2014 June – Summer Book List


Coyote at the Kitchen Door by Stephen DeStefano
Here wildlife professional DeStefano provides a multilayered examination of urban wildlife. The chapters of his book hold three portions; the first based on his field experience as a wildlife researcher and the second a thoughtful analysis of humanity’s historical and current relations with wildlife in this country. Finally each chapter provides a look at our cities and culture through the eyes of a coyote. The author is based in Amherst, Massachusetts, but lived for some years in Tucson, so he speaks with authority on wildlife issues in the Southwest.

There’s a Bobcat in My Backyard by Jonathan Hanson
The book begins with the author’s narration from his seat in a small plane over Tucson. He describes the bird’s-eye view of natural habitat interwoven with urban settings. A single native tree in an otherwise barren lot provides for birds and insects. Backyards with a diversity of native planting offer even more, a complete microhabitat for native wildlife. Natural areas like washes are home to more diversity and larger animals. On the urban fringes, where development “is expanding like a blast wave,” wildlife both benefits and suffers from the edge effect. The author explains how to attract and enjoy backyard wildlife with advice on everything from binoculars to bird seed. He includes a fairly long list of animals and insects that annoy and/or scare people.

My Backyard Jungle by James Barilla
Writing and humor sparkle in this book. The author decides to design a backyard wildlife habitat and then freaks when the squirrels raid his fruit trees and the rats move into his walls. His quest for human wildlife balance takes him to New Delhi to see the sacred monkeys that feast on garbage and cause mayhem in the dense urban environment. He tracks urban bears with a wildlife official in Northampton, Massachusetts, finding dens tucked into the city’s last overlooked spaces. He follows a pest exterminator on his rounds to gather stories and perspectives for one chapter, and in another checks out the High Line project, the wildlife habitat recently installed in Manhattan. At the end, Barilla is still exploring what it means to coexist with wildlife.

Gardening for the Birds by George Adams
This is a gardening for wildlife manual, with native plant lists and charts of bloom times for various parts of the country, including ours. It includes lots of how-to on attracting birds to your backyard with native plants, even using containers and window boxes. There are solid descriptions of a wide range of birds with photos and sketches of each. Adams promises to help you “create an environment that will encourage biodiversity, from the tiny organisms we are barely aware of to captivating butterflies, moths and dragonflies.” I would add birds, lizards, snakes and tortoises to his list.

The Rambunctious Garden by Emma Marris
The book opens with a controversial opinion that pristine wilderness disappeared from Earth sometime in the early 20th century. Marris posits that our natural habitats have been largely replaced by what she calls novel ecosystems. These are habitats transformed by introduced species, extinctions or climate change, or by human usage now abandoned. She suggests we change our perspective from trying to save shrinking islands of habitat to eking more conservation value from what open lands we have left. It’s a sobering analysis that offers hope in stringing large national parks together with wildlife corridors for large range animals, and conserving nature in urban areas with small gardens, yards and parks that still preserve metapopulations of native plants, pollinators and wildlife.

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