Summer World: A Season of Bountyby Bernd Heinrich
How can cicadas survive—and thrive—at temperatures pushing 115°F? Do hummingbirds know what they're up against before they migrate over the Gulf of Mexico? Why do some trees stop growing taller even when three months of warm weather remain? With awe and unmatched expertise, Bernd Heinrich's Summer World never stops exploring the/em>… See more details below
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How can cicadas survive—and thrive—at temperatures pushing 115°F? Do hummingbirds know what they're up against before they migrate over the Gulf of Mexico? Why do some trees stop growing taller even when three months of warm weather remain? With awe and unmatched expertise, Bernd Heinrich's Summer World never stops exploring the beautifully complex interactions of animals and plants with nature, giving extraordinary depth to the relationships between habitat and the warming of the earth.
The New York Times
In his pursuit of actively observing his camp in the forests of western Maine and the woods, beaver bog and gardens around his Vermont home, Heinrich (The Trees in My Forest) delights with the surprising activities of local flora and fauna-and his own scientific antics: with a pet grackle named Crackle, he raids wasp nests to see what the red-eyed vireo will do with the paper and builds platforms in trees to find out who visits the sapsucker lick (hummingbirds, hawks and warblers). For entertainment, he recommends, "There is a solution that beats... a television set with 100 channels, by a mile: watching ants and other critters." The book features such mysteries as the significance of the mating habits of wood frogs and the eating patterns of caterpillars, but Heinrich also takes time to observe Homo sapiens, remarking that, like birds, we live in a perpetual summer, not by "strenuous biannual migrations but by creating and retreating into 'climate bubbles,' " reminding readers that they need "clear vision and also a spiritual imperative so that we will focus on the ultimate ecology, not the proximate economy." (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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A Season of Bounty
Preparing for Summer
9 March 2006. the ground is still snow-covered, but I've smelled the first skunk, and the bog is threaded by mink and otter tracks. I've heard the first honking of Canada geese. Two big flocks flew over, very high, heading north. The plant life looks unchanged, except that some pussy-willow buds have recently started to show a little more white peeking out over the edges of their dark brown flower bud scales. The first snowdrops, in the pure, unassuming simplicity that I love, are poking their nodding flower heads through the snow. Yesterday evening I heard the first singing of a mourning dove. The first robin is back, long before a worm is in sight. It's overcast and the forecast says "rain," but even if snow were predicted I'd expect the male red-winged blackbirds to return any day now.
Spring is on the way, and I think the birds feel it too. Certainly the blue jays do. I was lucky to see their first convocation again this year. I first noticed a crowd of them making a racket at seven am on the top of the bare branches of an ash tree—the same one where I saw them about this time last year. I counted at least twenty-four, but these jays were coming and going, so maybe there were many more. Those in the top of the tree were bobbing up and down in what looked like energetic knee-bend exercises, and calling at the same time. It did not look as though they were directing their attention in any particular direction or to specific individuals. There were no apparent pairs. I heard at least six to eight different calls, and each of these was given by the whole crowd during any oneperiod of time; they kept "in tune" as the calls changed. I was mesmerized and watched their display for three hours. The top of the one large ash tree seemed to be their stage, the focal point of a dance that extended over a dozen acres. At times there were groups of birds leaving the tree and screaming. They flew in twos and threes and in groups of a dozen or more. Whenever they went—using slow, deliberate wing beats—to or from their main staging area, they changed to a different vocalization. Although the main aggregation broke up at nearly eight am, a few pairs and individuals stayed around at least another two hours. They registered something that anticipates summer, and I assume their "dance" has something to do with courting and pairing up. Six weeks later, two pairs were still in the vicinity. I saw them busily coming to the edge of my recently dug frog pond to pull rootlets out of the ground for lining their nests.
