Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals, and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviorsby Vladimir Dinets
Equal parts nature guide, adventure story, and coffee table book! People are captivated by wild animals—by their strength and their size and by the things they do to stay alive. In Wildlife Spectacles zoologist Vladimer Dinets dives deep into this wonder, allowing curious readers to discover just how spectacular/i>/b>
Equal parts nature guide, adventure story, and coffee table book! People are captivated by wild animals—by their strength and their size and by the things they do to stay alive. In Wildlife Spectacles zoologist Vladimer Dinets dives deep into this wonder, allowing curious readers to discover just how spectacular wild animals can be. In the rich, fully illustrated pages you’ll discover the migration of gray whales along the Pacific coast, the dancing alligators of the Everglades, the synchronized blinking of fireflies near Tennessee, the swarms of feeding bats over the Mississippi River, the blue-glowing scorpions of the Southwest desert, hundreds of wintering tundra swans in New Jersey, and much more.
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Read an Excerpt
Introduction Wild animals are beautiful. You can enjoy watching them even when they don’t do anything special. But they can also do amazing things: travel halfway around the globe, stage impressive light and sound shows, use all kinds of clever tricks, and perform unbelievable athletic feats. If you know what to look for and manage to be in the right place at the right time, you can have an experience you will not forget as long as you live. Being a zoologist, I’ve spent much of my life finding and observing animals in their natural habitats, but I still can’t get used to the scale and grandeur of wildlife spectacles—some of them happening at people’s doorsteps, in urban parks, and on popular beaches (seeing others, of course, requires some wilderness travel). And although I’ve seen almost all the events described here, some many times, I’ll never get tired of watching them. Many people who live in North America don’t realize or appreciate just how lucky they are to have so much wildlife around. Of course, North America has seen its share of horrible abuses of the environment, and there are still powerful political forces bent on sacrificing every last living thing to so-called business interests, which is a politically correct euphemism for greed. But thanks to decades of hard work by dedicated environmentalists, many parts of the continent have been beautifully preserved or restored, and wildlife here is more abundant and easy to see than almost anywhere in the world. You don’t have to pay exorbitantly for an obligatory guided jeep ride, as in many African or Indian national parks; you can easily avoid the crowds that are almost inescapable in much of Europe and China; it doesn’t take multiple days to reach natural habitats as it does in Indonesia, Madagascar, and much of Latin America; you don’t see silent forests where all wildlife has been hunted out as you would in Southeast Asia and Russia; and you don’t encounter vast tracts destroyed by invasive species as in Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, despite the popularity of national parks, nature documentaries, and cute baby animal photos on social networks, learning about many of the continent’s natural living wonders can be surprisingly tricky. Some of the most amazing wildlife spectacles in the world, such as mass migrations, mating dances, and predator-prey interactions, occur in North America, but the information on them is often scattered and difficult to find, and many are virtually unknown to nonspecialists. I have yet to meet a person who is not a professional ichthyologist and knows about the annual spawning of giant sturgeon in downtown New London, Wisconsin, or someone who is not an ornithologist and knows of the stunning sunset flights of hundreds of thousands of wintering American robins near St. Petersburg, Florida. Nighttime dances of up to a hundred alligators can be easily seen from a popular boardwalk in Everglades National Park, but these dances remained unknown even to scientists until I accidentally discovered them in 2006. Most people have heard of the famous gatherings of monarch butterflies in Mexico, but few are aware that similar gatherings take place every winter in coastal California. It is particularly difficult to understand the complex natural history of such events. Why do seabirds gather in immense flocks in particular places in the ocean year after year? Why do Pacific salmon die after spawning? What is the secret code used by fireflies blinking in their vast swarms over Appalachian meadows? How do spadefoot toads manage to breed in desert pools that dry up just two weeks after rain? In this book I describe the most remarkable wildlife spectacles you can see in North America. I also cover some natural history to explain how they work and why they happen, and end each chapter with a few practicalities for those of my readers who would like to see them for themselves rather than just read about them.
Meet the Author
Vladimir Dinets was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States as a young man. He obtained his PhD in zoology from the University of Miami in 2011, with a focus on animal behavior. He has traveled and photographed extensively all over North America for 17 years. He is the author of Dragon Songs and the Peterson Guide to Finding Mammals in North America.
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