Travel Books: Part Three: Practicalities

These days, there is so much information online, that it is worth planning the practicalities of your travel by consulting the internet for the most up-to-date information on prices, opening times etc. I still like to travel with the odd hard copy though, so long as it’s not too heavy and bulky, but do try to get the most recent publication!

Lonely Planet Guides are the ultimate guides and are also available online: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/.  In fact, my daughter Jenny, who writes a travel blog: https://traveladventurediscover.com had three of her articles selected for the Lonely Planet Pathfinders monthly roundups (March, April and June, 2016), moving her to the next level of Lonely Planet Assignment Pathfinder. See: https://traveladventurediscover.com/2016/03/08/best-things-about-travelling-in-your-van/;  https://traveladventurediscover.com/2016/04/12/23-ways-to-travel-south-east-asia/ and https://traveladventurediscover.com/2016/06/14/favourite-feasts-of-south-east-asia/. Also, check out: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/pathfinders/signup.

Lonely Planet Guides generally all follow a similar format, so I will describe the Lonely Planet guide we used for France. It starts with:

Quick Reference Guide on the inside cover: Symbols and Price Ranges used; Exchange Rates; Rough Costs; Useful Phrases; Business Hours; Telephone Codes; Emergency Numbers; and Conversions.

Colour Map with key points of interest highlighted and a reference page number, followed by :

Glossy colour plates featuring Classic Destinations; Food and Wine; Festivals and Events; Activities; and Arts and Architecture;

Contents;

List of Contributors;

Getting Started :When to Go; Costs and Money; Travel Literature; Internet Resources; and the Top 10 (Adventures/ Culinary Experiences and Shopping Sprees);

Variety of Itineraries (Classic Routes/ Roads Less Travelled/ Tailored Trips);

Snapshot of Contemporary France;

French History;

French Culture: National Psyche; Lifestyle; Blogosphere; Economy; Averages; Do’s and Don’ts; Population; Sport: Football, Rugby, Cycling and Tennis; Multiculturalism; Media; Religion; Women in France; the Arts: Classic and Modern Literature, Top 10 Literary sights, Cinema, Music, Architecture and Painting;

Environment : the Land; Flora and fauna; National Parks; Environmental Issues and Conservation Organizations;

Food and Drink: Staples, Regional Specialties, Drinks, Celebrations, Where to Eat, Vegetarians and Vegans, Dining with Children, Habits and Customs, Cooking Courses and Vocabulary.

The majority of the book is devoted to a detailed description of each different area of France, including:

Introduction and Highlights;

Black-and-White Regional Map;

Geography and Climate;

Orientation;

Information Sources;

Sights and Activities;

Accommodation ;

Food and Drink;

Entertainment;

Getting There and Away: Air; Bus; Train; car and Motorcycle; Bicycle Hire; and

Feature Boxes on relevant history, festival, food, people, crafts etc

The directory at the back covers all the practical information required:

Accommodation; Activities; Business Hours; Children; Climate Charts; Courses; Customs; dangers and Annoyances; Discount Cards; Embassies and Consulates; Festivals and Events; Food; Gay and Lesbian Travellers; Holidays; Insurance; Internet Access; Legal Matters; Local Government; Maps; Money; Photography and Video; Post; Shopping; Solo Travellers; Telephone; Time; Tourist Information; Travellers with Disabilities; Visas; Volunteering; Women Travellers; and Work; as well as a detailed section on:

Transport:

Getting There and Away:

Air: Airports; Airlines; Tickets; Climate Change and Flying; Carbon Offset Schemes

Land:

Bus: Discount Passes; Eurolines; Intercars

Cars and Motorcycle: Eurotunnel;

Train: Rail Services; Train Passes; Eurostar

Sea: Ferry Travel

Getting Around: Air; Bicycle; Canal Boating; Bus; Car Hire and Distances; Autoroutes; Licences; Insurance; and Road Rules; Hitching; Taxis; Train; and Tours.

Health: Insurance; Vaccinations; Deep Vein Thrombosis; Jet Lag; Health Car; Environmental Hazards; Sexual Health; Womens’ Health and Travelling with Children.

Language: Pronunciation; Etiquette; Gender and Essential Vocabulary for: Accommodation; Conversation; Directions; Signs; Emergencies; Health; Numbers, Paperwork; Question Words; Shopping and Services; Time and Dates; Transport; and Travel with Children.

Finally, there is a Glossary; a few blank pages for notes; the Index; a Map of World Time Zones, and a Map Legend.

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Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay: British Bed & Breakfast for Garden Lovers 2007

https://www.sawdays.co.uk/

Sawdays is another well-known travel company from Bristol, England, which searches out special places to stay in Britain, Ireland; France; Italy; Spain and Portugal. It was founded by Alistair Sawday, a keen environmentalist and sustainability advocate. He was a Green Party candidate, founded the Avon Friends of the Earth and was Vice-­Chair of the Soil Association. His company was honoured with a Queen’s Award for Sustainability, as well as being voted Independent Environmental Publisher of the Year twice.

This delightful book starts with an introduction explaining the Sawday philosophy and how to use the book and general and regional maps.

There are detailed descriptions of over 60 Bed-and-Breakfast establishments with beautiful gardens with contact details, addresses and websites; directions; number and type of rooms; price; meals; closed times and coded symbols (Wheelchair accessibility; Children, Dogs, Smoking, Credit cards; Vegetarian meals; Licensed; Working farm; Swimming pool, Bicycles; Tennis court; Local walks and Fine Breakfast Scheme).

In the back is a Bird Calendar; a list of Garden Organisations; a Brief History of Garden Styles; Lists of Garden Books and Gardens to Visit and a Map of the National Cycle Network.

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It is well worth reading their blog: http://journal.sawdays.co.uk/ and looking at their Collections: Garden Lovers; Ethical; Family Friendly; Good for Groups; Cosy Boltholes; Coastal; and New to Sawdays. See:  https://www.sawdays.co.uk/collections. I also like the look of Go Slow England: Special Local Places to Eat, Stay and Savor by Alastair Sawday. See: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5153994-go-slow-england.

Here are some more local guides.

Twenty Best Walks in Australia by Tyrone T Thomas 1989

Tyrone Thomas has written a number of guides to bushwalks throughout Australia and this particular book covers 20 hikes, which he considers to be the best in Australia, a number of which we have done, including Sydney Harbour; walks around Blackheath in the Blue Mountains; Mount Gower and Malabar Hill on Lord Howe Island; Mt Kootaloo circuit on Dunk Island; Green Island, near Cairns; Mt Warning on the NSW-Qld border; Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory; the Grampians; the High Country and Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria; Mt. Kosciusko; and Cradle Mountain, Lake St. Clair and Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania.

Each walk is graded as one day/ overnight and easy/medium and hard. The book contains comprehensive track notes; maps; and distance, time, weather, transport and access details, as well as points of interest, warnings and navigational advice. The walks selected give an excellent overall view of the huge  diversity of walks and environments in our vast continent and is particularly aimed at international visitors with limited time, though is still very useful for locals, and its light weight compact format makes it very portable for bushwalkers.

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Seventy Walks in Southern New South Wales and A.C.T by Tyrone Thomas 1998/ 2004

A recent addition to our library, now that we live in this area and are keen to explore this new area.

Produced in a similar format to all his books with introductory brief notes on distance; time required; best time to visit; grade; environment, map reference and last date reviewed; followed by comprehensive track notes, accompanied by maps, diagrams; ink sketches of native flora and a few colour plates.

There are also notes on safety precautions, first aid in the bush; and equipment and food suggestions for bushwalking. While we have already visited the National Botanic Garden in Canberra, Big Hole in Deua National Park; Mt Bushwalker; and local areas like North Head; Bournda National Park; Mt Imlay and Merrica River, we look forward to using this guide to plan walks like Mt Dromedary near Tilba Tilba; the Nadgee Wilderness; Bendethera Caves; Pigeon House Mountain; the Monolith Valley; the Castle and the Kosciusko region. It’s good to know we have so many wonderful spots to explore!

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Walking Round in Circles: Twenty-seven Circular Walks in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park by Jane Scott and Patricia Negus 2007

A beautiful book, which we bought after our trip to Western Australia, after visiting the home and art studio ‘Swallows Welcome’ of the artist Patricia Negus (https://www.mrros.com.au/member/patricia-negus/)  in Margaret River in April 2011. She and her husband Tim built a mud-brick Chapel of the Flowers to house all of her 102 beautiful wildflower paintings. Dawn Klok designed the leadlight windows and the porch mosaic was made by  local artist, Jenny Hunt.BlogTravelBooksReszd50%wa visit 503BlogTravelBooksReszd50%wa visit 501

Patricia teamed up with Jane Scott, the author of this book, and Ray Forma to form Cape to Cape Publishing and they have produced a number of books about the Margaret River region.

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I love this particular book as it has such beautiful illustrations and photos and holds fond memories of the walks we enjoyed in this beautiful national park, using this book as a guide. Below are some of her illustrated pages in this book.

The great thing about this area is that while you can do the entire walk from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin, it is also possible to walk small sections and this book is an excellent guide to the 27 walks available.The following photos are from our wonderful beach walk at Cosy Corner:

BlogTravelBooksReszd50%wa visit 413BlogTravelBooksReszd50%wa visit 423BlogTravelBooksReszd50%wa visit 433BlogTravelBooksReszd50%wa visit 245Accompanied by clear maps, each walk is described in great detail and is broken up into smaller sections with details on access, distance and time, warnings where necessary and interesting notes on points of interest like whale watching; bush tucker; plants of granite outcrops or the limestone coast; historic settlements; the timber industry; fungi and orchids; caves; butterflies and moths; and  creatures of the open ocean or intertidal zones.

There are also notes on bush safety; first aid; geology; springs and tufa deposits; tides and currents; weather and climate; and native vegetation in the front and a bird list and bibliography in the back.

It is such a beautiful area, especially when the wildflowers are in full bloom! We loved our walks at Cosy Corner (photos above) and Cape Clairault (photos below), where we saw 6 rock parrots amongst the boulders on the beach. The sand was pure white; the waters aqua; and the coastline so unspoilt and natural!  I could not recommend a visit to this incredible area nor this beautiful book highly enough!BlogTravelBooksReszd50%wa visit 675BlogTravelBooksReszd50%wa visit 601BlogTravelBooksReszd50%wa visit 580BlogTravelBooksReszd50%wa visit 666Random Thoughts on Travel

And for those of us, who may not be able to travel at the moment, some consoling thoughts! Often the experience may not necessarily match up with the expectations! The next two books which explore this theme.

 Slow Travel : Sell the House, Buy the Yacht and Sail Away..  by Mari Rhydwen 2004

For all those people, who dream of getting a yacht and sailing away, it is well worth reading this book for the realities of life on the open sea, especially if you are satisfying a spouse’s desire! I feel a bit guilty because I lent it to a friend, who was then totally put off the idea!!!

Despite the downsides of petty officialdom, bribery and corruption,the threat of piracy and rollercoasting from boredom and total exhaustion to moments of sheer terror, it’s also a journey of discovery about life on water, learning to sail, visiting isolated natural spots, diving in the world’s best reefs and letting go of notions of  personal identity like work, material possessions and personal space. A very amusing and interesting read!

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The Art of Travel by Alain de Bouton 2002

In this thoughtful collection of essays, Alain examines the reasons for this paradox, as well as the ‘how and why’ of travel.

He starts with a discussion of anticipation and why it may sometimes be better or certainly different to the real thing!  As he says on page 15:

‘Anticipatory and artistic imaginations omit and compress, they cut away periods of boredom and direct our attention to critical moments and, without either lying or embellishing, thus lend to life a vividness and a coherence that it may lack in the distracting woolliness of the present…. (as does) memory (which is) an instrument of simplification and selection’.

These comments about anticipation and memory rang very true for me.

He supports his observations with the thoughts of well-known writers: J.-K. Huysmans on the anticipation and rejection of travel, as well as Baudelaire on ambivalence toward places, Flaubert on the attractions of the Orient, Wordsworth on the benevolent moral effects of nature, Burke on the sublime, and Ruskin on the importance of careful observation.

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Other essays look at the reasons for travel: a mode of escape from current circumstances; a chance to make a fresh start and see things with fresh eyes; a time to contemplate (‘Journeys are the midwives of thought’ p57); the appeal and allure of the different or exotic; or just pure curiosity.

All these reasons ensure the success of this final book on a very different type of travel.

The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel by Rachael Antony and Joël Henry 2005

I loved this book! It’s quirky and fun and enables a fulfilment of all the above reasons for travel with a series of unusual challenges without the expense of conventional travel! Some of the suggestions include:

Alternating Travel: Discover your own home town by alternating your direction- first road on the right, then next on the left, ad infinitum!

Anachronistic Adventure: Travelling by an outmoded form of transport or explore your city with a vintage guidebook.

Fly By Night: Explore a destination by night until the sun rises.

Voyage to the End of the Line: the end of the railway line; bus route or ferry trip and

Ariadne’s Thread or any other name for that matter! Get a friend to make a list of their 10 favourite or personally meaningful places in the city  (eg the first time …), plot these places on a map and draw a line (the thread) between them and follow it.

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And of course, for we armchair travellers, the internet is a wonderful source for information, dreaming and inspiration. Now that our appetite for travel has been stimulated, I am exploring some of my favourite bucket-list gardens overseas for the next fortnight!

 

History Books: Part Three: History

Following on from last week’s posts about our ancient past, I am starting this post with a few crossover books about ancient civilisations to give a baseline for future developments.

Prehistory is defined as the time before written records and given that the first writing was developed in 3 600 BCE, the following books can easily be included in a post on the early history of mankind.

The Atlas of World Archaeology  Edited by Paul G Bahn 2006 (Earlier editions 2000 and 2003)

While Part One focuses on Prehistoric Man: the earliest hominids and first modern humans; tool making and use of fire; African genesis and the spread of archaic and modern humans; the Neanderthals; the Ice Age and prehistoric art, the rest of the book examines the development of the early civilisations.

Part Two discusses the major advances in the next 10 000 years: the emergence of farming (animal and plant domestication; dairying; animals for traction power and wealth; and use of wool); pyrotechnology ( pottery and metallurgy: copper; bronze; iron and gold); and writing and early settlements, while Part Three is devoted to a more detailed look at the rise of civilisations in the different regions of the world:

Europe and Western Asia: Uruk (Warka) in Southern Mesopotamia; Varna in the Balkans; Sumerians and Akkadians, Mesopotamia; Minoans of Crete and the Mycenean on the Greek Mainland; the Hittites and the Assyrians; the Philistines and the Israelites; the Phoenicians; the Assyrian Empire; Saba, Southern Arabia; the Etruscans; Classical Greece and Ancient Rome .

Central, South and East Asia: the Harappans of the Indus Valley, India; the ancient dynasties of China (Xia; Shang; Zhou; Qin; Han); Early states in Korea (Paekche, Koguryo and Shilla) and Japan (Yayoi period); the Maruyas, Kushans and Guptas of India; the Scythians and Steppe Nomads; the Persian Empire; the Greeks in Asia; and the Empires along the Silk Road.

Africa: Ancient Egypt (Predynastic; Old, Middle and New Kingdoms); Ancient Nubia (Kerma and the Kingdom of Kush) on the Upper Nile and Axum on the Red Sea; the Nok in Central Nigeria; the Kingdom of Ghana; and the Empire of Mali.

The Americas: the Bison Hunters and Mound Builders (Adena and Hopewell cultures; the Mississippian tradition) of North America; the Pueblo Dwellers of the South-West; the Olmecs and Classical Highland civilisations of Mesoamerica; the Mayan States of Central America; the Aztecs of Central Mexico;  Andean States and Empires (Chavan; Moche; Paracas; Nasca; Tiwanaku; Wari and Chimor); and the Inca Empire of Peru.

Australia and the Pacific: Ice Age peoples and Lake Mungo; Later hunter-gatherers; Early Melanesia; Colonizing the Pacific (the Lapita people; and Polynesian voyagers); Easter Island; and the Maoris of New Zealand.BlogHxBooksReszd20%Image (585)

History is such a fascinating, complex and enormous subject with so much happening in all the different parts of the world simultaneously, so I found this book really useful for getting a handle on the different regional developments. This understanding is reinforced by timelines and excellent maps indicating key archaeological sites, as well as feature boxes and photographs of specific finds. By no means exhaustive, this book is a good general guide, with a clear simple presentation, but for a more in-depth discussion of the early civilisations, it is worth reading the following book:

The Penguin Encyclopedia of Ancient Civilizations Edited by Arthur Cotterell 1980

Written by over 30 international  experts, this interesting book provides a good overview of the prehistoric world and a detailed analysis of separate ancient civilizations. It discusses the art, architecture, language, mythology , religion and chronology of early societies, as well as  their emergence, development, interaction and decline. In the back are suggestions for further reading.

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Ancient History: From the First Civilizations to the Renaissance  by JM Roberts 2002

This would have to be one of my thickest books! This door-stopper of a book tells the story of more than 10 000 years of history and includes sidebars and feature boxes, which focus on major turning-points of history, as well as major figures and background information to the main text.

While the first half of the book recaps on the prehistory of mankind; the early civilisations; and Classical Greece and Ancient Rome, it then progresses to examine Islam and the Arab Empires; Byzantium; the Turks and the Ottomans; the consolidation of Medieval Europe; the Vikings, Angles and Saxons; Christianity; the Far East (India; Imperial China; and Japan); Africa and the Americas; and further historical developments in Europe (The Crusades; Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch explorations; and the Renaissance). Another very interesting and readable book!BlogHxBooksReszd25%Image (581)

The Cassell Atlas of World History Forewood by Barry Cunliffe 1998

This excellent atlas also covers a larger time period than the first book I discussed.

It is divided into 6 parts:

The Ancient World (4 000 000 to 500 BC);

The Classical World (500 BC to 600 AD);

The Medieval World (600 AD to 1492 AD);

From Columbus to American Independence ( 1492 AD to 1783 AD);

The 19th Century World (1783 AD to 1914 AD); and

From World War One to the Present (1914 AD to 1997 AD).

Each part is again divided into different regional areas (Europe; the Middle East; Africa; South and East Asia; the Americas; and Australasia), with an overall global outline of each time period at the beginning and detailed insights into all the periods of dramatic change and major events shaping history.

The text is supported by comprehensive world and regional maps, which are colour-coded to show the major civilizations in each area and lines with arrowheads indicating journeys, migrations and trade routes, as well as timelines, arranged in geographical or thematic sections, also colour-coded for major extended events and historical periods with pointers to particular to particular events.

