Prairie Spring: A Journey Into the Heart of a Season

Prairie Spring: A Journey Into the Heart of a Season

by Pete Dunne
     
 

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A portrait of spring in the heartland of North America In this first of four seasonal narratives, Pete Dunne sends a postcard from the prairie in his characteristically puckish style.The prairie is an exciting place to explore an unfolding drama—man versus the environment—and as Dunne and his wife travel through the heartland, the fleeting nature of the

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Overview

A portrait of spring in the heartland of North America In this first of four seasonal narratives, Pete Dunne sends a postcard from the prairie in his characteristically puckish style.The prairie is an exciting place to explore an unfolding drama—man versus the environment—and as Dunne and his wife travel through the heartland, the fleeting nature of the season comes to symbolize the precarious balance between the two. At the Sandhill Crane Festival in Nebraska,Dunne observes the struggle between maintaining the cranes’ habitat and meeting farmers’ needs for water. As in other habitats, human encroachment is only one of the challenges facing the preservation of the Pawnee National Grassland in Colorado.
Climate change, invasive plants and animals, and mineral exploitation are just a few of the others. Conflicts over the grassland habitat continue between ranchers and prairie dogs and between oil companies and prairie chickens. Yet Dunne finds affirmation on the prairie: people putting their lives back in place after a tornado; volunteers giving their time to conservation efforts; the drive of all species to move their genes to the next generation, which manifests itself so abundantly on the prairie in spring.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Dunne (Golden Wings) presents an intimate account of a two-month trek-accompanied by photographer wife Linda-following the coming of spring across America's prairie grasslands. Theirs is an odyssey into "the time of beginning" that weaves together spiritual insight, plant biology, geology lessons and American history-and a plethora of bird sightings, from the mating trysts of the increasingly rare lesser prairie chicken to the plight of the threatened mountain plover. Their journey begins in New Jersey and continues to Nebraska, their arrival timed to witness the annual migration of half a million northbound sandhill cranes. Next come Colorado and a primer on how homesteading sodbusters transformed an ocean of vibrant prairie grasses into a devastating dustbowl; New Mexico and the Sixth Annual High Plains Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival; back through Colorado and the Pawnee National Grasslands for a glimpse of the threatened prairie dog, once (along with bison) among the environmental engineers of the 19th century Western plains; and into South Dakota, home to between 800 and 1,400 free-ranging bison. Dunne's melodic prose and rhapsodic connection with the natural world brilliantly entice "an estranged audience to explore a... now alien environment." Photos. (Mar.)

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Library Journal

In the first of a series of four seasonally themed books, veteran birder Dunne (Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion; Pete Dunne on Bird Watching) takes us on a grand tour of the American prairies in spring. Leading us through grasslands, national parks, and small towns, Dunne highlights the myriad, often humorous, ways people and animals celebrate the season. In one essay displaying his characteristic folksy wit, Dunne juxtaposes the palpable hormonal energy of a high school baseball game with the comic-mating dance of New Mexico's lesser prairie-chicken. The book also explores the shifting nature of the prairie biome, which continues to evolve through drought, fire, wildlife management practices, and agricultural use. Dunne's conversational writing style effectively conveys the emotional experience of the prairie environment, while Linda Dunne's color photographs document its people, settings, and wildlife. Recommended for regional collections and larger public libraries.
—Kelsy Peterson

Kirkus Reviews
A slender, middling memoir of vernal wanderings in flyover country. Dunne (The Art of Pishing: How to Attract Birds by Mimicking Their Calls, 2006, etc.)-the vice president of the New Jersey Audubon Society and director of the Cape May Bird Observatory-ranges from pleasant jottings ("At fifteen degrees below zero, lots of things turn truculent") to rocks-for-jocks science ("there is, in fact, a basis for the groundhog and his shadow �myth,' and it is grounded in mathematical probability and meteorological fact") that relies heavily on dumbing down (corn is "a highly specialized species of grass") and hectoring ("I'll bet you didn't know this"). Readers who don't know that corn is a kind of grass are probably not likely to be reading a book of nature writing, which puts Dunne on safe ground when making fun of, well, the kind of people who don't read nature writing-as with the fellow from California who wanted to know when the moon would be full over New Jersey, only to be told, "about three hours before it's full in California," or anyone who would dare confuse tennis with an outdoor sport ("Excuse me, but tennis does not equate to the outdoors"). Small wonder people think of environmentalists as elitists. Dunne acquits himself somewhat by genially explaining why it's worthy to stop and look at the prairie next time you're on a cross-country drive. His account of a visit to a prairie chicken festival out on the plains-birding being a good tourist draw in places where tourists are otherwise not likely to go-is respectful and not condescending. Prairie lovers will want to return to Loren Eiseley, Mari Sandoz and William Least Heat-Moon after this glancing outing.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618822201
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
03/19/2009
Edition description:
None
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.10(d)

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