th century American authors - Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and John Muir  - for their observations of insects and conclusions about their role in creation.

The title of this work is drawn from Henry David Thoreau's essay The Natural History of Massachusetts in which he imagines how the world looks to an insect: "Nature will bear the closest inspection; she inspires us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain."

Citing a lack of critical attention to the presence of insects in 19th century literature, author Rosemary Scanlon McTier proceeds to address that gap:

“Thoreau, Dickinson and Muir had mutual interests in the relationships between science, culture, and nature, relationships that they were partly able to explore and express through the observed habits and experiences of insects. Sharing the belief that nature was a reflection of God's intention... they recognized that insects, like every other particle of nature, were lovingly created by God to serve a unique purpose."

The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds

"Rose-breasted Grosbeak

"Shape: Fairly large, large-headed, broad-necked bird withy a short deep-based bill and relatively short tail typical of Pheucticus genus.

"Voice: Song an extended fairly rapid series of mellow whistled notes, like toweet toweer taweeyah tawoo; calls include a metallic squeaky skeet and a high drawn-out eeee."

Denali National Park

Indians living in Alaska's Interior traditionally called the  great peak Deenaalee or Denali, while those on the mountain's south side called it a variety of names, including Doleyka, Traleika, or Dghelay Ka'a. The essence of the names' meaning is the same: "The High One" or "The Big Mountain."


Yellowstone Wildlife

"Within a week after the nest lining was added, the first egg was laid. Thereafter the female laid an egg each day until she had completed a clutch of six. At least one raven remained at the nest from the laying of the first egg, and the female began incubating almost immediately. Her mate spent most of the day in a convenient lookout perch on a high aspen, but a few times each day the pair would fly off together to feed on a moose carcass nearby, never remaining more than about half an hour before returning to the nest."
Field Guides

The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds, by Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes. Eastern Region, 512pp. Western Region, 592pp. Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

Based largely on the 2010 edition of "The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America," the latest update to the authoritative series of birder field guides by Donald and Lillian Stokes divides the continent into Eastern and Western editions, which are more portable and easier to navigate.

Combined, the two volumes cover every known species in North America with range maps, color photos of all signifiicant plumages, descriptions of songs and calls, and behavioral details. Each species' listing describes its shape, plumage , flight, babitats, voice and subspecies.

Denali National Park: The Complete Visitors Guide to the Mountain, Wildlife, and Year-Round Outdoor Activities, by Bill Sherwonit. 320pp. Mountaineers Books, 2013.

The second edition of this guidebook updates and reorganizes a first edition published ten years ago by the defunct Alaska Northwest Books and now long out of print. It provides detailed information on the history of the region and advice on exploring by foot, train, car, bus, boat or even sled dog team.

The first part of the book, titled "The Story of Denali," describes the natural processes that shaped the place and the varied ecosystems supporting mammals, plants and birds. Wildlife and plant checklists are included in the back of the book.

The second half of the volume is dedicated to "Exploring Denali" with separate chapters dividing it into four regions. Typical visitor information and resources are provided, detailing the location of campgrounds, trails, historical sites, drives and excursions.


Natural History

Yellowstone Wildlife: Ecology and Natural History of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, by Paul A. Johnsgard. 228pp. University Of Chicago Press, 2013.

The text in this oversized volume of  splendid wildlife photographs is comprised of natural history essays on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the creatures that inhabit its six million acres. In fourteen chapters, biology professor Paul A. Johnsgard describes the ecosystem's varied environments from the willow flats of the National Elk Refuge and the geyser basins of Yellowstone Park to the wide-open Lamar Valley and the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River.

Johnsgard, a specialist in cranes and waterfowl and author of nearly 50 reference books on bird groups, devotes much of his essays to personal observations of avian life, such as this description of nesting ravens on the Buffalo Fork River near Jackson Hole:

"Within a week after the nest lining was added, the first egg was laid. Thereafter the female laid an egg each day until she had completed a clutch of six. At least one raven remained at the nest from the laying of the first egg, and the female began incubating almost immediately. Her mate spent most of the day in a convenient lookout perch on a high aspen, but a few times each day the pair would fly off together to feed on a moose carcass nearby, never remaining more than about half an hour before returning to the nest."

Acclaimed nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen contributes images of the ecosystem's famous megafauna like bison, wolves, bighorn sheep and grizzly bears as well as many of the 279 species of resident and visiting birds. Appendices in the back of the book list the birds, vertebrates, dragonflies and damselflies, and butterflies of the Greater Yellowstone Ecoregion and suggest places and times for observing the most popular species.











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