This is an excellent book for showing comparative histories at a glance. For example, in the section on the rise of agriculture (1.03), the world map is colour-coded to show the transition periods to agriculture throughout the world and details the different animals and plants domesticated in each area; as well as textile and pottery finds; the earliest centres of metallurgy and the early spread of wheeled vehicles; while the next map (1.04) gives a very clear picture of the different modes of life throughout the world in 2000 BC (hunter-gatherers; nomadic pastoralists; simple and complex farming societies; and chiefdoms and  state societies) with the names of the separate groups in each area.

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The Times Compact Atlas of World History Edited by Geoffrey Parker 4th Edition 1995 is a similar book, but is much smaller and more compact.

It is divided into four parts:

 The Ancient World : Human Origins; the development of agriculture and the rise of civilizations to the collapse of Ancient Rome;

The World Fragmented : The spread of Christianity; the Byzantine and Islamic worlds; the Franks and Anglo-Saxons; the Vikings; the Mongol Empire; the Muslim Empires of India and Persia; Africa; Medieval Europe; South East Asia to 1511; China and Japan to 1644; the Ottoman Empire and Precolumbian America;

The Rise of the West: Voyages of discovery; European overseas expansion; the expansion of France and Russia; Colonial America; the Reformation; Habsburg ascendancy in Europe; China to 1911, India to 1947 and Japan to 1830; The Age of Revolution (America; and the Napoleonic Empire); the Industrial Revolution in Europe; the emerging Global Economy 1775; the United States to 1865 and Australia and New Zealand from 1788; the Decline of the Ottoman Empire; Nationalism in Europe; Imperialism; the European Powers and the World on the eve of the First World War;

The Modern World: The Chinese Republic (1911-1949); the First World War; Russian Revolution; Political problems in Europe 1919-1939; The Great Depression; the Second World War in Europe, Asia and the Pacific; the United States since 1945; Europe 1945 to 1973; Soviet Union to 1991; East Asia since 1945 and Decolonization after 1947; Middle East since 1917; Latin America since 1930; Africa and Asia since 1945; the Cold War 1947 to 1989; Europe since 1973; the Collapse of Communism in Europe since 1989 and the World in the 1990s (world population; infant mortality and life expectancy; gross national product and foreign investment; and ozone depletion).

And now here we are, 20 years later with major problems like climate change and environmental degradation, over-population, resource depletion , terrorism and political instability throughout the world! History never stands still and is constantly being made or rewritten, but this small volume with its condensed maps, graphs and diagrams gives a brief overall picture of world history at the time.

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I often find children’s books are often a good way to get an overall basic view of complex subjects like space, archaeology and time and the next two books are good examples.

The Junior Wall Chart of History: From Earliest Times to the Present by Christos Kondeatis 1990

This wall chart covers the last 6 000 years (4 000 BC on) and is divided into illustrated coloured bands, representing the different areas of the world (the Americas; Europe- Western Europe/ Eastern Europe and Middle East; India; Asia; China; Africa and Australasia) and different themes (Explorers and Traders; Scientists and Inventors; The Arts and Religion; and ‘First’ Dates).BlogHxBooksReszd2517-09-24 22.34.02Designed to pull out in one continuous wall chart, marked at the top by the date, it is an excellent way of displaying comparative history in a simple uncomplicated style. For example, a quick glance at the year 1200 BC (photo above) reveals that the Sea Peoples from Greece and the Mediterranean were raiding and resettling neighbouring countries; the wandering Urnfield people, who were ancestors of the Celts, started to settle and farm in villages; Stonehenge had already been built;  the Trojan Wars started between rival Greek city states; the Assyrian Empire, the New Kingdom of Egypt  and Shang Dynasty in China were in full swing; the Phoenician seafarers and merchants were starting to establish trading posts in the Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean and West Africa’s coast; the Akkadian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh was written and the Jews began their worship of only one god, Jahweh.BlogHxBooksReszd2017-09-24 22.34.33In the Beginning: The Nearly Complete History of Almost Everything by Brian Delf and Richard Plat 1995

Another excellent book for children about the major world historical events, presented in a slightly different format.

After a brief look at the origins of our planet and geographical features and life on Earth, our past is examined through our achievements and developments and everyday life: our homes, buildings and bridges; clothing, medicine and weapons; writing and communication; inventions; and energy, work and methods of transport.

Each entry is illustrated with images of the subject at different time periods and in different countries, accompanied by brief explanatory text, a wonderful way of showing the diversity of each subject through time and space, as well as the development of each subject and man’s ingenuity. In the back is a biographical index of the key historical figures mentioned in the book.

An excellent book for inspiring a curiosity and interest in history, which can so often be presented in a dry or dusty way, which has the exactly opposite effect!BlogHxBooksReszd20%Image (582)

There are so many different ways of presenting history. The previous books have either been factual accounts, atlases with maps and timelines or wall charts. Another very successful way is in the form of story-telling his-story, the next two books being excellent examples.

A Very Short History of the World by Geoffrey Blainey 2004

Tracing the story of mankind over the last 4 Million years, this book examines the influences of geography, religion and technology in shaping the world.

Part One starts with the prehistory of mankind, the implications of agriculture, the specialisation of skills and the development of the early civilisations and their achievements from Mesopotamia through to the Ancient Romans.

Part Two progresses from the Mongol hordes to Medieval Europe; the Ottoman conquests; the Renaissance Period; advances in science and exploration; and the colonization of new lands.

Part Three covers American Independence and the French Revolution; the settlement of Australia; the African Slave Trade; the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Steam; the American Civil War and the Taiping Rebellion; Darwin and Evolution; the two World Wars; Liberation of the colonies; the Peoples’ Republic of China and all the technological advances of the last century.

I really enjoyed this book. It is very easy to read and I learnt so much! See if you can match a country to each of these imports: Potato; Indigo (blue dye); Turkeys; Porcelain; Cochineal (scarlet dye); Cloves; Quinine; and Logwood (red dye). The answers are at the bottom of the post!!!

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The Human Race: 10 Centuries of Change on Earth by Ian Mortimer 2014

An interesting read, examining the major changes, which impacted Western culture, defined as a product of Medieval European Christendom, between 1001 and 2000 AD. Some of the subjects the author covers include:  Religion and the church; Work and lifestyles; Population growth; Science, medicine and disease; Law and commerce; Education; Printing and books; TraveI and discovery; Weapons; The rise of the middle class; Transport and communication; the Industrial Revolution; Photography; the Media; and Electronics.

Mortimer writes so well and really makes history come alive. He summarises each century and the principal agents of change at the end of each chapter in order to address the initial question, which promoted the writing of the book: ‘Which Century Saw the Most Change?’, as well as explore the potential of the future.  You will have to read his book to discover his viewpoints!

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Now for some books on more specific areas:

Ancient England by Nigel Blundell and Kate Farrington 1996

I love the age of England – its old buildings and ruins; mysterious barrows, henges, hill forts and stone rings; its huge white figures carved into chalk hills; the remnants of ancient Roman walls and roads; and the wealth of statues and intricately carved Gaelic headstones.

We bought this lovely book after our trip to England in 1994 and it explains the history of this beautiful country so well! It describes the monoliths and tombs of Neolithic man (eg Stonehenge and Avebury); the fertility symbols of the Bronze Age Britons; the Iron Age forts of the Celts; the towns, road networks, villas, communal baths, theatres, temples and forums of Roman Britain; the Legend of King Arthur and Camelot; the Dark Ages; the Vikings and Danelaw; the Norman Conquest; the Plantagenets; the Medieval Period; Rebellion and the Wars of the Roses (1455 to 1487); the Tudors; Queen Elizabeth, the First; and finally, Oliver Cromwell and the subsequent restoration of the monarchy with Charles II (1660 to 1685).

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The Celts by John Davies 2000

Based upon the television series of the same name and accompanied by beautiful photos, this book explores the origins and development of the Celtic peoples and their migration from Central Europe to Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany and Galicia. It describes their culture and festivals, their religion and sacred groves; their grave goods, weapons and treasures; their language, legends and fairytales; their stylised art and music; and finally, the future prospects of modern-day Celts. I’d love to see the six-part TV series for the sound effects, as well as the visuals!BlogHxBooksReszd25%Image (600)

Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of South East Asia by Stephen Oppenheimer 2001

And then, there is this book by Stephen Oppenheimer, an expert in archaeological DNA (http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/stephenoppenheimer/stephen_oppenheimer.php), who challenges the conventional view of prehistory, using evidence from archaeology, oceanography, ethnography, geology, linguistics, genetics and folklore.

He argues that the cradle of civilisation was not in the Middle East, but in South-East Asia, and that the biblical flood of Noah’s Ark did occur with the melting of the ice 8000 years ago, causing rapid rises in sea level and drowning Sundaland, the landmass containing Indo-China, Malaysia and Indonesia during the last Ice Age, resulting in a huge population dispersal north and west to China, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean, taking their mythology and technology with them and creating the first civilisations 6000 years ago.

He also states that Polynesians did not come from China, but the islands of South-East Asia, and that rice was domesticated in the Malay Peninsula 9000 years ago, rather than in China, the official view. It is a fascinating book with so much information and while I am not certainly sufficiently expert to make any further comments, you can read more detailed reviews at: http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/reviews/atlantis.html and https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10125/17129/1/AP-v38n2-book-reviews.pdf.

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History can also be appreciated through the study of the history of specific subject areas like language, mathematics and botany. Along with archaeology and our origins, the development and diversity of languages has always fascinated me, especially the origins of the English language, which reflects its history of successive invasions over time by the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans and now Americanization and the influence of other cultures and technologies.

It is an enormous subject area, if the following website: https://www.ethnologue.com is anything to go by. Apparently, there are 7099 living languages, divided into 141 different language families, of which one third are endangered with less than 1000 speakers, and just 23 languages account for more than half the world’s population. The next two books are an excellent introduction to this broad field.

The Origins and Development of the English Language 3rd Edition by Thomas Pyles and John Algeo 1982

This comprehensive book was a first year academic text for students of Linguistics, so probably provides a more in-depth study than the lay person requires, but it is all still fascinating! There is so much information about grammar and word order and the mechanics behind speech, but it is the history of Writing (Chapter 3) and Language (Chapters 4 to 7), which really caught my attention.

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After a brief discussion of the most common language families, it focuses in on the Proto-Indo-European language family, of which English is a member (see the photo from the next book).

It traces the history of our language from Old English 449 to 1100 AD to Middle English 1100 to 1500 AD and Modern English to 1800, before examining the background mechanisms behind the formation of new words. I was particularly fascinated by the large section on the foreign elements of our vocabulary.

Here is another challenge! See if you know the origins of the 20 following words (and that’s only the first half of the alphabet!):

Albino; Anaemic; Bazaar; Budgerigar; Crochet; Cartoon; Delicatessen; Dinghy; Eisteddfod; Etiquette; Flamingo; Giraffe; Gingham; Hinterland; Influenza; Jubilee; Karma; Lieutenant; Medium; and Menu.

The answers are at the bottom of the post!

The Atlas of Languages: The Origin and Development of Languages Throughout  the World  Edited by Bernard Comrie, Stephen Matthews and Maria Polinsky  1996

Covering over 200 languages, this lovely coffee-table book gives a global survey of the different language families: their history, distribution, spread and decline, then focuses in on the different regions of the world : Europe and Eurasia; South and South-East Asia; Africa and the Middle East; Pacific; Australia and the Americas.

There are over 30 colour maps, as well as feature boxes, detailing points of linguistic, cultural and historical interest; many photographs of present-day people and places and ancient artefacts, manuscripts, monuments and statues from the last 5000 years; and tables like the example below (Page 40), showing all  the major language groups in the Indo-European Family.BlogHxBooksReszd50%Image (620)The book also discusses Pidgin and Creole languages; the extinction of languages; and the evolution and diversity in writing systems throughout the world, another fascinating area of study.BlogHxBooksReszd25%Image (579)

The development of numbers and mathematical  thought is equally absorbing and even though the following paperback is now over 42 years old, it is an excellent introduction to the basics!

Man and Number : An Account of the Development of Man’s Use of Number Through the Ages by Donald Smeltzer 1975

Here is a summary of the chapter contents:

Chapter One : Early man’s sense of number; Number words in different languages; the concept of Tallying; and the use of Number Bases:

Binary (base two), as used by computers;

Quinary (base five), used by the Joloffs of Africa; and

Decimal (base 10), used by most advanced societies today, though base three, four, twelve (eg: Imperial measurement of inches and feet/a dozen eggs) and twenty (vigesimal), as evidenced by: the English word, score, derived from tallying by making notches in wood with every 20th, a deeper notch or score; in French (the word for 80 is quatre-vingts ie four twenties); Scots Gaelic and Danish counting in the past; as well as ancient Mayan and Aztec societies.

Chapter Two: Number Recording: Egyptian hieroglyphics; Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform numerals, using base 10, base 60 (sexagesimal); Mayan Aztec symbols; Peruvian quipu (knotted cord); Chinese number symbols; Indian numbers; Ancient Greece (Attic/ Alexandrian) and Roman numerals.

Chapter Three: Early Calculating Devices: Abacus (used as long ago as the Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians); Chinese Counting Rods; and the Basics of Multiplication and Division.

Chapter Four:  The Modern Number System: Origins (Hindu-Arabic numerals); Early methods of Written Calculation (Hindu, Arabic and European);  Multiplication and Division methods; the development of Decimal Fractions; and the invention of Logarithms.

This is an interesting little book, which can be appreciated by lay people and non-mathematicians!

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For the gardeners amongst us, these next 3 books describe the history of plant collecting.

The Plant Hunters: Two Hundred Years of Adventure and Discovery Around the World by Toby Musgrave, Chris Gardner and Will Musgrave 2000

A wonderful tale of adventure, danger and derring-do, this book looks at two hundred years of plant discovery and collecting from Sir Joseph Banks’ three year journey around the world with Captain Cook on the Endeavour from 1768 to 1771 and Francis Masson’s investigations into the flora of South Africa, the Canary Islands, Portugal and North America to David Douglas’s explorations of North America; Joseph Hooker’s travels in Sikkim; the oriental botanical discoveries of Robert Fortune, Ernest Wilson, George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward ; and the importance of the Veitch Nurseries, sending out William and Thomas Lobb to bring back new exotic plants for the Victorian nursery trade.

It contains beautiful colour photographs of the plants and locations throughout and inset boxes featuring specific plant discoveries at the end of each chapter, with details on the origin of each plant name; a description; size and distribution.BlogHxBooksReszd25%Image (540)

The Flower Chain: The Early Discovery of Australian Plants by Jill Duchess of Hamilton and Julia Bruce 1998

This small book traces the discovery and journey of appreciation of our unique Australian flora through the analogy of the ‘flower chain’ from Dampier’s picking of Sturt’s Desert Pea Swainsona formosa back in 1699; Sir Joseph Banks’ extensive collection in 1770; and Labillardière’s botanical collection for Empress Josephine and subsequent publication of Novae Hollandiae Plantarum Specimen in 1804; and finally, George Bentham’s Flora Australiensis in the late 1870s. BlogHxBooksReszd25%Image (541)

Along the way, it examines Australia’s unique flora: its dominant plant groups and adaptations to fire and drought and the cultivation of Australian plants, as well as the early plant collectors; classification and scientific nomenclature; and the Dutch, French and British explorers and early botanists. One such man was Ferdinand Von Müeller (1825 to 1896), the subject of the next book:

Collecting Ladies: Ferdinand Von Müeller and Women Botanical Artists by Penny Olsen 2013

Ferdinand Müller arrived in Australia in 1847 and during his pharmaceutical studies, developed a keen interest in botany, becoming the first Government Botanist of Victoria in 1853 and the first Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne in 1857.

He enlisted over 3000 collectors to gather plant specimens and extend the knowledge of their distribution and  habits, including a number of women, including Louisa Anne Meredith; Euphemia Henderson;  Fanny Anne Charsley; Anna Frances Walker; Harriet and Helena Scott; Louisa Atkinson; Fanny de Mole; Margaret Forrest; Ellis Rowan; Rosa Fiveash; Gertrude Lovegrove; Flora Martin and Marie Wehl.

Many of these ladies were also highly accomplished botanical artists, as attested by their beautiful colour plates in the book. I also loved the old black-and-white photographic portraits and reading all the finer details about the lives of these talented women.BlogHxBooksReszd25%Image (538)

While history can be viewed as a record of key events and developments, it is also the life journey of individual men and women and first-hand accounts are an invaluable source of information about the everyday lives of individuals within these historical periods. The final five books are excellent examples.

Local Australian History

A Fortunate Life by AB Facey 1981

AB Facey was born in 1894 and grew up on the Kalgoorlie goldfields and a farm in the wheat-belt of Western Australia. He received little formal education, starting his adult working life at the age of 8 years old, toiling on a farm and droving, before building railway lines and boxing in a travelling troupe. He fought at Gallipoli in the First World War, where he was injured, then returned to marriage and farming under the Soldier Settlement Scheme, before being forced off the land with the Great Depression and finally ending up working on the trams.

He taught himself to read and write at a young age and always kept notes about his life, publishing them originally for 20 family members, but suddenly achieving huge fame. Over 800 000 copies have been sold since its publication and it is now considered an Australian classic and is essential reading for courses in Australian history.

He writes simply and well with a no-nonsense approach and a great appreciation of his ‘fortunate life’, despite the extreme poverty, struggles for survival and just sheer hard work! But it is the story of our nation and our forebears, the ordinary individuals who created its history and national character, which is the reason it resonates so strongly with its readers.

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The Letters of Rachel Henning 1988

Written from a totally different perspective and an earlier period of Australian history, these letters written to and from Australia from 1853 to 1882 and published in the Bulletin in 1951 and 1952, 37 years after her death in 1914,  are equally fascinating!

Rachel Henning was born in 1826 and visited siblings in Australia in 1854, returning to England in 1856, but settling in Australia in 1861.

She had a keen eye for detail and was an excellent story-teller, so her accounts are a terrific record of the minutiae of daily life and her personal observations of these two very different countries, Victorian England and pioneering Australia, as well as life in the outback. It is so interesting reading about such a different time period, when transportation, communication, technology, entertainment and time scales were so different to our contemporary world.

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Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences of Early Queensland by Constance Campbell Petrie 1904/ 1975

This book goes even further back in history to the early European settlement of Australia. Tom Petrie’s family settled in Brisbane in 1837, when there were only ten houses and a large population of indigenous Australians.

Tom Petrie was born in 1831 and grew up playing with the local aboriginal children, absorbing their language, customs and mythology and observing many of their ceremonies and festivals. He recounted his memories to his daughter Constance, who published them in 1904.

