Nov 8, 2007

Adventures with a Texas Naturalist

by Roy Bedichek

This is a wonderful book, but I think it has the wrong title. Which is a good thing, or I might not have picked it up to read! The first two chapters explore the impact that fences have had on the plant and animal life in Texas, according to their different types, and how the landscaping and management of strips of land buffering highways, railroad tracks and similar thoroughfares have preserved native plants in the state. Sound boring? Maybe when I write about it, but Bedichek's account is fascinating and informative. I never gave a thought to what a split rail fence does to impede wildlife traffic, especially in regards to plants! It really opened my eyes.

Then Adventures with a Texas Naturalist goes on to talk about birds. I was expecting after several treatises on birds for it to continue on to discuss reptiles and mammals, but although there are several observations on things like frogs and armadillos, most of it is just birds. That is why I am glad the title says "naturalist" and not the more appropriate "bird-watcher" because I never really found the subject of birds very interesting. Bedicheck's delving into all things avian is a wonderful read, however. He does a great job of describing bird behavior, migration, environmental issues and man's impact on bird life. Even more impressive are the rather obscure subjects like how we hear and identify birdsongs and how commonly accepted misnomers of birds reflect our misunderstanding of them. He also debunks many popular myths about birds.

Some of the information in this book is out of date, and some of Bedichek's predictions turned out to be incorrect, but it is both amusing and interesting to see a naturalist's outlook from the '30s. If you can get your hands on a copy of this little-known book, I think it's well worth the read.

Rating: 4/5                    368 pages, 1947

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