summer in the northern hemisphere is short, and preparation for it is long. Getting an early start in the race to reproduce is critical. The season is anticipated by most organisms through photoperiod, the relative hours of day versus night. The seasons can also potentially be read from the stars. During summer, fall, winter, and spring in the northern hemisphere the North or "Pole" Star, Polaris, is visible as a steady fixed point above the horizon. Its angle to the Earth used to indicate latitude to the mariner. Daily, the constellations turn once around this star, rising in the east and setting in the west. Nearest to it we see the Big Dipper and Little Dipper and Cassiopeia. All three constellations are visible throughout the year, although in winter, when the tilt of the Earth's northern hemisphere is away from the sun, a new direction of the sky that was blocked during summer comes into view, with other constellations. Now the constellation Orion rises on the eastern horizon in the evening and dominates the southern sky, along with Sirius, a large star. During the summer in the northern hemisphere these winter stars are below the horizon, and the overhead sky is dominated by the Milky Way and three brilliant stars: Vega, Deneb, and Altair, of the constellations Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquila. Together these three stars, the "summer triangle," are a clear sign of summer. Do the birds know this?
Whether or not any animals can read and interpret the changing seasons from star patterns, and from them anticipate and prepare for the seasons, is not known. We do know, though, that animals use star patterns for navigation during their migrations. Many birds migrate at night, mainly the small songbirds whose rate of energy expenditure is so great that they need the day to refuel more often than large birds do. They watch the stars and recognize the patterns of the night sky. We know from detailed experiments and observations that they orient to the North Star or, more likely (as we do), by the star patterns around it, such as the Big Dipper. On their northward migrations to their summer breeding grounds they fly toward the Big Dipper, just as slaves escaping north at night followed it, code-naming it the "Drinking Gourd." When the birds return at the end of the summer, Polaris and the Big Dipper are on their backs or shoulders as they fly through the night sky.
Proximally, summer in the northern hemisphere is best defined, as already mentioned, by the period of sunlight and warmth that sustains active life. In the tropics "summer" is essentially endless; there are about 4,320 hours of daylight per year. Here in New England daylight is restricted to about 2,520 hours. And despite the much longer days in the arctic summer, there are fewer of them—not quite half those in New England. However, my calculation is an approximation only. I have for simplicity assumed (1) thirty-day months, (2) twelve months of summer with twelve hours of daylight per day in the tropics, (3) six months of summer with an average of fourteen hours of daylight per day in the temperate zone, and (4) two months of summer with twenty-four hours of light per day in the high arctic.Summer World
A Season of Bounty. Copyright (c) by Bernd Heinrich . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
The author of numerous bestselling and award-winning books, Bernd Heinrich is a professor of biology at the University of Vermont. He divides his time between Vermont and the forests of western Maine.
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I am a huge fan of this author's work and this is one of his best books.
Just as intriging as Winter World. Nicely written exploration of animals in summer, their activities and adaptations.
For anyone expecting a fast paced, page turning, exciting, action packed book-please look elsewhere. This book is like sitting next to a quiet pond watching all that nature has to offer -fantastic. Rarely does Mr. Heinrich delve into Latin terminolgy that so many of us were forced to memorize in high school or in college, but uses common observations and names to bring his world to life. Ive never been anywhere close to Maine but feel that his observations could have taken place in my own backyard. A slight book considering the subject of nature transitioning from spring to summer and back to fall that could have become monotous. A very simple concept for a book handled with great skill.
This engaging look at nature in Vermont and Maine during the summer will have even couch potatoes searching their neighbor for fauna and flora as Bernd Heinrich makes it fun to investigate the birds, bees, and beasts including humans. He and Crackle the grackle tackle local science with passion though I would avoid visiting the nearby wasp nest with a weapon of mass destruction the toilet paper hole-stuffer. The author entreats readers to sing on a tree dais with birds, watch caterpillars dine on fast food while marveling how human are aviary-like migratory either by being snowbirds living in the south in winter or by creating an indoor climate. Obviously Mr. Heinrich is concerned with the impact on the ecosystem of not just global warming and hoping to get some activation by getting people up and out with an enjoyable entertaining trip outside. This is fun as fans of all ages will dance in their backyard with the stars of nature in this super insightful look at the SUMMER WORLD of northern New England.---------------- Harriet Klausner