It’s a wonderful ethnographic record of the original Australians and their way of life before European settlement.

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The final two books are very valuable to us personally as they are based in South-East Queensland, my husband’s childhood home, and cover the history of the famous O’Reilly family and their guesthouse, now known as O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat (https://oreillys.com.au/), as well as that of their Albert Valley neighbours, the pioneering Stephens family, my husband’s grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles.

Green Mountains and Cullenbenbong by Bernard O’Reilly 1940 is a collection of memories from the O’Reilly family roots in the Kanimbla Valley, Blue Mountains, and their reestablishment on a rainforest block on the Macpherson Plateau in South-East Queensland, four years before the declaration of Lamington National Park.

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They were tough men and hard workers, so typical of those early years, and they forged a new life from scratch, clearing rainforest, making tracks, building a home, planting crops and establishing a highly successful tourism venture.  And while it was certainly hard work, they enjoyed full lives and appreciated all they had. Bernard had a deep love of his rainforest environment and all it inhabitants, as well as his family and friends and the Australian way of life, particularly in the country, now a ‘lost world’ to today’s generations!

Bernard actually named the crag above our valley (the right-hand branch of the Albert River) ‘Lost World’ and the development of his own tourism venture, ‘the Valley of the Lost World’, on the top paddock of our family farm in 1954, despite the twin setbacks of flooding and Cyclone Bertha, is recounted in the next book, while another shared family experience, the Stinson Disaster 1937, in which Bernard and the Stephens men played a pivotal role, is described at the start of this book. The text is supported by old black-and-white photographs from 1912 on, as well as quaint pen-and-ink illustrations and beautiful romantic poetry written by Bernard.

Over the Hills  by Bernard O’Reilly 1974 is a delightful book, again showing Bernard’s deep love of natural history and environment. His descriptions are so beautiful and it’s wonderful reading about an area you know and love so well! Again, there are lovely old black-and-white photographs and quotations. Both his books are wonderful tributes to the Old Australia of his youth, which he describes in the final sentence of ‘Green Mountains and Cullenbenbong’ as a time of adventure, after which ‘the world was never so big, so beautiful or so wonderful again’!BlogHxBooksReszd30%Image (589)

It’s still a pretty special world, though very different to Bernard’s day, and my next book post will be visiting some of the wonderful travel books we have in our library! Next week though, it’s back to some more favourite roses, the Hybrid Musks!

Answers:

Origin of Imports: South America; India; North America; China; Mexico; Indonesia; Peru; and Brazil.

Origins of Borrowed Words: Portuguese; Greek; Persian; Australian; French; Italian; High German; Hindustani; Welsh Gaelic; French; Portugal; Arabic ; Pacific Islands; High German; Italy; Hebrew; Sanskrit; French (Norman) ; Latin; and French.

 

 

 

History Books : Part Two : Australian Prehistory

In my last post, I discussed some of my favourite general books on archaeology and the prehistory of mankind. Today, I am focusing on Australian Prehistory, beginning with three books by the celebrated paleobotanist, Mary E White. The Greening of Gondwana and After the Greening are the first two books of her trilogy on the evolution of Australia, the continent and its biota, over 400 million years, the third volume being Listen.. Our Land is Crying. They are all beautiful hardback publications with luscious glossy photographs by Jim Frazier! I am only discussing the first two, as those are the books we own.

The Greening of Gondwana by Mary E White  Third Edition 1998

This book tells the story of Australia’s floral heritage from the earliest times, when all life was aquatic; the emergence of the first land plants, 400 million years ago; and the evolution of Australia’s modern flora and the Gondwanan broad-leaf conifer forests, when Australia finally separated from Antarctica 45 million years ago and moved northward.

There are over 400 wonderful photographs of fossils and living plants, as well as palaeographic maps, artist’s drawings and diagram and tables (Geological eras; Linnaean plant classification; Evolution of the plant kingdom; Australia’s fossil pollen record; and Fossil age and locality).

Part One starts with a description of the rocks of the earth’s crust; the dawn of life; the first unicellular life forms: the Western Australian stromatolites (fossil reefs of cyanobacteria, 3 500 million years old) and unicellular algae; and the formation of plant fossils (macro-fossils and microscopic spores and pollen).

The book then goes on to discuss the theories of continental drift and plate tectonics; Australia’s Gondwanan heritage; and the evolution of an Australian flora from the ancestral Gondwanan flora, which developed in isolation for 30 million years without any significant input from migrants, despite Australia’s proximity to South-East Asia.

While Eucalypts and Acacias predominate, 80 per cent of all the plant species and 30 per cent of Australia’s genera are endemic, accounting for the distinctive Australian character of the flora: its leathery, hard, spiny or reduced leaves, an adaptation to the low nutrient status of the Australian soils and the dry arid conditions called scleromorphy, these plants being called sclerophylls.

Australian plants also have many adaptations to fire: thick insulating protective bark or the shedding of outer layers of bark, so there is no build up of inflammable matter; new buds produced along the length of the stem after fire has destroyed the crown of the tree and underground lignotubers; and hard woody fruits and seeds, which can survive intense heat and often need the stimulus of fire to burst open and start to grow.

Part Two examines Australia’s fossil record in detail:

Life in the early seas (Cambrian, Ordovician and Early to Mid Silurian times);

First land plants of the Late Silurian and Early Devonian periods;

Giant club mosses of the Late Devonian and early Carboniferous periods;

Primitive seed ferns of the mid to late Carboniferous and early Permian years;

Glossopteris flora of the Permian period, when cool temperate swamps formed the early coal deposits and early gingkos, cycad ancestors, conifers and tree ferns were abundant;

Dicroidium flora of the Triassic period;

Age of the Conifers and the cycads of the Jurassic period;

Dawn of the Angiosperms (or Flowering Plants) in the Cretaceous Era;   and

The sequence of events in the Gondwanan breakup and its effect on the flora.

Australia became an ark with a living cargo of Gondwanan plants (predominated by flowering plants) and animals (marsupials, monotremes, large monitors, penguins and emus, parrots and frogmouths, pollinating honeyeaters, Southern Frogs and Side-Necked Turtles) during the Tertiary period, moving northward and having no outside contact for 30 million years.

Specific families are discussed in the book:

Antarctic Beeches Fagaceae (genus Nothofagus);

Winteraceae, one of the most primitive angiosperm families alive today, which includes native pepper Tasmannia;

Proteaceae (Banksia, Proteas and Leucospermum, Persoonia, Telopea, and Macadamia);

Casuarinaceae (She-oaks, Desert Oaks and River-Oaks);

Myrtaceae (Eucalyptus, Leptospermums, Baeckea, Syzgium and Angophoras);

Salt bushes Chenopodiaceae;

Mistletoes Loranthaceae; and

Wattles of Mimosaceae (genus Acacia).

The final chapters discuss Australia’s modern flora from the Quarternary period on, including vegetation types and a map (alpine, rainforest, wet sclerophyll, dry sclerophyll, woodlands, mallee woodlands and scrub, mulga scrub, desert and semi-desert, salt-bush scrub, grasslands and mangroves), as well as a brief mention of the intrusion of northern plants and animals, which came with man, especially after European colonization.BlogPreHxBooksReszd20%Image (591)

After the Greening: The Browning of Australia  by Mary E White 1994

This book continues the story of Australia’s prehistory and the geological processes behind the rifting (160 to 45 million years ago), drifting (15 to 2.4 million years ago) and drying (2.4 million years ago to today) of the continent to become the driest vegetated continent on Earth.

Two thirds of the land is classed as arid and half is desert, yet it supports an amazing variety of desert-adapted fauna and flora. The last 2.4 million years are particularly significant, as they represent the Age of Man and a time when icecaps had a profound effect on the physical landscapes, climate and biota of Australia.

Aboriginal Australians arrived around 60 000 year ago, but the most dramatic changes have occurred over the past 200 years since European settlement, completely unbalancing our delicate ecological balance through grazing; clearing; and the introduction of feral rabbits, goats, horses, donkeys, pigs, buffalo, camels, cats and foxes, not to mention garden escapees and weeds.

The formation of the Great Dividing Range, Australia’s river system, the Murray Basin, the Great Artesian Basin, Nullabor Desert, Ayers Rock and the Olgas is covered, along with the adaptation of Australian flora to the changing climate; ancient weathered soils; droughts and flooding rain; fire; and salt.

The last part of the book discusses Australia’s vegetation regions in detail, as well as future challenges. Again, there is so much information, supported by beautiful colour photographs, maps, tables and diagrams.BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%Image (590)

The final book in the trilogy: Listen.. Our Land is Crying examines Australia’s environmental problems: land and water degradation, increased salinisation and desertification, decreasing biodiversity and habitat destruction, water pollution, the greenhouse effect and feral weeds and animals, suggesting possible solutions and highlighting the amazing unique wonders of our continent. While we don’t own this final book, we do have another of her glossy geological books:

Time in Our Hands : Semi-Precious Gemstones: Keys to the Geological Past by Mary E White 1991, which covers many of her previous topics, but mainly concentrates on the semi-precious gemstones of Lune River, Tasmania: the agates, onyx, carnelian and jasper, all forms of quartz gemstones made from silica dioxide, as well as petrified conifers and tree-ferns.BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%Image (592)

Now for some excellent books on aboriginal prehistory!  One of the earliest  books on Aboriginal origins and culture was the first edition of John Mulvaney’s The Prehistory of Australia in 1969, with a second edition in 1975. The following book is the third edition with substantial changes in content, while still retaining the orientation and much of the original structure of the earlier books, when Mulvaney was the sole author. John Mulvaney is one of Australia’s foremost prehistorians and John Kamminga, an expert on Aboriginal stone technology.

Prehistory of Australia by John Mulvaney and Johan Kamminga 1999

A very comprehensive guide to the Australian aborigines and their traditional way of life.

Chapters cover the following topics:

Diversity of surviving traces: Surface artefacts; shell middens; caves and rock shelters; earth mounds; ceremonial mounds and rock arrangements; stone and ochre quarries; rock art sites; stone hunting-hides and bird and fish traps; scarred trees; hatchet-head grinding localities; and human burials;

Dating the past;

Changing Australian landscapes: Topography, climate, vegetation, cleaning the land, fire-stick farming, water resources and carrying capacity of the land;

People, language and society: Population estimates, language groups, social organization, the Dreaming; and culture areas;

Subsistence and reciprocity: Mobility and seasonality; Animal and plant food: bulbs and tubers, starch extraction, seeds and the farming debate; Material culture : travelling light, hunting weapons, skin cloaks, bone and stone implements, and stone hatchets; Reciprocity and cultural diffusion; and Aboriginal trade in pituri and greenstone;

Seafarers from Sundaland (South East Asia and Indonesia) to Sahul (the super-continent of Australia and Papua New Guinea) during the fluctuating sea levels of Pleistocene;

Extinction of the Mega-Fauna;

Initial colonization, migration theories and Pleistocene settlement: Kow Swamp, Lake Mungo and Tasmania;

Conquest of the deserts: Willandra Lakes; Lake Mungo; Menindee Lakes; Lake Eyre; Nullabor caves; the Pilbara region; and Central Australia;

Pleistocene artefacts : Wood, bone, and stone tools;

Holocene stone tool innovations;

Coastal aborigines: Kakadu; Aurukun and Weipa; South-East Queensland; Sydney; South Coast of NSW; and South-Western Australia;

Regional challenges and responses: The Snowy Mountains; Murray River societies; the arid zones; trade and exchange networks; and technological developments;

Island settlement of the offshore islands and Tasmania;  and a major section on

Rock Art:

  • Panaramitee style of engraving from western NSW to Eastern South Australia and northwards to Alice Springs;
  • Simple figurative motifs of South-eastern Australia: Simple outlines or stick figures with solid or linear infills and simple geometric designs and stencilling                     eg the Southern Highlands and the Grampians;
  • Engravings and pigment art of the Sydney region;
  • Art of Tropical Australia:

1. South-East Cape York: Laura: Quinkan country and Jowalbinna: engravings and painted figurative and non-figurative art; and Koolburra Plateau;

2. Kakadu National Park: Succession of styles and X-ray painting;

3. The Pilbara: Burrup Peninsula engravings;

4. Victoria River District;

5. Kimberley region: Bradshaw figures and Wandjina paintings;

6. Asian and European Newcomers: the Trepang industry; Macassan sites; Chinese and Arab traders; and the Portuguese and Dutch explorers;

This book is an indispensable guide to aboriginal prehistory, especially if travelling around Australia, which we did in 2008!BlogPreHxBooksReszd30%Image (614)

We found the next set of books by Josephine Flood, another prominent archaeologist, very useful in our travels as well:

The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People  by Josephine Flood 2006

This book tells the story of Australian Aboriginal history and culture from their distant beginnings to the present day. She writes for the general public and uses history and culture to answer some of the major questions about the genetic origins of the First Australians; their lifestyle, culture, religion and beliefs; their impact on the megafauna and the Australian environment; and modern problems, including the stolen generation; land rights; the challenges of contemporary aboriginal communities (lower mortality, poverty, poor health, education, alcoholism and drugs etc) and future directions.

Chapters cover:

European discovery of Australia and encounters between the aborigines and Dutch explorers, Macassan traders and Captain Cook;

European colonization and its impact on the original inhabitants, including disease, kidnapping, the treatment of women, confrontation and conflict and severe depopulation between 1820 and 1920;

Indigenous life at first contact: Spirituality; totemism and animism; the Dreaming; Songlines; oral traditions; language (of which there were 250 different language groups); medicine men and women healers; shamans and sorcerers; childhood; initiation ceremonies; marriage and sex; other ceremonies, burials and fertility cults; the wisdom of the elders; law and order; and economy and exchange networks;

Aboriginal origins over the past 50 000 years: Physical characteristics; patterns of settlement; climate change; environmental impacts: the extinction of megafauna and use of the firestick; new technologies and diets; rock art; and language; and

Assimilation and modern day problems and challenges.

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Archaeology of the Dreamtime: The Story of Prehistoric Australia and Its People by Josephine Flood 1995

This book covers many of the above topics.

Part One examines stone and bone tools; the first boat people; routes to Australia; migration; life and death at Lake Mungo; the Australoids of Keilor, Kow Swamp and Willandra Lakes; genetic evidence; the peopling of Australia; early sites throughout Australia; Pleistocene rock art: petroglyphs (engravings) and rock paintings, with a discussion of all the major art sites in Australia; and the extinction of megafauna.

Part Two looks at climate changes and rising sea levels; the arrival of the dingo; food resources: Bogong moths; yams; eels and fish traps; processing toxic cycads; and aboriginal trade, religion and art over the past 1000 years.

At the back is a reference list of all the different Pleistocene artefacts, their location and dates.

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The Riches of Ancient Australia: An Indispensable Guide for Exploring Prehistoric Australia by Josephine Flood 1990

This book certainly lived up to the claim of its subtitle, especially on our 2008 travels around Australia, although we discovered that many of the sites described were no longer accessible to the public, due to cultural sensitivities, and many had a policy of ‘No Photography’. After a brief introduction to Australian prehistory over the last 60 000 years and a discussion of Australian rock art, each state is explored in detail.

We used this book at the following places:

Queensland :

1.Lark Quarry dinosaur footprints

2.Cape York:

Quinkan country at Laura:

The Gugu Yalangi Galleries;BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_4742BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_4828BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_4814 Split Rock;BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_5029 Giant Horse site and Mushroom Rock;BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_5068BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_5069BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_4993 and

Jowalbinna.BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_4567BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_45613. Riversleigh megafauna

Northern Territory

1.Kakadu National Park:

Anbangbang Gallery;

Nourlangie Rock;

Nanguluwur (Xray style); and

Ubirr;BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_5409BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_50872.Victoria River District

Western Australia

1.Chamberlain Gorge, El Questro

2.King George River and Mitchell Falls, Kimberley Plateau:

Gwion Gwion figures 20 000 years old;BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_9230 and the more recent Wandjina figures;BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_91183.Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek

4.Burrup Peninsula engravings: Over 10 000 engravings of humans, animals and geometric figures up to 20 000 years old;BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_1417

5.Stromatolites of Hamelin Pool, Shark Bay;BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_2249BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_2240

South Australia:

Naracoorte Cave megafauna: This is a model of a Diprotodon, the largest marsupial ever!BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_8120 Victoria:

1.The Grampians;

2.Condah fish traps

We have also used this book at other times:

Carnarvon Gorge and Kenniff Cave, Mt Moffat, in Queensland; and

Mt Yarrowyck, Armidale;

The Warrumbungles;  and

Bawley Pt, NSW, with its giant shell middens;

and will definitely be consulting it before our trip to Lake Mungo, Willandra Lakes and Menindee Lakes at some stage in the future!

After our big trip around Australia, my appetite for further knowledge whetted by the large amount of rock art seen, we bought the following books:

 Lost World of the Kimberley: Extraordinary Glimpses of Australia’s Ice Age Ancestors by Ian Wilson 2006

We particularly loved the tiny exquisite and ancient Gwion Gwion Figures, also known as Bradshaw Figures, of the Mitchell Plateau in the Kimberley area! It was so exciting searching and finding these delightful artworks under rocky overhangs at the King George River area en route to Mitchell Falls. Because we had limited time, we splurged on a helicopter ride out over the stone circles on the plateau (photo below) and north to the sea, where we saw a mother and baby dugong, then followed the King Edward River back past huge salt water crocodiles lazing in the sun and the Lower Falls to the Upper Mitchell Falls, where we disembarked to explore the falls.BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_9373 Because we had not walked in, we easily lost the track on the way out, circumnavigationg the area and finding ourselves back at the falls, so if we ever returned to explore the Lower Falls (which we would love to do!), I would definitely use a helicopter both ways!BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_9411 Apparently, there is a huge body of Gwion Gwion artwork at the Lower Falls, where the salt water meets the fresh water! Given that it is probably very unlikely that we will get back there, it is great to have this book! Ian documents the history of the discovery of this amazing artwork and describes the different artistic styles of Kimberley Rock Art:

Archaic Epoch: Cupules; Grooves; and Stencils;

Erudite Epoch:

Bradshaw Figures: Sash Figures; and Tassel Figures;

Clothes Peg Figures: Stick figures; and

Aboriginal Epoch: Clawed Hands; and Wandjina Period.BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_9470BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_9237BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_9203He examines the huge range of art sites and paintings, musing on the lifestyles, artefacts and clothing depicted, as well as their origins, not to mention the more enigmatic paintings of reindeer and high-prowed boats, which look very similar to those of the Ancient Egyptians!BlogPreHxBooksReszd30%Image (613)

Rock Art of the Kimberley by Mike Donaldson and Kevin Kenneally 2007

A record of the proceedings of the Kimberley Society Rock Art Seminar back on 10th September 2005, this book contains chapters by different contributors on a wide variety of topics.

