Saturday, December 14, 2013

Final Flight: 10 Northeastern Birding Spots at Risk from Climate Change by Trevor Lloyd-Evans and David McGlinchey

Why I read it: I know the authors, one better than the other, and I'm a huge fan of Trevor's work.

Summary: Short profiles (the book is only 26 pages long) of ten places birders in the region know, how climate change is affecting them, and how those effects will affect wildlife.

My Thoughts: I've been in the birding game for a decade, and on more than a life list pursuit level. I've been involved in the citizen science end of things. I've seen the climate change data. I helped write the new Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas 2 with amazing colleagues.

I've come to learn it's all a dynamic process. I've examined thirty year comparisons of ten square mile blocks in Massachusetts and seen the turnover, how little changes in habitat can cause huge fluctuations in avian life in an area. And now I'm watching as southern bird species are invading my northeastern home like never before.

In a way, I find this booklet interesting because it shows how marginalized habitats - barrier beaches, pine barrens, tundra-like mountaintops - are going to be the areas most affected, or perhaps the first affected. If global climate change continues at the rate it is now, the barrier beaches will be underwater, the pine barrens will be invaded by unwanted insects (they already are), and the warming of the mountaintops will force creatures that live there now to seek similar habitat farther north - and when that runs out, so do they.

Kudos to Trevor and David for providing us with this quick reference to some of the known affects of climate change on our bird life. It's almost made me feel like I have to get to some of these places soon, to cherish them just a little bit more. The changes won't be complete within my lifetime, but they certainly will be well underway.

In Small Things Forgotten by James Deetz

Why I read it: Local historical ties. Couldn't resist.

Summary: "An Archaeology of Early American Life"; a study of the minutiae in which historical archaeologists work to piece together the early days of Amercan history.

My Thoughts: Yum, yum, yum.

This book is just full of the stuff I wonder about when I visit old, historic homes. Knowing that the written record is so poor, that so few early Americans wrote down their observations, and even fewer thought to write about the mundane aspects of the day (do we write about how we shop at grocery stores? about how we mow our lawns? Ok, different age.), I often want to know, how do we know what life was like?

It turns out that in many cases it's the material culture, not the written word, that tells about what life was like. But it's the combining of several differents bits of evidence - the dates on the tombstones, the symbolism carved into them, the bore hole sizes on pipe stems, the type of pottery found at house sites - that bring us to the right points in history.

For me, living on the South Shore of Boston, working in the history realm, this book speaks volumes. Plymouth, Kingston, Plympton, all places mentioned in the text, are my historical playground. Reading about the Parting Ways settlement was eye-opening (and why it got its name never occurred to me, one of those local history overlooks we all suffer from). To find out that the first fork ever mentioned in a probate inventory in Plymouth County was in Marshfield, where I worked for the last decade, was pretty cool, and the fact that the fork was an Italian invention was even better. It's a refreshing thing to read a chapter in a book about a historical or archaeological site and say, "I think I'll drive by and check it out."

But it goes even further. How do we play musical instruments today? Like our European forbears, or like those of the African-Americans who came over as slaves? How do we hold our forks? Like whom do we design our houses? It's those questions that we can answer through a book like this one.

I was utterly fascinated form end to end.