On my Bedside Table

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Winter World

by Bernd Heinrich
This book rocks. It explores the amazing details of how animals survive the winter and all the various adaptations that involves. As fascinating to me as those details are, even more fascinating are the methods used to learn about them. Most of it involves destroying a little of what you're studying -- killing a bird to see how fast it cools fully feathered vs. plucked, the "grab & stab" technique of checking the temp of wasps emerging from their nest, dissecting crow pellets or kinglet gullets to see what they eat in winter. To know anything, you have to know everything -- dissecting those crow pellets, Heinrich is able to identify every seed he encounters. Much more than "what hibernates, what doesn't" that we might have learned in school. I came away with the impression that there's not just one winter -- there are a million different winters -- the kinglet's winter, the frog's winter, the chipmunk's winter, the honeybee's winter -- even a separate unique winter for every individual within the species. Worlds within worlds. Now I've gotta read a couple of his other books: Why We Run and Mind of the Raven.


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