The editor, Mike Donaldson, writes an overview of the Kimberley area: its geology, past climate changes and sea level rises; early European discoverers; the different art forms (cupules; engravings; stencils; beeswax figures; stone arrangements and paintings); the materials used (ochres, charcoal and clays); the subject matter (Gwion Gwion and Wandjina figures; animals; and fighting scenes); and finally, the topic of repainting rock art sites, particularly pertinent to the Wandjina art work.

The latter is further discussed by Donny Woolagoodja, a Worrorra elder and artist, while Denis Callaghan discusses the natural deterioration of rock art sites and Ian Crawford describes the 1960s field work on Wandjina art.

Jim Ross examines evolution and genetics, the migration of the original aboriginal ancestors, climate change, current dispersal theories and the peopling of Australia.

Sue O’Connor describes the different rock art sites and occupation sites in the Kimberley, while David Welch focuses specifically on the Bradshaw Figures.

And finally, Philip Playford explores the aboriginal rock art in the limestone ranges of the West Kimberley: Geike Gorge, Wandjina Gorge; and Tunnel Creek, another area we visited in 2008. Again, beautiful photos and an excellent record of the rock art of the Kimberley region.BlogPreHxBooksReszd30%Image (609)Mike Donaldson has since published a three-volume series on the prolific rock art of the Kimberley :

Kimberley Rock Art -Volume One: Mitchell Plateau Area,  released in April 2012;
Kimberley Rock Art -Volume Two: North Kimberley,  released in October 2012;
Kimberley Rock Art -Volume Three: Rivers and Ranges , released in April 2013.

See: http://www.wildrocks.com.au/ for details.

Mike Donaldson has also produced a lovely book on the rock engravings of the Burrup Peninsula:

Burrup Rock Art : Ancient Aboriginal Rock Art of  Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago by Mike Donaldson 2010

See: http://www.wildrocks.com.au/publications/burrup-rock-art-book/.

I would love to see this book one day, as we were so impressed with these ancient petroglyphs, of which there are over 10 000, up to 25 000 years old, at Deep Gorge, near Karratha, Western Australia, and so little is known about them.BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_1430 When we first started looking, all we could see were huge mullock heaps of red rock, but once you have spotted the first engraving, they suddenly become obvious, covering most of the rocks and depicting animals, birds, marine animals, geometric symbols and strange looking figures.BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_1406 Here are some more useful websites:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/burrup-peninsula-rock-art-shows-extinct-megafauna/6561788

https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/publications/archaeology-and-rock-art-in-the-dampier-archipelago/    and

http://rockart.net.au/Burrup.htm.

Rock Paintings of Aboriginal Australia by Elaine Godden and Jutta Malnic 2008

Another terrific publication on aboriginal art work throughout Australia and the stories behind the paintings. It discusses the materials and techniques used and their deterioration and conservation. It then focuses on a few specific areas: The Kimberleys, Cape York, Arnhem Land and the Central Australian Deserts, with superb photographs of the art work throughout.

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 Journey in Time: The 50 000 Year Story of the Australian Aboriginal Rock Art of Arnhem Land by George Chaloupka 1999

This book explores the 50 000 years of Australian Aboriginal rock art of Arnhem Land: its depth and complexity, aesthetic achievements and the life of its creators. This fabulous book is so comprehensive and has wonderful photos.

The introduction starts with a world perspective and a description of :

Rock art in Australia ;

Rock art dating;

Arnhem Land Galleries;

The Land Gulbok:  its physical characteristics and climate;

The People: their totemism, language groups and clan territories; and

Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories and mythology, illustrated by examples of the artwork.

There is a large section on the rock art sites; the materials and techniques used; the aboriginal view of the art; a non-aboriginal sequence of the rock art; and

The different art styles and periods:

Pre-Estuarine : 50 000 to 8000 year ago:

Object imprints;

Large Naturalistic Figures Complex: Large naturalistic human figures and large naturalistic animals, including a thylacine (photo), a long-beaked echidna and a tapir-like Palorchestes, now extinct, and a Tasmanian devil, no longer found on the mainland;BlogPreHxBooksReszd25%IMG_5423Early X-Ray paintings;

Dynamic Figures;

Post-Dynamic Figures: Progressively stylised artwork representing boomerangs, fighting picks, spears and spear throwers, and yam figures.

2.Estuarine : 8 000 to 1500 years ago:

Early Estuarine Paintings;

Beeswax Designs;

X-Ray Art Complex: Humans and animals: fish; crustaceans; fishing spirits.

3.Freshwater Period : 1500 years ago to present day: Paintings of the contact period between aborigines and visitors:

Makassan fisherman from Sulawesi, Indonesia;

European explorers eg Ludwig Leichhardt; the riders and horses of the McKinley Frieze; and paintings of guns and a two-masted lugger.

Chinese gold diggers;

Buffalo shooters; and

Sorcery paintings.

Finally, there is a discussion of :

Particular motifs and themes: East Alligator Figures; Powerful Women; Human Sexuality; Dismembered Bodies; Dilly Bags and String Bags; Crocodiles; Turtles; and Ceremonies;  and

Other art forms: Stencilling; Rock Engraving; Earth Art; and Stone Arrangements.

It finishes with appendices of neighbouring rock art (Kimberleys and Papua New Guinea); and a list of international rock art sites.

Given these unique and priceless art sites are outside and vulnerable to deterioration and damage, these books are so important as a record of the wonderful ancient legacy of Australia’s original inhabitants.

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For more information about Australian rock art, another book, which we don’t have in our library, but is a classic in the field is:  Visions From the Past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art by Mike Morwood, an archaeologist, renowned for his knowledge of Aboriginal Art. See:

https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/academic-professional/archaeology/Visions-from-the-Past-MJ-Morwood-9781864487176.

Australia’s Living History: Arts of the Dreaming by Jennifer Isaacs 2002

Another fabulous book, which celebrates the diversity and richness of aboriginal culture, art work and oral traditions and covers a very broad range of artistic expression.

After a look at the regional variations in cultural expression, a wide variety of aboriginal art is discussed:

Body Adornment and Ornamentation;

Ceremony and Dance;

Fibre Crafts: Spinning and natural dyeing; Basket making; String bags and nets;

Rock Engravings and Paintings: Techniques; Styles; and Regional Examples;

Bark Painting;

Papunya Painting of the Desert;

Contemporary Works on Canvas;

Carved Weapons and Utensils;

Sculptures;  and

Future Directions for Aboriginal Art.

In the back is an appendix titled the Antiquity of Aboriginal Art.

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My final book is also edited and compiled by this knowledgeable lady:

Australia Dreaming : 40 000 years of Aboriginal History Edited by Jennifer Isaacs 2005

For aboriginal peoples, their artwork is a proud expression of their heritage and mythology, the stories of the Dreaming, the subject of this lavish book. This first aboriginal history of Australia and its people is told through the traditional myths and legends of over 40 aboriginal storytellers from a wide cross-section of communities and areas, showing regional variations in the beliefs of different aboriginal groups.

The stories are accompanied by beautiful photos of the land, people and artwork and are divided up into different themes:

The Reality of Myth: Arrival of the First Australians and their way of Life; Megafauna;  Rising Seas; and Volcanoes;

The Creation Era: Desert Ancestors and the Creation of the Desert Tors; the Origin of Lake Eyre; the Nullabor Plain; The Sky-Heroes of South Eastern Australia; The Earth Mother; the Great Serpents; the Wandjina; and the Creation Ancestors of NE Arnhem Land and North-Eastern Australia;

The Great Journeys: that of the Zebra Finch; and the Kangaroo and Euro;

Earth, Fire and Water;

Seasons: Lightning; Thunder; and Clouds;

Sun, Moon and Stars;

Cycle of Life: Men and Women; Birth of the Tribes; Early Years; Passage to Adulthood; Hunting and Food Gathering;

Death and the Spirit World;

Designs from the Dreaming;

The Visitors: Baiini; Macassans; and the Badu Islanders; and

The Invaders: First encounters with White Men; Violence; Spread of Disease; Vengeance of the Spirit Ancestors; and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

As my last book in my post, it is very fitting that aboriginal people should have the final word on their own prehistory!

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Next week is the third and final post on history books in our library, covering the time since written records.

Our Beautiful Earth: Part Five: Natural History Books: Environmental Challenges

Having spent the last month, enjoying all the wonderful diversity and beauty our planet has to offer, I found this particular post quite disturbing and depressing to write, but the issues are so important and so urgent that they have to be aired and addressed! I have grouped the books according to their main subject matter: Warning Bells; Growth Economics; Disconnect From Nature; Climate Change; Australia; Overpopulation; and The Big Picture.

1.Warning Bells

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson 1962

One of the first very famous books to sound a warning bell about the state of our environment, especially in relation to the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture.

In her book, Rachel documents the detrimental environmental and physiological effects from the indiscriminate use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Once these chemicals enter the biosphere, not only are the bugs killed, but the poison works its way up through the food chain, threatening bird and fish populations and ultimately, human health as well.

Examples include the death of large numbers of birds from aerial spraying of DDT to control mosquitoes and fire ants; the bio-accumulation of herbicide, Aminotriazole, in cranberries; the banning of milk from dairy farms in upstate New York after aerial spraying to eradicate gypsy moth; and the link between pesticides and cancer in humans.

The book raised a new awareness of humanity’s potential to wreak havoc on nature; the interconnectedness of all living forms; and ecology in general. It also raised the ire of major chemical companies, who launched a vitriolic campaign of personal attacks against her, but fortunately, she had some strong support from John F Kennedy and in the end, the national pesticide policy was reversed and DDT was banned in agricultural use nationwide. The book also inspired the environmental movement, leading to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A very important book, it has sold over 2 Million copies worldwide over the past 55 years and is regarded as a landmark book of the twentieth century and the environmental text which changed the world, although in my opinion, the world still has a long way to go!!!

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Collapse: How Societies Choose to fail or Survive by Jared Diamond 2005

A fascinating book, this is also a timely reminder that past societies foundered, when they failed to limit their resource use to the sustainable productivity of natural systems.

Part One looks at the current environmental problems of South-Western Montana, while Part Two examines the collapsed civilizations of : Easter Island, Pitcairn Island and Henderson Island; the Native American society of the Anasazi in South-Western USA; the Mayans of MesoAmerica; and Norse Greenland, all underpinned by a five-point framework: environmental damage; climate change; the loss of friendly trade partners; the rise of hostile neighbours; and most importantly, the society’s response to its environmental problems.

Part Two finishes with a brief examination of three successful past societies by way of contrast: Iceland; Tikopia and the New Guinea Highlands; as well as the Tokugawa Era of Japan.

Part Three returns to the modern world with an in-depth look at the Rwandan disaster; a comparison of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which both share the island of Hispaniola; the enormous environmental problems of China; and finally, the fragility and uniqueness of Australia, a country which holds a special place in Jared’s heart.

The last section of the book extracts practical lessons from all these case studies and examines the role of modern businesses and the types of environmental dangers facing the modern world.

The book is supported by further readings listed in the back, as well as suggestions for positive action, which an individual can take to address our major environmental problems.

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2. Growth Economics

Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered  by EF Schumacher 1974

If you cannot get hold of the book, you can read a pdf version at:  http://www.colinalexander.info/files/pdfs/Schumacher.pdf, as well as some of his famous quotes at: http://www.centerforneweconomics.org/content/small-beautiful-quotes.

An environmental classic and bible, this little book is one of the 100 most influential books published since the Second World War, according to The Times Literary Supplement, and it certainly made a big impact on my husband! The three major points he gleaned from the book are that the current growth-based economic system of the Western world is actually detrimental to people; takes no account of the environmental costs; and that smaller enterprises are far more efficient and people-friendly than larger corporations.

Schumacher, a British economist, published his critique of Western economics during the 1973 energy crisis and the emergence of globalization. While his figures are now out-of-date, his message is still as vitally important today, as when it was first published.

He argues that:

The modern economy is unsustainable;

Fossil fuels and other finite, non-renewable natural resources should be treated as capital rather than expendable income ;

Nature’s capacity to absorb pollution is also limited;

Gross National Product should not be used as a measure of human well-being; and that

Materialism should be secondary to ideals like justice, harmony, beauty and health.

He challenged mass production and statements like: ‘Growth is good’ and ‘Big is better’ and believed that governments should focus on sustainable development; the appropriate use of technology; the decentralization of large enterprises; and more people-centred economics of a human scale, addressing human needs, as if people mattered!

In his book, Schumacher predicted many of the issues we are now facing today:  a reliance on imports and exports; the energy crisis; and issues with oil consumption and dual economies in developing countries.

His book also inspired a number of offshoot organizations :

The Schumacher Institute (http://www.schumacherinstitute.org.uk), a think tank addressing many of these social, environmental and economic crises. Members use ‘systems thinking’ to determine sustainable solutions and promote convergent globalisation for a more equal distribution of wealth.

The Schumacher Centre for a New Economics (http://www.centerforneweconomics.org), which offers lectures, conferences and seminars on new economics; the annual EF Schumacher Lectures; an online collection of lectures and publications, including the Manas Journal and Lindisfarne Tapes; an e-newsletter; and the use of the Schumacher Library (also available online). It also offers programs like the Commons (Community Land Trust), Local Currencies and Berkshares, Community Supported Industry and a Curriculum for New Economics.

The Schumacher Circle (http://www.schumacherinstitute.org.uk/about-us/schumacher-circle/), a collection of organizations inspired by his philosophy and writings, including: the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, which we visited in 1994;  Jeevika Trust; New Economics Foundation (another think tank and a different organisation to the Centre for New Economics discussed above); the Resurgence and Ecologist Magazine; the Soil Association, of which my brother-in-law was a member for many years; Practical Action; and Schumacher College.

Schumacher College (https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/), a wonderful educational institution for nature-based courses,  personal transformation and collective action.

Courses include:

Short courses like Sacred Activism; Nature Renewal; Agroecology; Leadership and Facilitation; Transitioning to an Ecological Civilisation; Ecological Restoration and Design; Nourishing the Soul; The Power of Local; and the Gross National Happiness Master Class;

Post graduate courses like Ecological Design Thinking; Ecology and Spirituality; and Holistic Science; and

Vocational courses like Sustainable Horticulture and a wide variety of crafts from cheese-making to kiln building, spoon-making, brewing beer and dressmaking.

See later entries on Vandiva Shiva (this post) and John Lane (next week’s post), both of them highly involved with this college.

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 Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet by Tim Jackson 2009

Written by a British professor, who was a sustainability adviser to the UK government at the time, the book supports the view that the only way to sustainability is an economy, which is NOT based on growth. Exponential economic growth, based on ever-increasing production and consumption, continues to deplete our dwindling finite resources, threatening the very ecosystems that sustain our economies.

He identifies key problem areas like the scarcity of oil, minerals and productive land, as well as sink problems, the capacity of the planet to assimilate the environmental impacts of economic activity, the major one being climate change, caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and accelerated by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels.

Backed up by lots of evidence and figures, this book is not all gloom and doom and suggests a myriad of potential options for a green recovery and societies, which can still flourish, but within limits. A very important and readable book!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (547)

The Mystic Economist by Clive Hamilton 1994

Another book, written by an economist, which examines current economic theory and its detrimental impact on our lives, despite its claims to the contrary, and which argues for a more holistic approach to our economic system!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (551) - Copy

Quite a heavy book philosophically, it is well worth taking the time to read it, as there are lots of pertinent observations like the futility of materialism to buy happiness or give our lives meaning; the time-money debate (the trade off between work and leisure); and the huge gap in world views between Western capitalist societies and traditional indigenous peoples, the latter further explored in the following books:

3. Disconnect from Nature

Harmony by HRH The Prince of Wales, Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly 2010

As you will no doubt have surmised from a previous post (https://candeloblooms.com/2017/05/16/inspirational-and-dreamy-garden-books-part-two-books-about-specific-gardens/), I’m a bit of a fan of Prince Charles, who has been very prominent in his support of organic farming (as practised firsthand at his wonderful garden at Highgrove) and the ecological movement, as well as beauty in architecture, spirituality and the traditional arts.

In 2004, he even founded his own school, The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (https://www.psta.org.uk/), which offers a variety of courses in the traditional arts of all the great civilizations of the world.

Courses include:

Traditional Methods and Materials of the Master Painters of the 14th to 17th Century;

Sacred Geometry;

Painting techniques from Byzantine Icon Painting to Indian and Persian Miniatures and Chinese Brush Painting; and

Mandalas;

Stained Glass;

Jewellery Making;

Ceramic Plate and Tile Making;

Carving Wood, Stone and Plaster;

Carpet Weaving;

Calligraphy; and

The Alchemy of Colour.

Theoretical study is integrated with practical application, with an emphasis on an awareness of:  ‘the holistic nature of the traditional artist, whose inspiration derives from the highest sources and whose skill and dedication creates masterpieces, which we can all recognize as part of our world heritage’.

There is a Postgraduate Academic Program (Masters and Doctoral level), including an Outreach Program in 20 countries over 5 continents, as well as an Open Program for the wider community and, for a younger audience, a Harmony Schools Program, in which mathematics, geography, history, science and art are integrated.

I would love to be a student at this wonderfully inspiring college, but in lieu of this possibility, I thoroughly enjoyed his book, in which he outlines his philosophy, his concerns for the planet and human civilization and ways to redress the balance!

He examines the essential principles of harmony, defined as the active state of balance between human society and the natural world, and which we ignore at our peril, as neglect will eventually result in a collapse of our very life-support systems.

These principles include :

Cycles, rhythms and patterns;

Diversity;

Beauty;

A holistic view; and

The interdependence of all living things.

He sources examples from scientific evidence to views and ideas drawn from many different religions, cultures and traditional peoples throughout history, who lived in harmony with their natural surroundings, all backed up by wonderful photos.

It is such an interesting and important book! Dick Smith (see below) obviously shares our appreciation and has made a practice of buying a large number of copies of this book and sharing it with his many acquaintances.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (502)

A documentary based on the book was made in 2012. See:  http://www.theharmonymovie.com/home.php.

This YouTube clip is a taster: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeS2T4GnRe8.

