By Anne McCallum, Georgia Audubon Early Birds Book Club, June 28, 2020
Definitely a “green” book—even printed in green ink! As someone in the book club pointed out, this is mostly essays generated by Heinrich’s copious notes documenting a lifetime of observations on plants’ and animals’ reaction to summertime sunshine and temperatures. And, while there are some observations on bird behavior (especially sapsuckers), most of it is entomological—which is the field of most of his scientific publications. He watches every little thing around his home in Vermont and his cabin in Maine SOO carefully. Then he researches or conducts experiments to try to figure out why plants and animals do things the way they do.
I was especially struck by his observation that tasty caterpillars are careful to cover their eating tracks by snipping off half-eaten leaves whereas prickly or poisonous caterpillars apparently do not care if they leave a path of destruction for birds to see. This really hit home when I found a bunch of snipped-off, half-eaten sycamore leaves (“not sassafras” I was instructed by fellow book clubbers!) lying on the ground at Lake Blalock the very next morning.
Why do tree twigs quit growing outward early in the summer? So the trees can add more structural strength (“scaffolding”) to support their canopy. Why do broad leaves drop long before they usually need to? To avoid the devastation of freak early snow-loading. Why are insects carrying stuff here and there? All kinds of different reasons.
I didn’t enjoy the couple chapters so much on deserts (extreme summers) or anthropology. Maybe because he was getting away from the Vermont/Maine woods setting—which was a big part of what appealed to me about the book. Oh—But I did enjoy his lovely illustrations. I hope the book club decides to read his Winter World for January or February.
Birds Georgia is building places where birds and people thrive.