As the cold, dark winter evenings lend themselves to reading a good book, we have several great suggestions from our guest reviewer Penny Warren.
Ms. Warren is a Virginia Master Naturalist (Headwaters Chapter) and president of the Augusta Bird Club.
Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose
A Red Knot, banded in 1995 with the band number B95 (the number is a coincidence), has been sighted a handful of times over the course of years and it is estimated that he is 20 years old! He has been given the nickname of Moonbird due to the numbers of miles he has traveled from Tierra del Fuego to the Canadian Artic being the equivalent of flying to the moon and halfway back. One scientist refers to him as the ‘toughest four ounces on the planet!!!’ Although the book is written for middle school-aged children, it is nonetheless a fascinating and engaging account of the struggles of the Red Knots’ arduous journey, not only the distance of 9,000 miles one way but also compounded with disappearing habitat from year to year and human misuse of his food supply. Estimates are that during Moonbird’s life, the Red Knot population has decreased 80%. The book is enhanced with great photos, inspiring stories of the conservationists trying to help the Red Knot as well as stories of school children in various locations trying to make a difference.
Hoose, an award-winning author, participated in several of the study trips and is an amazing writer with a unique skill to blend the narrative and facts with much ease and beauty. His enthusiasm for not only the species but this one particular Red Knot is contagious. Moonbird was last seen on May 16, 2013 on Back Beach in Mispillion Harbor, Delaware!!
— Penny Warren, Master Naturalist, Headwaters Chapter & President, Augusta Bird Club
The Story of Seahorses, From Myth to Reality
by Helen Scales, PhD
Seahorses, the modern day ‘poster child’ of healthy oceans, are fascinating creatures that have captured the human imagination for millennia. Although they are not a keystone species, the author answers the question of why they matter because they ‘…..offer insights into life beneath the waves…. and … because they inspire us to care about the natural world.” She goes on to quote Sir David Attenborough about the need of protecting any species because “’the overwhelming reason is man’s imaginative health.’” How true…the need to be inspired!
The author begins with the tale of a 1966 discovery of many gold, silver and bronze items in Usak, Turkey that had been lying hidden in a tomb for two-and-a-half thousand years including a tiny, inch-long gold brooch sculpted in the shape of a winged seahorse believed to belong to King Croesus of ancient Lydia. Little did the seahorse brooch know that it would be part of what would become to be known as the Lydian Hoard, 336 pieces of ancient treasure, to be smuggled across the Atlantic and sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for one and half million dollars. The museum was very secretive about these jewels and kept them hidden in a basement, never displaying the artifacts. Several Turkish journalists interested in archaeology and when becoming aware of the Lydian Hoard pursued the missing Turkish treasure. As a result, it ended up being a multi-million dollar lawsuit with MOMA and after admitting to the illegal purchase, all of the artifacts were returned to Turkey. That was not the end of the story as it was brought to light that after eight years on display back in Turkey, the winged seahorse, and other artifacts, were 21st century fakes! This was a result of an inside job of collusion and theft coordinated by the director of the Turkish state museum and staff. Rumors say that the buyer who coordinated the theft with the museum employees and now in possession of the brooch is a Japanese tycoon.
This is only one of many interesting stories relating the ancient awareness of seahorses to modern day events. Scales adeptly interweaves seahorse facts, history and wonder throughout the book, e.g., their inclusion on the CITES protected species list, where they live, how they live, their camouflaging abilities, how they can move their eyes independently, the only fish with a neck, the male being the birth giver, etc. When the male gives birth it can be from three hundred and to upward of 2,000 babies. Scales describes it as ‘… clouds of transparent specks like a swarm of apostrophes …. ‘ I thought that was a delightful description.
This small book, 197 pages, is a pleasurable read. Grab your trident and dive along with Poseidon below the ocean waves and be mesmerized by the enigmatic seahorse!
—- Penny Warren, Master Naturalist, Headwaters Chapter & President, Augusta Bird Club