The Sacred Balance: rediscovering Our Place in Nature by David Suzuki 1997

Another book by well-known environmentalist, David Suzuki, in which he compares our modern environmental challenges and current consumerist, nature-disconnected lifestyles with the traditional lifestyles and belief systems of indigenous peoples, which supported healthy environments and a sustainable form of living for millions of years.

He discusses basic human needs:

Physical: Clean air; Water; Fertile Soil; Energy; and Diversity;

Social: Love; and Connection; and

Spiritual;

and how these needs are met or not met and the consequences.

I particularly loved Ashley Montagu’s list of the psychic needs of the growing child for full development of its potential (seen on page 164, as well as the photo below), as well as all the pertinent quotes and poetry throughout the book.

Image (561) In his final chapter, Suzuki offers hope, with suggestions for meeting these basic needs and creating an ecologically sustainable, fulfilling life, as well as stories of people, who have put their beliefs into action to create such a life.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (551)

Since its first publication, 100 000 copies of the book have been sold.

David Suzuki also produced a three-part series called The Sacred Balance, which can all be seen at  the following links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVqnmX4Lh9U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8T0hsYLUAo  and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Sf_0ajeifA.

The book has also inspired a beautiful four-part documentary (http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/sabas.html), each part accessible on this link and accompanied by teacher study guide (http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/guides/sabasguide.pdf).

If you want a taster of some of Suzuki’s quotes, here is another link: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/145364.David_Suzuki.

4. Climate Change

Climate change would have to be THE largest challenge facing life on earth and yet politicians, corporations and the general public are often not facing up to the enormity or the urgency of this issue or are, in some cases, denying its very existence and bullying the messengers. I have always found it incredibly difficult to understand these attitudes, when all these people have their own children and grand-children and no one will be exempt from the effects of climate change! The next book looks at climate change denial and its implications for life on earth.

Requiem For a Species by Clive Hamilton 2010

Supported by video-clips of his book launch and speeches at these three sites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zQDBP4YClA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mccKiZ9AfE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CXtx9xnQSw.

In this important book, Clive reiterates the facts about global warming and examines the many  psychological barriers and reasons people stick their heads in the sand, as very cleverly depicted by this sculpture ‘No Climate for Change’ by Phillip Doggett-Williams from the Lorne Sculpture Show in 2011.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd50%october 2011 695 Here is the artist’s succinct statement:

We cannot hide from change. Dramatic social change, as is the global warming challenge, demands that individuals step beyond their political prejudices and self interest to build a collective wisdom that meets the challenges of the future with determination, persistence and optimism. The fundamental right of future generations is a right to a sustainable future.

Here are Clive’s thoughts about the reasons people hide from the momentous changes ahead:

Firstly, there is wishful thinking! Yes, it is a very hard and frightening notion to comprehend, but it is only going to get worse if we don’t face up to it and do something about decreasing global greenhouse emissions!

Then, there is the disconnect from nature, already mentioned by the previous books. Farmers and gardeners are all too aware of the changing climate!

The consumer culture and growth economics play a major part in climate change denial, because acceptance would require major changes to our lifestyles, and then there is the very damaging role of political conservatism and active lobbying by the wealthy and powerful fossil fuel industry. What is even worse is that we do have alternatives to the latter, which are feasible and effective, and have known about this problem for the last 50 years and yet we have done so very little to address it until it is too late!

Current predictions are for a rise of up to 5 degrees Celsius by 2070 (unless there is a concerted attempt to reduce emissions) and that figure is probably conservative, as it is very difficult to determine the effects once tipping points are reached. And climate change doesn’t just mean rising temperatures, but more extreme and frequent weather events like severe cyclones, floods, droughts, heat waves and fires, resulting in major human suffering and enormous repair costs, not to mention rises in sea level with the melting of the ice sheets; displacement of peoples living in low lying areas; uncertain food production and mass extinctions of plants and animals on earth.

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Living in the Hothouse: How Global Warming Affects Australia by Ian Lowe 2005

We have always admired Ian Lowe, an Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University, Queensland (where my husband studied Environmental Science back in 1976), as well as being the President of the Australian Conservation Foundation from 2004 to 2014.

This is a very important and topical book, especially now we are over 10 years down the track and the situation is getting far worse and has still not been adequately addressed! What amazes me about all the prevaricating and not facing up to the problem is that we knew about this problem back in the late 1970s – the figures on greenhouse warming in Ross’s old environmental textbooks are spot on with their predictions – and while there appeared to be some potential for change in the 1980s, it was quickly squashed by climate change deniers and the major coal companies.

In Chapters One and Two, Ian Lowe explains the scientific basis to the greenhouse effect, especially in relation to climate change in Australia – its effects on temperature, rainfall, sea levels, tropical cyclones, snow lines, and especially extreme weather events and their severity and frequency.

In Chapter Three, he discusses the impact of climate change on agriculture; forestry; water resources; coastal development (and let’s not forget that most of the world’s major cities and urban populations were historically developed on the banks of estuaries and harbours!); the natural environment (bush fires, changed patterns of land use, loss of biodiversity and extinctions); and human health.

Chapter Four examines the implications for energy use, while Chapter Five suggests broad strategies for responding to climate change :

Adaptation;

Prevention;

Other options including:

Renewable energy;

Alternative approaches to transport: car efficiency; public transport; car pooling; cycling; and walking;

Land use planning; and

Reversing deforestation and restoring forest cover.

Chapter Six looks at the politics of greenhouse at all governmental levels: Local, State, Federal and International, as well as economic issues and impediments.

His final chapter is based on his conference presentation in 2001, where he looks at the driving forces increasing our emissions: population growth; lifestyle choices; and the consumption of material resources.

He suggests policies to cut greenhouse emissions, including:

‘A target of 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2012’. Well, that certainly didn’t happen!;

The elevation of minimum energy performance standards for all new appliances to be world best practice within 3 years;

Encouragement of public transport and cycling and the design and development of low-transport cities ( Eg. Banning cars from the CBD- maybe this will start to happen as a result of recent terrorist attacks!);  and

The installation of solar hot water systems in all new buildings;

as well as a number of approaches individuals can take to reduce their emissions.

The inaction (and positive subservience to the coal industry and multinationals!) of our current major political parties means that change has to come from the grass roots level- the individual and local government, who seem to be the most effective propagators of positive change!

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While it is very easy to become despondent about climate change and the future, there are some wonderful people out there, working for change, and it is important to maintain hope, as Al Gore explains in his latest film: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, currently screening. See the following links about this amazing man and his film:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/climate/al-gore-climate-change-timestalks.html;

http://www.outwardon.com/article/hope-about-climate-change/;   and

https://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/al-gore-inconvenient-sequel-truth-to-power-message-of-urgency-and-hope/84562/.

5. Australia

The following books also highlight other environmental challenges, especially in relation to Australia.

Shouldn’t Our Grandchildren Know: An Environmental Life Story by Graham Chittleborough 1992

A very interesting and readable book, tracing his development as an ecologist from studying seals, penguins and albatrosses on Heard Island in the Antarctic in 1949 to researching humpback whales and crayfish (Western Rock Lobster) on the Western Australian coast in the 1950s and 1960s and pollution in Cockburn Sound in the mid 1970s.

Along the way, Graham developed an increasing awareness of environmental issues facing Australia at that time from the accelerated loss of biodiversity, mainly due to habitat destruction, but now greatly exacerbated by climate change; the depletion of forests and land degradation; aridity, salinization and the low nutrient levels of our soil; air pollution and acid rain; and the enlarging hole in the ozone layer and increased greenhouse gases. He also came to grief with a number of governmental authorities, because of his criticisms about their failure or inability to address these problems.

His message is clear:

As a species, we are living beyond our means, both economically and environmentally. Current government policy, based on growth economics and an ever-increasing population and consumption, is suicidal, given the fact that Australia has a strictly limited carrying capacity, and will have a detrimental effect on the quality of life and standard of living for future generations.

He advocates:

An attitudinal change from a consumer to a conserver society;

The adoption of a steady state population and economy;

Treatment of the primary cause rather than constant band-aiding;

The decreased use of resources, especially fossil fuels; and

The adoption of renewable energies like wind and sun.

All suggestions being eminently common sense in my mind!

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 A Big Fix: Radical Solutions for Australia’s Environmental Crisis by Ian Lowe 2005

Written over 10 years ago now, this book identifies the major environmental issues facing Australia at the time and suggests recommendations for change, based on a non-growth steady state economy.

In Chapter Two, page 21, he defines a sustainable society as one which will:

prevent damage to the ecosystem services on which all human life depends’, which will ‘protect biodiversity, manage precious resources, prevent pollution and land degradation, and curtail disturbances to the great bio-geochemical cycles of the Earth’ and ‘pay careful attention to population pressures and consumption levels’.

He examines the key resource problems Australia faces:

Oil, upon which our entire transport system is dependent;

Fresh water: for drinking, washing, growing food, cooling over-heated equipment, producing minerals); and

Productive soils for agriculture, due to erosion, salinity and urban expansion;

as well as the notions of social equity and stability, our unique Australian culture, spiritual aspects and planning for our economic future, rather than blindly relying on ‘the magic of the market’.

In Chapter Three, he discusses:

The Great Barrier Reef, ‘Australia’s most outstanding natural asset’ (Page 43), at threat from mainland run-off, trawling and over-fishing and particularly, coral bleaching from rising sea temperatures from climate change, not to mention the risk posed by ships using the waters between the mainland and reef, especially oil tankers and now, quite possibly, Adani coal carriers!;

The Murray-Darling System, ‘Australia’s greatest river system’, upon which the environmental and economic health of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia depend;

Salinity and Land Degradation; and

The Biodiversity Crisis, also to escalate dramatically with

Climate Change, which is also put under the spotlight.

Chapter Four examines the causes of the problems: population; consumption; lifestyle choices and our economic system, while Chapter Five looks at a different more sustainable society with a healthier, more stable population; stable consumption; zero waste; no loss of natural areas, restoration; a low-carbon society; greater equity; better decision-making processes and more mature politics.

He finishes with a look at:

The four major steps to change:

Discontent with the status quo;

Vision for a better future;

Developing feasible pathways to where we want to be; and

Commitment; as well as

Obstacles to change:

Short-Term Thinking;

Incomplete Knowledge;

Technical Hubris: the notion of technical fixes to any problem eg Carbon capture and desalinization plants;

Econo-Mysticism: the faith that pricing will solve problems; and

Cheer-Mongering: the belief that humans can solve any problem; and the

Role of the Mass Media, which is increasingly under the control of a diminishing number of players.

This is a very well-thought out book with a very sensible approach to solving some of our pressing problems and should be essential reading for politicians from both sides of the political spectrum!

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6. Overpopulation

Bigger or Better by Ian Lowe 2012

In my  final book by Ian Lowe, the patron of Sustainable Population Australia, he turns his attention to Australia’s population numbers and the effects of a larger population on our resources and environment, our society and our economy.

He argues that we need to stabilise our population as soon as possible and that Australia cannot support a large population due to its preponderance of dry areas; its unpredictable rainfall; and soils with low nutrients; and the fact that most of the population is concentrated on the narrow coastal eastern seaboard.

He also examines the key stakeholders in the population debate and their agendas, as well as the politics of population growth.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (548)

The argument for the need to stabilise population growth is also supported by :

Dick Smith’s Population Crisis 2011

An excellent publication, written by Dick Smith, a prominent businessman, who knows the business world backwards and warns that we are on a totally unsustainable path with an ever-increasing population and an economy based on ever-expanding consumption.

Unless we stabilise our population as soon as possible, we run the risk of a major crash, whether it is due to climate change, depletion of resources or fossil fuels or pollution.  We really do ignore these warning signals at our peril!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (546)

And finally, two wonderful and comprehensive books, written by two very knowledgeable and committed women!

7. The Big Picture

Making Peace With The Earth by Vandana Shiva 2012

Vandana Shiva, who initially trained as a physicist, is a philosopher, environmental activist, author of over 20 books, educator (see Schumacher College), eco-feminist and one very courageous and strong woman!

She established a research foundation for Science, Technology and Education in 1997 and  is a leader and board member of the International Forum on Globalization (http://ifg.org/), which analyses the cultural, social, political, and environmental impacts of economic globalization, and promotes equitable, democratic, and ecologically sustainable economies.

She also founded a wonderful organization called Nandavya (http://www.navdanya.org/), meaning ‘Nine Seeds’, promoting seed saving, food sovereignty and organic sustainable agriculture and the protection of biological and cultural diversity.

In this book, Vandiva Shiva is highly critical of large transnational corporations (including the Adani Group!), and governments, which support them to the detriment of their own country.

She cites many examples of destructive developments by multinationals in India, which result in the destruction of local economies and dismantling of local communities, with the ever-increasing drift to cities to find work. While she focuses on India in her book, the issues raised are relevant to the whole world.

She also believes that women need to be involved in the democratic process. BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (501)

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein 2014

Another very comprehensive summary of the current environmental challenges the world faces by another very strong woman. She focuses on climate change and the enormous detrimental effects of our economic system on our environment and what we can do about it.

Like Vandiva Shiva, Naomi is very scathing of world trade agreements, which are totally out of synch with talks on climate change, and multinationals, who have no allegiance to anyone or any government and no regard for local environments or peoples.

She also is a very strong feminist, who believes that it is vital that women have more power in the world. There is so much detailed information in this wonderful book that you really have to read it!

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While it is easy to get depressed about the enormous challenges we face, all the books mentioned suggest constructive ways to address these problems and offer hope for the future.

In my final post on environmental books next week, I am focusing on the ways we, as individuals, can make positive changes and live more sustainable lives with lower carbon footprints and less impact on our beautiful fragile planet.

Our Beautiful Earth: Part Four: Natural History Books: Reference Guides

In this post, I will be discussing some fabulous general reference guides to life on earth, including the elements which underpin its very existence: the geology and soils, the weather and climate and lastly, the amazing night sky!

Natural History by Smithsonian Institute 2010

A fabulous door-stopper of a book for anyone interested in natural history and our amazing and unique planet with its huge diversity and extraordinary wealth of plant and animal life – in fact over 1.9 million living species described to date, with more than 20 000 new species discovered and described each year.

It starts with a note on how to use the book, including pointers on size measurements; and plant icons and abbreviations, followed by a general introduction to life on Earth: its geological foundations; evolution of life forms and the classification of organisms. Active geological processes, changing climates, different habitats, human impacts, origins of life, evolution and diversity, natural and artificial selection, animal genealogy and a Tree of Life are all included in this chapter.

The majority of the book is devoted to an amazing in-depth catalogue of 5000 full colour entries, including Minerals, Rocks and Fossils; Microscopic Life Forms; and the Plant, Fungi and Animal Kingdoms.

Each entry has

: a Section Introduction, highlighting the characteristics and behaviours that define the group and discussing their evolution over time, with classification boxes displaying current taxonomic hierarchy and highlighting the level of the group under discussion and a box showing the different groups of species;

: a Group Introduction with key features : distribution, habitat, physical characteristics, life cycle, behaviour and reproductive habits;

: a Species Catalogue with common and scientific names; family; height; essential notes and annotated colour photos, showing relative sizes;    and

: a Feature Profile, which examines single specimens with close-up photographs and side profiles and data sets of size, habitat, distribution and diet.

Almost an essential reference for every library, it is a wonderful guide to the huge diversity of life on earth with all its variety of form, colour, texture, size and function.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (517)Another useful site, particularly for Australian flora and fauna is the Atlas of Living Australia: http://www.ala.org.au/.

Biology: An Australian Focus by Pauline Ladiges, Barbara Evans, Robert Saint and Bruce Knox 2008

Every natural history library should have an academic book devoted to biology, especially if it is a major interest,  and this is a good one, because it has an Australian focus, as well as a student interactive CD-ROM in the back.

It starts from the basics of life with cell biology and energetics and genetics and molecular biology, progressing through to plant form and function; animal form and function; evolution and biodiversity; and ecology, including Australian biota, population ecology, ecosystems and communities, and human impacts.

Plant Form and Function includes reproduction, growth and development of flowering plants; plant structure and nutrition; and plant hormones and growth responses, while Animal Form and Function covers animal reproduction and development; animal and human nutrition;, gas exchange in animals; circulation; water, solutes and excretion; innate defences and the immune system; hormonal control; nervous systems; animal behaviour; and their responses to environmental stress.

Evolution and Biodiversity is a huge chapter, which examines phylogeny and classification systems; the evolving earth (fossils; plate tectonics and continental drift; geological eras and biogeographic regions); and mechanisms of evolution, followed by a detailed look at all the different life forms: bacteria; viruses; protists; plants; fungi; and animals (sponges; jellyfish, sea anemones and corals; flukes and worms; molluscs; insects;  starfish; fish; amphibians; reptiles; birds; mammals; primates and humans).

I really enjoyed the chapter on Australian biota and its evolution from the time when Australia was part of Gondwanaland through the various geological eras and the influence of changing climate and aridity; changing landforms and weathering of soils; increasing frequency of fire; the glacial periods; and the arrival of humans on the continent and their impact. Terrestial and marine environments; the El Nino-Southern Oscillation influence; marine diversity; Australian flora and some of its main families and adaptive characteristics; and our unique fauna, including ancient megafauna, are also discussed in some detail.

The final chapter on human impacts is also very pertinent to Australia and looks at a host of environmental problems and concepts from decreasing biodiversity; biodiversity hotspots; land clearing and fragmentation;  the introduction of new species and the impact of feral animals and weeds; integrated pest management; land and water degradation; soil acidification;  increasing salinity; pollution; the greenhouse effect; climate change; coral bleaching; the illegal trade in endangered species; sustainability; and conservation and restoration ecology.

Being an academic textbook, each chapter concludes with a summary; key terms; self-assessment, review and extension questions and suggestions for further reading. An excellent book for basic biological concepts!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (553)Smithsonian Earth  edited by James F Luhr 2005

Another terrific Smithsonian publication, this time focusing on the Earth !

Its history : geological time; fossils; its building blocks; birth of the solar system; the development of life forms through the various geological eras; the ice ages; and the development of humans, all supported by a tabulated time line at the top of the page.

Its place in space : the universe; the solar system; the relationship between the earth and the sun and moon.

Its anatomy: the earth’s structure, shape, form and layers; the Earth’s magnetic field;  the core, mantle and crust; mineral formation, crystal structure and shape, mineral classification and identification tests; rock types and examples; fossil fuels; and soils: their formation and types.

The changing Earth : plate tectonics, boundaries and movement; weathering and erosion; deposition; mass movement; the impact of meteorites (with examples from all over the world); water (water properties and different forms; the global and local water cycles; and water resources); and life (diversity; evolution; extinctions; biomes and ecosystems; biogeography; nutrient cycles; and threats to biodiversity).

Land features: mountains and volcanoes, fault-lines and hot springs and geysers; rivers and lakes; glaciers and deserts; grasslands and  tundra;  forests and wetlands; and agricultural and urban areas.

Oceans : currents; reefs; polar oceans; oceans of the world; tides and waves; coasts and sea level; and erosional and depositional coastlines.

: Atmosphere : atmospheric structure; energy; circulation; climate regions; climate change; air masses and weather systems; precipitation and clouds; and wind.

: Tectonic Earth : focusing on all the specific earth plates, with details like area, highest and lowest points, major features, major city, and population and boundaries with lots of illustrative examples.

A wealth of information , presented in a very simple and clear format with lots of interesting examples and great photos. This is another essential book for your library!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (531)Australian Volcanoes by Russell Ferrett 2005

Large areas of Eastern Australia have experienced intense volcanic activity over the past 40 Million years, resulting in the creation of many landforms, which have since been eroded to varying degrees. I was fascinated to learn that 16 of Australia’s volcanoes have been formed by the crustal Australian plate moving northward over hotspots in the Bass Strait, with the oldest volcano at 35 Million years old at Hillsborough, Qld and the youngest at less than 10 million years old at Mt Macedon. Also, more disconcertingly, that the Victorian volcanic region is not actually extinct, but has been resting the last 4000 years and could actually become active again!

This book examines the earth’s structure; the different types of volcanic activity in Australia; the types of eruptions; volcanic material (tephra, lava and volcanic rocks and their formation); and types of volcanic landforms (volcanic cones; domes; plains; lava tubes; tumuli; plugs; dykes and sills), before concentrating on specific volcanic features in Australia, many of which we have visited. These include the Atherton Tableland with its crater lakes and Undara Lave Tubes in North Queensland; the Glasshouse Mountains, just north of Brisbane, Queensland, and Mt Warning in Northern New South Wales; the Warrumbungles and Ebor Volcano, New South Wales; Mt Canoblas near Orange, New South Wales; Lord Howe Island and Heard Island; the Organ Pipes National Park; Mt Macedon; the Camperdown district; Tower Hill and Mt Eccles in Victoria; Mt Gambier, South Australia;  Circular Head and Cradle Mountain in Tasmania; and the diamond deposits in Western Australia’s Kimberleys.

It is a fascinating book and explains the formation of all these landforms clearly and simply.

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Rocks and Minerals by Chris Pellant 1992

This is a Collins Eye Witness Visual Guide to over 500 rocks and minerals from around the world. It is a perfect book for rock and gemstone collectors, with introductory chapters on rock collecting; geological maps and field equipment; the home kit and organizing your collection. It then has a section on mineral definition, formation, composition, characteristics (crystal systems, habit, cleavage, fracture, hardness, specific gravity, colour, streak, transparency and lustre) and identification.

The section on rocks covers their formation; types of metamorphism; the characteristics of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks and a rock identification key.

The world of geology is an enormous and complex subject, but this little book explains the basics so well, that it is interesting to even the lay person like myself and it is so important for the natural history lover to have a basic knowledge of rocks and minerals, as they underpin the rest of life itself: the soils, the plants and the animals, which live in each habitat.

Each entry is categorized into its group and there is a short note about each group at the beginning, followed by specifics about each rock and mineral. Coloured tabs at the top and bottom of each mineral entry denote the group to which it belongs, its chemical composition, its hardness, specific gravity and its cleavage and fracture properties.

The main text includes notes on its characteristics, formation, and chemical tests for identification. There are clear photographs, annotated with identification features, and drawings of the visual outline of its crystal system. The igneous rock entries have coloured tabs of its classification group, its origin, grain size, crystal shape, chemical classification, occurrence and colour; the metamorphic rock tabs also include pressure, temperature and structure, while those of the  sedimentary group includes fossils. The main text in the rock entries discusses their chemical composition and content, as well as texture and origin.

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I would really like to have a copy of this book, now that we are living on the South Coast:

A Geological Guide to Canberra Region and Namadgi National Park by Geological Society of Australia (ACT Division) 2009.* See: http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/a-geological-guide-to-canberra-region-and-namadgi-national-park/gs9780646487342.aspx.

Colour in Nature by Penelope A Farrant 1999

A  fascinating book about the world of colour and its manifestation in nature. It combines information from across the board of scientific study: astronomy, geology, zoology, botany and physics.

It starts with a chapter on the nature of colour: its production; perception; visible light; spectroscopy; refraction, reflection, diffraction, interference and absorption; and iridescence and polarisation.

Further chapters explore :

Colour in the universe;

Atmospheric colour : including noctilucent clouds; coloured coronas, double rainbows and auroras;

Colours of the earth’s surface : oceans; rivers; glacial lakes; reflections; precious gems and opals; and different types of rocks and soils;

Colourful habitats :  tropical and subtropical rainforests; deciduous and coniferous forests; polar and mountainous areas; grasslands and deserts; oceans and lakes; and the darkness of caves and the deepest depths;

Leaves : photosynthesis and chlorophyll; other pigments; variegated leaves; Autumn colour of deciduous trees; new Spring growth; and low light habitats;

Flowers and Fruits : evolution of flower colour; inflorescences; variable and changing colour; pigments; environment and colour; pollinator preferences; fruit colours to attract birds; ripening fruits and seed colour;

Seeing in colour: light receptors; simple and compound eyes; adapting to light and dark; seeing underwater; animal eyes; human colour vision and colour blindness;

Animal pigments : skin colour and melanins; colour abnormalities and albinism; and all the different animal pigments with examples in the animal world;

Structural colour in animals : interference; iridescence; background colour; transparency; coloured lights; light regulation; luminescent lures; bioluminescence; nacreous pearls; and blue eyes.

Changing and variable colours : chromatophores; colour change with mood, day and night and camouflage; cuttlefish and chameleons; environmental factors and  visual stimuli; seasonal colour change; sexual colours; changes with age; colour and natural selection;

Survival strategies : camouflage and communication: false colours; warning colours; toxic insects; mimesis and mimicry; and  colour mimics in plants; and finally,

Colour, nature and humans: colour wheels; primary, secondary and tertiary colours; colour harmony and clash; colour in the garden; foliage colour; photography; and natural pigments and dyes.

The world of colour, particularly in nature, is such an enormous and endlessly fascinating field. This book offers a wonderful insight into everything to do with colour and, even though it can be quite complex with so much to know, the text and beautiful photographs help expand that knowledge and understanding of some of the basic concepts, like the colour changes with age and the seasons.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (539)

The Australian Weather Book by Keith Colls and Richard Whitaker 2001

A very important book, given the enormous contemporary challenges of the changing climate! Climate change is upon us, whether we like it or not, and we are only just seeing the tip of the ramifications to come, and yet so many people still stick their heads in the sand and try to deny it, despite the wealth of scientific evidence:  the melting ice caps and sea level rises; the extinction of plant and animal species, changes in migration patterns and the dying of the coral reefs; the higher temperatures; and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events like floods, droughts and fire. I find the denial really hard to understand, given that these people have children and grandchildren, who will not be able to be insulated from the effects of the climate and will have to deal with the problems our generation has created. If one excludes sheer greed or fatalism, the only other excuse is ignorance about the weather and the fact that so many people have been separated from nature and live in controlled urban environments for most of their day. Hence, the importance of this book!!!

It starts with the history of meteorology, followed by notes, accompanied by weather maps, on our diverse Australian climate: its rainfall; temperature; snow and frost; thunderstorms and hail; hours of sunshine and cloud cover; evaporation; drought and flood; tropical cyclones and wind (cyclones and floods being particularly topical and pertinent, given recent weather events!); humidity; and climatic discomfort.

The third chapter discusses the general circulation of the atmosphere: its chemical composition; vertical structure; and global wind circulation, while the following chapters focus on macro-scale circulations (air masses and the forces acting upon them in the atmosphere; weather fronts and low pressure systems; and what those isobars on the nightly TV weather maps mean!); meso-scale circulations (sea breezes, the southerly buster, topographic and downslope winds, eddies and cloudlines) and clouds (their formation and type).

Meteorological instruments (barometers, thermometers, rain gauges, anemometers and weather stations) are discussed, as well as the effects of weather on society and finally, climate change, including its history and theories, greenhouse gases and ozone depletion in the upper atmosphere.

Further reading and websites and a glossary are provided in the back. A very factual and informative book from the Australian  Bureau of Meteorology.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (530)

The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney 2006

For those of you, who wanted more than just one chapter on clouds, here is a whole book, written by the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society in 2004! I love his manifesto, especially his description of clouds as nature’s poetry and an expression of the atmosphere’s mood, as well as his inclusion of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s beautiful poem ‘The Cloud’, which starts :

‘ I am the daughter of Earth and Water and the nursling of the Sky…’!

After photos of the different cloud genera and a cloud classification table, he proceeds to discuss the low clouds: cumulus and cumulonimbus, stratus and stratocumulus; then the middle clouds: altocumulus, altostratus, and nimbostratus; and the high clouds: cirrus, cirrocumulus and cirrostratus.

Each chapter has a guide to spotting that particular cloud type, including a description, its altitude, place of formation, precipitation, species and varieties and confusing look-alikes, as well as lots of interesting information about cloud-associated history, literature, mythology and artwork and their formation and effects. There are also accessory clouds, sidekicks to the 10 main cloud types: pileus, pannus and vellum, as well as supplementary features like tuba, the first sign of a waterspout (which we were lucky enough to see one day at Blue Pool, just south of Bermagui (see photo below), incus, mamma, arcus, virga and precipitatio; and the stratospheric and mesospheric  nacreous and noctilucent clouds.BlogEnvtlBooks2015-01-28 12.32.54There is even a chapter on contrails, formed by high altitude aircraft and their contribution to global warming;  the glider pilot’s cloud surfing nirvana, the Morning Glory of the Gulf Savannah region of North Queensland; and a cloudspotter’s quiz, in which you should be able to get full marks after reading this entertaining and informative book!

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It really makes you appreciate the beauty of our daytime skies with their ever-changing array of clouds!  For our wondrous star-studded nighttime skies, I have three books:

The Night Sky by Steve Massey 2003/ 2007

A very practical guide to observing the sun, moon and planets.

It starts with a concise history of astronomy, followed by a guide to understanding how and where stars and planets are placed and can be found in the sky.

Part Two examines observing the solar system and everything concerning the sun and the moon, including solar and lunar eclipses, solar flares, sunspots, earthshine, the moon phases and the craters and geography of the moon.

Planets are discussed in order of their respective orbits or distance from the sun, starting with mercury and ending with the furthermost planet, Pluto. Each planetary chapter starts with a table, detailing salient details like its visual diameter, axial tilt, magnitude, number of known moons, distance from the earth and the sun, orbital period and primary atmospheric composition. It’s a mind-boggling field, even more confusing than geology and geological time periods! Information is included on observing each planet, their structure, surface markings and rings or moons and their transits.

There are also chapters on asteroids, comets, meteors and meteor showers, as well as an in-depth section on using the tools of the trade: telescopes, refractors, reflectors, catadioptric designs, focusers, finderscopes, collimation, telescope mounts and axis drives, drive motors, eye pieces, lenses and filters and even binoculars; as well as recording your findings with sketches, conventional film photography, CCD imaging, digital cameras and video recorders.

Throughout the book are beautiful photos, as well as clear explanatory diagrams. A very useful book for the home astronomer.

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The Book of Constellations by Robin Kerrod 2002

The night sky has been a constant wonder to peoples from all cultures and time periods and has inspired a large number of myths and legends, which are explored in this book, as well as a wealth of factual information about each heavenly body and information about locating it in the night sky.

I love all the names of the constellations and all the history and mythology behind them. Apparently, there are 88 constellations (finalised worldwide in 1930), 48 of which were recognized by Ptolemy and the Ancient Greeks in 200 AD. While the Greeks were responsible for the names of the constellations, the Arabs named many of the bright stars like Betelgeuse in Orion and Aldebaran in Taurus.

The book explores the concept of the celestial sphere with maps of the northern and southern constellations; the constellations of the zodiac (12); and the major constellations (33) and planets.

Each double page spread includes the mythology behind each constellation; its astronomical features; its location in the night sky; and a constellation map showing the main stars, linked together by a fanciful image of the name of the constellation group.

It is a fascinating book and introduced me to many new constellations, of which I had never heard, as well as informing me about the more familiar ones!  I was amazed to learn that the Ancient Babylonians and Greeks were far enough south to see the Southern Cross, our most famous Australian constellation, and that the little cluster of coloured stars, which can be seen with the naked eye and through binoculars, at the base of left-hand cross, close to Beta, is called the Jewel Box. BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (550)

Incidentally, the Australian aborigines had their own mythological stories about the night sky and often saw patterns in the negative space between the stars like The Emu in the Sky and the Seven Sisters that make up the star cluster known as the Pleiades, in the constellation Taurus. See: http://www.emudreaming.com/whatis.htm and https://japingkaaboriginalart.com/articles/star-dreaming-seven-sisters/.

There are also two books about aboriginal astronomy:

Emu Dreaming: An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal Astronomy  by Ray and Cilla Norris 2008. See: http://www.emudreaming.com/book.htm  and

Night Skies of Aboriginal Australia- A Noctuary by Dianne Norris 1998 / 2014. See: http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/night-skies-of-aboriginal-australia—a-noctuary/sy9781743323878.aspx.

The Box of Stars by Catherine Tennant 1993

A similar publication in content to Robin Kerrod’s book, but with a slight different approach, using a lovely little boxed set of 32 cards called  Urania’s Mirror, originally hand-painted by ‘a lady’ and published in London in 1825.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (528) Each card is pierced with holes, which mark the stars of the constellation and which glitter when held up to the light, acting as a learning guide to each constellation.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (532) - CopyThere is also a small booklet with night sky maps of the northern and southern hemispheres and seasonal descriptions of the stars, including lists of cards to use during that time.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (532) - Copy - Copy Each card is further discussed with information about each constellation, its location and the mythology behind it. It complements the previous book well.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (534) - CopyBlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (535) - CopyThe Australian Sky by WJ Newell 1965

I am including this tiny little Jacaranda Pocket Guide, despite its age and the fact that some of its information is no doubt out-of-date (!), because its explanations are so good and easy to understand. Each constellation is covered in great depth and while it also covers the mythology behind the stars, it seems to have more information about the actual stars, especially in relation to the Australian night sky!BlogEnvtlBooks50%Image (646)

I feel astronomy is such a vast and complicated subject, one can never have enough books or guides and each one has a slightly different slant. Finally, here are some excellent websites on this subject:

http://www.abc.net.au/science/starhunt/

http://www.scitech.org.au/the-sky-tonight

https://maas.museum/observations/category/monthly-sky-guides/

http://asv.org.au/

https://astronomy.org.au/general/sky-guides/.

And lastly, a good atlas is essential in any well-stocked home library! In fact, you probably need at least three or four atlases in a lifetime, as borders are constantly changing, as well as environmental challenges, and cities and populations are always growing!

We were given The Times Atlas of the World as a wedding present back in 1983 and it served us well, particularly for the two overseas trips we made over the following ten years, but since then the European landscape has totally changed. Yugoslavia no longer exists, having been replaced by Slovenia, Croatia, Boznia-Herzgovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia; Czechoslovakia is now two countries: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic; while East Germany and West Germany are now the one Germany; and White Russia is now called Belarus.

So, in 2014, we decided we needed to update our library and update bought a new atlas:

Philip’s Atlas of the World: In Association with The Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers

While not as large as our original atlas, a distinct advantage, given the Times Atlas was an absolute whopper (!), this new atlas is incredibly comprehensive with a wealth of interesting information about our wonderful world!

The frontispiece features a Key to World Map Pages (including Keys to City Map Symbols and World Map Symbols; and World Maps Elevation and Depth Tints), while inside the back cover is a Key to European Map Pages and a World Country Index.

The atlas starts with a User Guide and Statistics for Countries (Area, in square kilometres or miles; Population; Capital City and Annual Income) and Cities (population figures), followed by large sections on :

The Future of the Oceans and Seas: Temperature; Salinity; Oceans and Carbon Dioxide; Oceanic Conveyor Belts; Ocean Currents; the Coriolis Effect; Oceans and Resources; Overfishing; Aquaculture; Oil; Dead Zones; Red Tides; Waste Material; Plastic; Ocean Acidification; and Rising Sea Levels.

Satellite Images of the Earth

Gazetteer of Nations (alphabetically organized):  Geography; Politics and Economy; and Key Statistics: area, population, capital city, ethnic groups as a percentage, languages, religions, currency; and a small map and flag.

World Geography:

The Universe: Life of a Star; Black Holes; Galactic Structures; the Home Galaxy; the End of the Universe; the Nearest Stars, with distances in light-years; Star Charts for both hemispheres; and a List of Constellations.

The Solar System: Planetary orbits; Planetary Data (Mean distance from the sun; mass; period of orbit; period of rotation; equatorial diameter; average density; surface gravity ;and number of known satellites); and descriptions of each planet.

Seasons, Time and Motion: The Seasons; Day and Night; Earth Data: distance from the sun; angle of tilt; length of year; superficial area; land and water surfaces; equatorial and polar circumference,s diameters and radii; and volume and mass; Sunrise and Sunset; the Moon and Moon data : Distance from the Earth; Size and mass; Visibility; and Temperature; Phases of the Moon; Eclipses; Tides; and a map of Time Zones and the International Date Line.

Geology of the Earth:

Model of the Earth; Continental Drift; Plate Tectonics; Distribution of Volcanoes; Geological Time Periods; a Map of Earthquake Zones; and a List of Major Earthquakes since 1900.

The Atmosphere:

Structure of the Atmosphere; Circulation of the Air; Frontal Systems; Chemical Composition; Air Masses; Classification of Clouds; Maps of Pressure and Surface Winds and Weather Records for barometric pressure (minimum and maximum); fastest wind speed; windiest place; and worst storm and tornado.

Climate: Climate and Weather Terms;  Maps of Climatic Regions, Temperatures and Precipitation; Temperature and Rainfall Figures; Beaufort Wind Scale;  Monsoons; and Climate Records (minimum and maximum temperatures and precipitation; longest heatwave; driest and wettest places; and heaviest hailstones and snowfall).

Climate Change and Global Warming: Maps of World Carbon Dioxide Emissions per capita; and Annual Average Surface Air Temperatures and Annual Average Precipitation; Models of Regional Climate Change and Projected Changes in Global Warming; and Diagrams of Recent and Future Sea-Level Changes and Arctic Sea Ice.

Water and Vegetation: The Hydrological Cycle; Water Distribution; Annual Sediment Yield; Longest Rivers; and Maps, showing Water Scarcity and Natural Vegetation throughout the world.

Biodiversity and the Natural World: World Maps of Threatened Animal Species and Environmental Hotspots; a Map of Australia’s Introduced Species (rabbits, foxes and cane toads) and the Value of Nature (provisioning, supporting, regulating and cultural services).

Population: World Maps of Population Density and Population Change; Diagrams and Graphs of World and Nation Income; Population by Continent; Japan’s Ageing Population; and World Population Change over Time; and Data Sets of the Largest Nations; Most Crowded Nations; Least Crowded Nations; and Fastest Growing and Declining Populations.

Food Supply: Water; Fertilizers; Demand for Meat; Pests, Diseases and Weeds; Genetic Modification; World Crop Production and Global Land Usage; Land Management; and Future Potential.

Cities: World Maps of Urban Population and Urbanization of the Earth over time; Graphs of World Urbanization, Urban Advantages (mortality/ literacy) and City Growth; the Largest Cities; Slum Cities; Sustainable Cities; and a List of Cities with over 10 Million inhabitants. Apparently, in 2008, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lived in cities.

The Human Family: World Maps of World Migration; Refugees; and Predominant Languages and Religions.

Conflict and Cooperation: World Maps of the Global Peace Index and International Organizations; and Bar Graphs showing Refugee Numbers and Military Spending.

Energy:  World Maps of Energy Balance (the difference between energy production and consumption), Energy Production, and Oil Movements; Bar Graphs of World Energy Consumption and Energy Reserves (oil, gas and coal); Data Sets of Nuclear Power, Hydroelectricity and Wind Power; Peak Oil; Fracking; and Alternative Energy Sources (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and biomass).

Minerals: World Map of Mineral Distribution; and Figures and Bar Charts for Specific Minerals (diamonds, blood diamonds; uranium; iron ore; rare earth elements and scrap metals).

Employment and Industry: World Maps of Employment, Industry and Trade, Unemployment, and Tourism and Travel; an Employment Pie Chart; the Percentage of Men and Women in Employment in Selected Countries; and a List of the World’s Busiest Airports.

Trade: World Maps of World Trade, Dependence on Trade (exports as a percentage of GDP), Globalization, Trade in Primary Exports and the Balance of Trade; a Bar Chart showing Traded Products, Pie Charts for Major Exports; and the Globalization Index.

Health: Millienium Development Goals; World Maps of Food Consumption and Infant Mortality; Bar Charts focusing on AIDS; Causes of Death, Medical Provision, Access to Safe Water, Sanitation, and Malaria; and Data Lists on Maternal Mortality Rates and Expenditure on Health in Selected Countries.

Wealth: World Maps of Income Levels, Inflation, and Growth in GNI; Bar Charts showing Indicators for Different Income Levels (high, middle and low), and Extreme Poverty; a Pie Chart for Continental Shares of Population and Wealth; State Finance; and Tackling Poverty.

Standards of Living: World Maps of Indexes for  Human Development and Gender Inequality; and Bar Charts showing Education Levels (primary, secondary and tertiary) in Selected Countries; the Distribution of Spending; Fertility and Education; and Gender Equality.

The next major section contains street maps of all the major world cities in alphabetical order, and then finally, we reach the main World Map Section: world maps of the physical and political world, including thicknesses and depths of the continental plates and oceans; followed by maps of each continent and individual countries.

It finishes with a geographical glossary and an index to all the World Maps with latitudes and longitudes, abbreviations and notes on pronunciation. An excellent publication!BlogEnvtlBooks20%Image (645)

Next week, I am discussing rose pruning, a timely topic since we have just finished pruning all our roses, ready for their new growth in Spring! We will then resume our book posts with the final parts of Our Beautiful Earth: Natural History Books, with two posts on the environmental challenges our special planet faces and measures we can take as individuals to help the situation, before finishing the cold season with a post on our Winter Garden.

Our Beautiful Earth: Part Three: Natural History Books: Animals and Marine Life

Following on from my last post about books on birds and butterflies are publications about other fascinating wildlife in our environment from reptiles to our unique Australian mammals and finally, the wonderful and endlessly fascinating marine life on our coast.

Reptiles

With all their beautiful diversity and colour, it is very difficult to comprehend that birds originated from dinosaurs, but reptiles are much less of a stretch of the imagination! We have a large number of poisonous snakes in Australia, as well as lots of lizards, so a good reptile guide is an important part of any natural history library!

A Complete Guide to Reptiles of Australia by Steve Wilson and Gerry Swan  2003

Our most recent acquisition and a second-hand copy of a book, which we have wanted for a long time, this field guide is a very comprehensive look at the 836 named species of : crocodiles; sea and freshwater turtles; geckoes, lizards and skinks; dragons and monitors (goannas); and a wide variety of sea and land snakes, which live on continental Australia, Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island.

The book begins with notes on using the guide; a glossary; anatomical illustrations; and brief notes on their environment, followed by detailed chapters on each reptile family with general notes, genus notes and species entries. Each of the latter is described on the left-hand page, including the common and scientific name; a distribution map; a description of its physical appearance and length specifications; notes about its behaviour, diet and habitat; and its conservation status. Particular diagnostic features are highlighted in bold type. The right-hand page is devoted to excellent photographs of each species in its natural habitat.

I never knew there were so many different kinds of snakes in Australia, and while I am quite happy to steer a wide berth, they can be very beautiful and they do play an important role in Australia’s ecology.

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Mammals

Mammals are a totally different story! The cuddly koala, quaint wombats and cute little pygmy possums and gliders are iconic Australian animals, much beloved by the general public, though often difficult to see in the wild due to their nocturnal habits. The next two books are excellent identification guides to our unique Australian animals.

The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals Edited by Ronald Strahan 1983

This large tome is the coffee table guide, which you consult at home! Here in Australia, we have some fascinating and very old mammalian fauna from the egg-laying monotremes, the platypus and echidna, and the amazing pouched marsupials (carnivorous; omnivorous; and herbivorous), both of which are descendants of the days when Australia was still part of Gondwanaland, to the more modern placental mammals (including bats and fruit bats; mice and rats; marine mammals; and introduced mammals).

Each subclass is described in great depth, with single or double page spreads devoted to each species and superb photographs of each animal in its natural environment, except for the extinct Thylacine and Julia Creek Dunnart.

Each species entry has an italicized sidebar with details on size and weight; identification; synonyms and common names; conservation status (though this information would now be greatly out-of-date, many more species now being in a much direr state with the impacts of habitat destruction, feral animals and now climate change!); subspecies; extralimital distribution; and references.

The main text discusses their physical appearance; history; distribution and preferred habitat; diet; behaviour; reproduction and offspring; and threats to their survival.

They are all such unique and interesting creatures and it is vitally important that we do everything in our power to preserve the rapidly dwindling diversity of marsupial species, which we are currently lucky enough to have here in Australia.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (514)

Key Guide to Australian Mammals by Leonard Cronin 1991/ 1997

A much more compact field guide, ideal for the bushwalker and naturalist! In the front is a basic visual key, which refers readers to the pertinent pages. Animals have been categorized into subheadings: monotremes; carnivorous marsupials; bandicoots; wombats; koalas and possums; kangaroos; bats; rodents; sea mammals; and dingoes.

Each double page spread has text on the left, covering two species, with a distribution map for each and colour illustrations on the right, with the scientific name of each species.

The text includes information on the common and scientific names; physical appearance, size and weight; behaviour; development; food; habitat and conservation status.

Ross has used this book a lot, judging by all the notes he has scribbled on his sightings throughout the book!

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It is also worth looking out for books on specific Australian animals, which are part of the Australian Natural History Series, originally published by New South Wales University Press and now produced by the CSIRO. See: http://www.publish.csiro.au/books/series/48. They cover a wide variety of Australian animals from birds (kookaburras; magpies; cockatoos; bowerbirds; herons; albatross; scrub turkeys; bustards; tawny frogmouths and wedge-tailed eagles) and sea mammals (whales, sea lions and fur seals) to dingoes; kangaroos; tree kangaroos; potoroos and betongs; native mice and rats; echidnas; platypus and wombats.

We love our local wombats, such bumbling, amiable trundle-buses, so vulnerable to fast-moving night traffic, and were thrilled to watch platypus, feeding  in broad daylight, at a local stream recently, so both the following books are valuable additions to our natural history library.

The Wombat: Common Wombats in Australia by Barbara Briggs 1988/ 1990

This small publication contains everything you want to know about wombats from their evolution and early history; their classification; physical characteristics; burrows; behaviour and daily life in the burrow and above ground; its life cycle from birth to old age; the risk factors wombats face from disease to environmental (predation; flood; drought; fire) and man-induced hazards (poisoning; land clearing; and road deaths); and finally, raising orphaned wombats.

I love the pencil sketches by Ross Goldingay of these endearing creatures, as well as the many black-and-white and colour photographs. In the back are appendices of growth and development tables and the dos and don’ts of hand rearing orphaned wombats, as well as an excellent bibliography.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (668) - Copy

I was fascinated to learn the following facts about wombats:

Wombats evolved 100 Million years ago, the oldest fossils being 24 Million years old;andthe largest wombat ever was Phascolonus gigas, weighing up to 100 Kg (at least twice the size of modern wombats!)

There are currently three species: the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat Lasiorhinus krefftii, which is critically endangered and is confined to a small colony in Epping Forest National Park, Central Queensland; the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat Lasiorhinus latifrons, now confined to the Nullabor Plain and a few semi-arid areas of South Australia; and the Common Wombat Vombatus ursinus, the subject of this book and found in South-Eastern Australia and Tasmania.

It is the only marsupial to have two incisor teeth in its upper jaw and their teeth are continuously growing throughout its life, which is reassuring, given their diet of tough grasses, sedges and even bark and dry leaves.

Burrows can be up to 30 metres long and are used by a number of wombats on a time-share basis. They can live up to 10 to 15 years old in the wild and 20 to 25 years old in captivity.

Wombats enjoy dust baths, known as wombat wallows, and slide down steep river banks and snow slopes. They are also efficient swimmers over short distances, dogpaddling silently with their short legs under the water with no splashing at all! I would love to see a wombat gliding silently through the water, however platypus viewing is much more likely! On a recent visit to Bombala and Delegate, we watched 4 platypuses in two different streams, such a thrill given they are more commonly seen at dawn and dusk!

The Platypus: A Unique Mammal by Tom Grant 1989.

Another excellent publication, which covers their physical characteristics; taxonomy;  and distribution and status in the first chapter, after which the book is divided into seasonal chapters:

Winter : Diet and Body temperature regulation;

Spring : Floods; Reproduction; and Social organization and the crural system

Summer : Milk; Burrows and their use; Adaptations to burrowing and diving; growth; location of position and of food; and the environmental impact of dams.

Autumn : Population studies; disease and mortality; age; juvenile dispersal and movements.

In the back is a species profile and bibliography and again, the book is full of excellent photographs, and diagrams and pencil sketches by Dominic Fanning.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (667) - Copy

Mammal Tracks and Signs: A Field Guide For South-eastern Australia by Barbara Triggs 1984

Because many Australian animals are nocturnal, we often don’t see them in the wild unless we are out and about, spotlighting at nighttime, but we often see signs of them in their scats, tracks and evidence of foraging activities, as well as unfortunately the all-too- often and disastrously plentiful road kill!

There are four keys provided : a key to tracks at the beginning of the book; a key to scats; a key to skulls; and finally, a key to shelters. Each key refers to the pertinent pages for each species.

There is an introductory chapter concerning where to look; the structure of feet; gaits; scats and their analysis and the identification of animals from their bones.

The rest of the book is divided into the different mammal types, including their tracks, scats (including diagnostic features), shelters, bones and skulls and species. There are distribution maps, including preferred habitat; black-and-white photos; excellent illustrations of tracks, scats and skulls; and useful tables specifying the lengths of the hind foot, toe print, and stride when hopping and punting, essential for separating out large kangaroos from large wallabies, small wallabies and rat-kangaroos!

It is a very detailed and complex field and this book is invaluable! At the end is a list of useful books and journals for further reading.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd40%Image (525)

Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Hadoram Shirihai and Brett Jarrett 2006

A must, given that we now live so close to the coast and an excellent lead-in to my next category! We always get so excited when we see a whale spouting or breaching close in to our local coastline or a pod of dolphins surfing the waves or encounter a seal unexpectedly on a wild deserted beach.

Every year, Humpbacks and Southern Right Whales migrate north from the Antarctic Ocean, up the eastern coastline of Australia, to the warmer subtropical waters of Queensland from June to August (Winter), then return home with their calves from September to November. Their annual migration covers a journey of 10 000 km. See: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/humpback-whales-eastern-australia and https://www.wildaboutwhales.com.au/whale-facts/about-whales/whale-migration. The latter site even has a Whale App, which records the latest sightings. See: http://www.wildaboutwhales.com.au/app.

In our area on the Far South Coast of New South Wales, Green Cape is a particularly good spot to see them, as it juts so far out into the sea and the path of the whales, that it is possible to get a really good look at them up close. They are such beautiful, huge, gentle and highly intelligent mammals, so it is great to have a field guide, not only for our Australian species, but all the different types of whales around the world!

Each entry has a feature box covering basic information to aid identification, like scientific name; range; maximum size and physical appearance and typical behaviour on surfacing, as well as notes on variations (age/ sex/ individuals); similar species; distribution and population; and ecology (behaviour, breaching, diving, diet, reproduction, immatures and life span), all accompanied by superb photographs and maps.

The dolphin and seal sections have a similar format. I never knew there were so many different types of dolphins, including estuarine and river dolphins (Amazon River, South America; Ganges River, India; Yangtse River, China and the Irrawaddy Dolphins of South-East Asia). This book also explains the differences between dolphins and porpoises, which are closely related, but have different teeth, patterns and pigmentations, range and behaviours.

I also learnt that not all seals are the same! Fur seals (our type of seal) and sea lions are eared seals (external ear flaps), while true seals only have a small ear canal with no earflap. Their anatomy and agility on land is also very different, but you will have to read the book to learn more!

There is so much information in this book about the 129 species of marine mammals worldwide! It even covers the old mermaids of delirious sex-starved sailors : the dugongs, sea-cows and manatees of tropical waters , as well as arctic animals like walrus, otters and polar bears. It finishes with a list of prime marine mammal sites for viewing all these animals in their natural environments and a conservation checklist for all the different species.

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Now for more on marine life…!!!

Having lived in the country for most of our lives, we feel so lucky here in Candelo to have excellent access to the coast, especially one with such natural unspoilt beauty, protected by National Park status. Having grown up in Tasmania, it is so lovely to be able to still experience beaches in their natural state without a house or building in sight, an increasing rarity these days, with the increased population and urbanization of our coastline, especially on the mainland.

Marine Life

When I was a teenager, my parents developed our interest in natural history by encouraging collecting as a hobby. I collected Tasmanian shells, which I swapped with fellow conchologists in New Zealand and Queensland, while my sisters collected gemstones and butterflies and my brother, rocks. I had a set of special narrow drawers, lined with cotton wool, as well as a glass display cabinet, to store my shells, which I labelled with their scientific names and sorted into family and genus groups.

We spent many fascinating hours, head down and walking slowly along beaches, searching for the best example of a particular shell, as well as marvelling at the rich rock pool environment. Along the way, I learned so much about their natural history, as well as that of their fellow marine life: the seaweeds , algae, coral and plankton; sea tulips and cunjevoi;  the sea slugs and sea hares; the sponges, sea anemones, starfish and chitons and all the tough survivors of the littoral zone, not to mention the fish, larger sea mammals and sea birds. I love the fact that the sea can still astound and surprise us with new discoveries constantly being made! These books were indispensable to my education.

What Shell is That by Neville Coleman 1975

A good all-rounder for an appreciation of shells as living animals, it covers 750 common species of Mollusca, which are divided up into the different types of environment, in which they are found, including mud and mangroves; rocky reefs; coral reefs; sand and rubble; continental shelf and ocean pelagics.

It contains photographs, both of the shells and the living animals in their natural environment, which makes for easy identification. Each species entry contains its family name; common name and scientific name, as well as a brief description of its physical appearance, distribution and abundance. As you can see, it was a very well-used book!

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Australian Shells by BR Wilson and K Gillett 1971

This subtitle of lovely book is ‘Illustrating and Describing 600 Species of Marine Gastropods From Australian Waters’ and it certainly delivers!

Gastropods are just one of six classes of the phylum Mollusca, but it is the largest with over 90 000 living marine, freshwater and terrestrial snail and slug species. The other classes are : Monoplacophora (only 2 to 3 very deep water limpet-like molluscs); Amphineura (chitons; several hundred species); Bivalvia (bivalves; 15 000 species); and Cephalopoda (octopus, squid and nautilus; several hundred species).

Gastropoda is divided into three subclasses: Prosobranchiata; Opisthobranchiata and PulmonataProsobranchiata includes most of the marine and a large number of the land snails. They have gills in the mantle cavity and most are able to seal the aperture with an operculum. Opisthobranchiata includes marine snails and slugs like bubble shells, sea hares and nudibranchs, where the shell is commonly reduced or absent and all are hermaphroditic.  Pulmonata includes all the hermaphroditic land snails and slugs, which lack an operculum and gills and breathe by means of a lung, which is a modified mantle cavity. All the molluscs in this book are marine prosobranchs.

There is a large section on gastropod anatomy; feeding; and reproduction and development, followed by an examination of its shell – the composition; shape; colours and patterns; and growth and age.

The book then describes the different geographical distribution zones: Northern Australian; Southern Australian; Eastern and Western Overlap zones and their affinities with certain gastropod species ; discusses shell collecting practices and gives a list of relevant books and journals.

The majority of the book is devoted to the different gastropod families, with the left page covering general notes, then entries about specific species, including a description; date discovered; size; abundance and distribution; and the right page featuring photographs of each species. Throughout the book are also photographs of the living creatures with the most amazingly patterned feet, especially the volutes (the Amoria genus in particular)! The underwater world is endlessly fascinating!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (575)Australian Seashores by W. J. Dakin 1976

The original Australian seashore bible!

Part One covers the physical elements: the sea, the tides and ocean waves; the sculpture of the coastline; the pasture of the sea, plankton; and  luminescence, camouflage and living colour!  and

Part Two looks at the seashore life : the zones of animal and plant life; seaweeds and sponges; jellyfish, anemones, blue-bottles and corals; worms and worm-like creatures; sea-mats and sea-mosses; crustaceans (lobsters, crabs, prawns, sea slaters and sandhoppers);  and barnacles; molluscs, including sea hares, nudibranches and sea slugs; echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers); sea squirts (cunjevoi and ascidians) and finally, flotsam and jetsam.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (516)

WJ Dakin’s Classic Study: Australian Seashores by Isobel Bennett 1987

This revision of Dakin’s book has many more photos and maps, which support the text admirably. For example, the chapter on The Sculpture of a Coastline, with its original diagrams illustrating coastline features, zones and rock platforms, comes alive with the new addition of photographs of concrete examples from different coastlines around Australia. The different zones of the seashore and all the different plants and animals are even easier to understand with all the supporting photographs.

The other big advantage of this book, especially when it comes to identification of the latest new discovery, is its use of colour photographs, compared to the black-and-white photos of the old book. So, this is definitely the version to get!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (519)Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells by Helen Scales 2015

A very readable paperback, which brings the seashore to life with all its wondrous diversity, randomness and infinite possibilities.  The author’s enthusiasm and passion for her subject shines through – she must have had so much fun doing all the research for this book!

She explores a wide variety of shell-related topics from their prehistory and anatomy; shell architecture and building; human use of shells (currency; funerals; jewellery; symbolism; and seafood); the oyster industry; hermit crabs; spinning sea-silk (of which I had never heard , but found fascinating!); ammonites and argonauts; shell mania; the coral triangle; nautilus fisheries; shell collecting; the venomous cone shells; and the sea butterfly effect!

I hope I have whetted your curiosity for further reading of this interesting little book!

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Next week, I am featuring some excellent general reference guides to life on earth, covering the geology and soils, the weather and climate and lastly, the amazing night sky!

Our Beautiful Earth: Part Two: Natural History Books : Birds and Butterflies

One of the wonderful benefits of a garden, apart from beautiful flowers and fresh home-grown food, are all its other inhabitants – the interesting insects and spiders, the beautiful butterflies and the amazing bird life! We are always finding something new, both in our garden and our explorations of this beautiful area, which is so rich in natural history! Because the insect world is so vast, we have yet to find a good general guide on Australian insects and possibly never will! I suspect that it is probably easier to research and identify them from internet sites like :

http://anic.ento.csiro.au/insectfamilies/ ;

https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/Collections/ANIC/ID-Resources

http://www.ozanimals.com/australian-insect-index.html    and

https://australianmuseum.net.au/insects .

However, butterflies are a particular love of mine and there are a number of excellent publications!

I have always adored butterflies. They are such fragile ephemeral creatures, yet remarkably tough to survive at all and have such beautiful patterns, both as adults and caterpillars, and interesting life cycles, their emergence from their pupas being quite miraculous! While we have a number of butterflies in our garden here in Candelo, like the majestic Orchard Butterfly, we particularly loved their colourful cousins in Tropical North Queensland, like the iridescent-aqua Ulysses Butterfly, the pursuit of whose image resulted in my daughter falling through old rotten verandah boards and damaging her leg! In 2008, we were lucky enough to visit Iron Range National Park, a biological hotspot, not just for birds, but also butterflies, where we watched butterfly expert and James Cook University lecturer, Peter Valentine, in a crane, netting species in the tops of tall trees, while being kissed on our hands by salt-hungry butterflies – a very special moment! So, we could definitely identify with the author of this book:

An Obsession With Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell 2003

This paperback is a fascinating read about equally fascinating creatures!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (554) - Copy

I learnt so much about them, including some of the following facts:

Butterflies belong to the Order Lepidoptera, which contains 18 000 known species of butterflies and 147 000 species of moths. This was back in 2003. There are more species identified now – see later!  Apparently, their appearance can morph within a gender; within different populations and habitats, and even within the same place at different times of the year, which makes identification a very difficult task indeed!!!

They have wonderful names like owls; birdwings; apollos; hamadryads; satyrs; jezebels; tortoiseshells; milkweeds; snouts; fritillaries; painted ladies, admirals, buckeyes, checkerspots ; crescents; moonbeams; brimstones; sulphurs; hairstreaks; swordtail flashes; metalmarks; coppers; cornelians; ceruleans; azures; oak blues;  imperial blues; emperors and even, white albatrosses.

In the Middle Ages, people believed buterfloeges were fairies in disguise, who stole butter, cream and milk.

Lord Rothschild (1868 – 1937) had a butterfly collection of 2.25 Million butterflies and moths, which he bequeathed to the British Museum, London, making it the largest collection in the world at that time.

2000 species of butterflies exhibit myrmecophily (a love of ants), where ants will maintain and protect larvae from parasitic wasp attack, in exchange for honeydew secreted by glands on the caterpillars eg. Bright Coppers and other blue butterfly species.

On emerging from its chrysalis, the Tiger Swallowtail engages in puddling or salt-drinking at muddy puddles with their bar buddies, who then practice hilltopping behaviour, where they congregate at the top of the hill to lie in wait for unsuspecting (or usually, not so unsuspecting) females to mate! While waiting, they engage in spiral territorial fights trying to establish dominance, all the while keeping a lookout for females! Not that different to humans really!

Monarch butterflies in Canada and Northern USA overwinter in Mexico. They can fly in clouds at altitudes as high as 3000 feet and as far as 50 miles a day. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9rZz3fILt4 and https://www.mexperience.com/travel/outdoors/monarch-butterflies-mexico/.

We also have migratory butterflies in Australia. See: http://www.qm.qld.gov.au/Find+out+about/Animals+of+Queensland/Insects/Butterflies+and+moths/Common+species/Migratory+Butterflies#.WMh7e2fj_IU and https://australianmuseum.net.au/caper-white-butterfly.

I remember sitting on our east-facing verandah at Dorrigo and watching hordes of Caper Whites, flying west up the escarpment, then up over our roof and ever onward. And they weren’t just hill-topping- there were too many of them!!! If this book has whetted your appetite to know more about butterflies, it is worth obtaining a comprehensive guide.

We actually possess three : Butterflies of Australia by IFB Common and DF Waterhouse 1972/ 1981; The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia by Michael F Braby 2004; and The Butterflies of Australia by Albert Orr and Roger Kitching 2010 . The first one is Ross’s old classic; the second, a more recent field guide, a perfect weight and size to carry with you on your butterfly walks; and the third and most recent, written by one of Ross’s ecology lecturers, when he studied environmental science at Griffith University, back in 1976 to 1978. This latter book is the one we tend to use most, so is the one I will discuss!

The Butterflies of Australia by Albert Orr and Roger Kitching 2010

This is an excellent book – very comprehensive, with clear readable text and lots of wonderful illustrations of butterflies in the field, reacting with their natural environment, rather than as dead museum specimens (the usual presentation in previous guides). If you can only own one butterfly guide, this is it!

As of 2010, in Australia, there are over 20 000 species of butterflies and moths, arranged in 82 families. The majority are moths, but the 400 species of butterflies are grouped in five families.

In Part One, the book discusses their anatomy; life cycle, reproduction, habitats, relationships with  plants and other animals and human impacts and butterfly gardening.

The larger Part Two is devoted to an in-depth discussion of each family, including identification notes about all the different species, including scientific name, size and habits, as well as a distribution map and illustrations of each species at each life cycle stage: egg, larvae (caterpillar); chrysalis (pupa); and adult male or female.

In the back is a list of butterfly books; journals; websites and societies; and two appendices : a checklist of Australian butterflies; and a list of larval host plants of Australian butterflies.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (518)

Birds

Another major interest is ornithology and we are so lucky here in Candelo with our beautiful bird population. Living high on the hill in amongst the old pepperina and loquat trees, we have an excellent vantage point for watching these amazing creatures, especially from our verandah. Not only do we have parrots and cockatoos in abundance, but also a number of smaller birds, like fairy wrens, finches and eastern spinebills, despite the high local population of cats!

Our immediate environment on the Far South Coast of New South Wales is very rich in birdlife as well, which I will write more about later in reference to local bird guides, but for now, a look at more general guides!

Every birdwatcher has their favourite bird book, which they believe is superior to all others! While my parents swore by Peter Slater and other ornithologists liked Graham Pizzey (both books, which we have owned in the past!), these days, we tend to refer to Simpson and Day as our first choice, followed by Michael Morecombe’s book for more detailed information and the Reader’s Digest Guide for top photographs.

Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Simpson and Day   1984 – 1996     5th EditionBlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (505)

This is an excellent field guide with a waterproof cover, ideal for using outside! The introduction has a key to all the families and their page numbers, as well as a diagram of a bird’s body and information on bird identification using this book.

Most of the book is devoted to field notes about each bird species: its common and scientific names; abundance; movement (sedentary, annual or partial migratory and nomadic) ; description of males, females and juveniles; size; voice; and habitat, as well as excellent colour illustrations of each bird (male/ female/ immature/ races) and maps showing distribution (breeding/ non-breeding and vagrant, as well as boundary lines between races). Special identifiable features are also highlighted with black-and-white sketches of their hatchlings; head profiles; markings; tail patterns; eyes, bills and claws; or activity (display and courtship; flight; perching; calling; diving; stalking) for quick easy reference.

The Handbook in the last quarter of the book has detailed notes on the life cycle of birds; hints for bridwatchers; bird habitats in Australia; prehistoric birds; modern avifaunal regions; DNA – DNA hybridization;  and more information on the different bird families in Australia, including the breeding season for each species and further reading. There is also a rare bird bulletin; a checklist for Australian island territories; and a glossary of bird terminology.

Field Guide to Australian Birds by Michael Morcombe 2000BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (506)

While this book has very similar information, there are two major differences, which are very useful. Firstly, on the inside of the back cover (as well as in the introduction), there are colour tags for each family group with page numbers for quick reference, to which I constantly refer. And secondly, there is a large section in the back with 1000 colour illustrations of nests and eggs, showing the huge diversity in building techniques and aiding identification (photo below).

Accompanying the text are detailed notes on breeding season and location; courtship; nest material, shape and size; clutch and egg  size; incubation ;  fledging and leaving the nest. In the back is a section on migrant waders with a map of distribution;  a list of extinct birds and new discoveries; and references to bird books, magazines and prominent bird groups and schemes.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd20%Image (507)Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds 1976

The big advantage of this book is its wonderful photographs of birds in their natural environment, including amazing shots of birds feeding, wading, sitting on nests or feeding nestlings, but its large size means that it is certainly NOT a field guide! We have used this book so much that we are now on our second copy!

Part One starts with a map of altitudes; average annual rainfall and rainfall variability; and vegetation zones in Australia, then explores each bird habitat from rainforest, forest and woodland to scrubland, shrub steppe,  grassland, heathland, mangroves and wetlands.

In Part Two, each bird has either a full page or double page spread with wonderful photographs, general notes (often with interesting historical notes)and an italicized section specifying other names, the length and description of males, females and juveniles; voice; nesting and distribution, including a distribution map. Towards the end of this section are lists of rare visitors, escaped captives and unsuccessful introductions, as well as notes on the different orders and families of Australian birds.

Part Three is concerned with the life of birds: the behaviour which distinguishes species (locomotion; flight; finding food; adaptations to feeding; care of feathers; aggression displays;  and courtship rituals); migrants and nomads; regulation of bird numbers; prehistoric birds of Australia; and the origins of Australian birds. It is such an interesting book with a wealth of information about Australian birds.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (515)

The next two books are devoted to birds of the world and show the huge diversity and beauty of these incredible creatures.

Encyclopaedia of Birds edited by Joseph Forshaw 1998

While the primary focus is always on birds of your own country, it is great to learn more about their worldly cousins, especially if travelling overseas. The introduction looks at bird anatomy and classification; the evolution of birds from feathered dinosaurs 150 Million years ago; bird habitats and adaptations to their environment; bird behaviour and endangered species.

The remainder and majority of the book is devoted to the different orders and suborders of birds eg albatrosses and petrels; divers and grebes; herons and their allies; waterfowl and screamers; and waders and shorebirds.

Each section has key facts in an orange box: the name of the order; number of families; genera and species; the smallest and largest types and conservation status (though this information is probably outdated now!), as well as a world distribution map and detailed notes about each type of bird and lovely illustrations and photographs. For example, in Herons and their Allies,  there are notes on identification by bill shape and historical notes on the Sacred Ibis of Ancient Egyptians, as well as specific notes on herons, night herons, bitterns, storks, new world vultures, ibises, spoonbills and flamingos. Kingfishers and their Allies covers kingfishers, todies, motmots, bee-eaters, rollers, ground-rollers, courols, hoopoes, and hornbills.

It is a fascinating book with lots of birds, of which I have never even heard and is a great addition to our natural history library.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (552)

Birds of the World by Colin Harrison and Alan Greensmith 1993

Slightly different in approach to the previous book, this  pocket sized guide describes over 800 bird species of the world, with half and full page spreads devoted to each bird. Each entry has a colour-coded band on the top, specifying the family and species name and length with detailed descriptive notes, including their nests and distribution; terrific photographs annotated with key identification pointers; scale silhouettes to compare bird height with the size of this book; pictures of alternate plumage, a worldwide distribution map and a band at the bottom of the entry specifying plumage, habitat and migratory status.

There are also notes on the relationship between birds and humans over history; types of feathers; bird anatomy; bill shape; variation within species; nesting boxes and bird feeders and water containers; birdwatching in the field; identifying birds in flight; and a useful identification key. An excellent taster to the wonderful world of birds!

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an excellent website for bird information. See: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=1478 and https://www.allaboutbirds.org/. I discovered them, when researching Birds-of-Paradise. They have some wonderful video footage of the 39 species. See: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/search/?q=Birds%20of%20Paradise.

We would dearly love to see these beautiful birds in their natural environment in New Guinea one day!  In the meantime, we can satisfy our desire with the above videos and maybe one day, this bucket list book: Birds of New Guinea by Thane K. Pratt & Bruce M. Beehmer 2015 . See: http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/birds-of-new-guinea/fp9780691095639.aspx.

The following two books are useful guides to birdwatching locations, especially the second one, which focuses specifically on our local area.

Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia by Sue Taylor 2013

Having lived in the country for most of our life and being keen visitors to National Parks, we have never really had to think about where to see birds, but this book would have been very useful during our 2008 trip around Australia, as well as being of great value to city birdwatchers in planning their ornithological excursions.

We feel we have seen a fair bit of Australia and key birdwatching venues, so it was an interesting exercise to tick off the places which we had visited in the book, finding to our surprise that we’d only been to 46 out of the 100 places listed! Happily, there is obviously much more to see!!! We are looking forward to a desert trip one day to see more of our beautiful parrot species.

While Sue admits the choice of places was subjective, I agreed totally with many of her selections. How can we ever forget the vast flotillas of Black Swans at Tower Hill, Victoria; the huge diversity of waterfowl at Fogg Dam, near Darwin, and Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory, as well as at Parry’s Lagoon in Western Australia; the enormous flocks of Plumed Whistling Ducks and Magpie Geese at Hasties Swamp on the Atherton Tableland in North Queensland, nor the Eclectus Parrots, Palm Cockatoos, Magnificent Riflebirds and Sunbirds at Chilli Beach in Iron Range National Park and the delicate Jacanas, Blue-winged Kookaburras, Brolgas and Magpie Geese at Lakefield National Park, both areas on Cape York, North Queensland. We finally saw a Cassowary in the wild on our last bushwalk at Mission Beach; called and cuddled Providence Petrels out of the sky at Lord Howe Island; and visited Broome Bird Observatory in Western Australia. It was great seeing the inclusion of our old stamping ground at Lamington National Park and two local areas of our new home : Mogareeka Inlet and Green Cape.

There are beautiful photographs throughout the book of birds in their natural environment. It is a lovely book to own!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (508)

Birding Australia: Australian Edition 2008 by Lloyd Nielsen

A very similar book, which covers a much larger area, but doesn’t have the lovely bird photos of the previous book. It is very much a directory with maps, a brief description of each area, its climate, access/ directions and its birding highlights, as well as lists of key species and endemics; good birding spots and best times; suggested itineraries; regional field guides, CDs and DVDs; local bird groups, accommodation, tours and websites, and a table of times for first light, sunrise, sunset and last light for the first day of each month.

A very comprehensive book, which is backed up by the Birding Australia website:  http://www.birdingaustralia.com.au/.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (574)

Birdwatching on the Far South Coast New South Wales by Far South Coast Birdwatchers Inc 2008

Essential reading for birdwatchers on the Far South Coast of New South Wales! We are so lucky in this area to have a wide variety of habitats with many wonderful waterways from mountain and forest; lakes and rivers; and National Parks to agricultural land and dams and many coastal lagoons and beaches. We also have three designated birdwatching routes, which never fail to please, especially the dam and floodplains at Kalaru, near Tathra, which always have a multitude of waterbirds.

This useful small book, compiled by the local birdwatching group,  is divided into three sections: Places to Go; Birds to See; and Other Information. In Places to Go, each area is described, including access, favourite birdwatching spots; and the birds likely to be seen, as well as providing a handy map and random hints like binocular adjustment and care; what to do if you find a bird on the ground and the Birdwatchers’ Code of Ethics. Like with the previous book, while we have already explored many of the areas mentioned, we still have plenty of local excursions in the future!

The second section, Birds to See,  lists 300 species of birds in the Bega Valley, including its scientific name; residency and abundance status; the best spots to see them and other general notes.

The last section suggests useful books and websites; gives the contact details of the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS) and Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) and a few notes about dealing with ticks, mosquitoes, sandflies and leeches!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (509)

The next two books are very interesting reads about our Australian bird life.

The Lyrebird: A Natural History by Pauline Reilly 1988

My daughter based one of her science projects in Year 10 on Superb Lyrebirds, of which we had quite a large population on our rainforest block on the escarpment, adjoining Bellinger River National Park. We used this book extensively in her research for this project, as well as in the formulation of her experimental hypotheses.

She was particularly interested in their song, as male lyrebirds are superb mimics and will often go through an extensive repertoire of different bird calls to attract their mate. Armed with a tape recorder, Caro would tiptoe up on the birds, only to have them invariably go silent on her and glide off like Houdini into the bush, highly frustrating for her and by the end of it, I don’t think she wanted to see another lyrebird for a long while!

Nevertheless, she did get enough results to confirm Pauline Reilly’s assertion that the amount of time between between its own calls during the mimicry sequence is fixed and specific to each male, allowing their identification and ownership of territory.

However, her statement that lyrebirds do not mimic birds, which breed at the same time as themselves, was not supported by Caroline’s evidence, as she clearly recorded them mimicking Eastern Whipbirds in the subtropical rainforests of Dorrigo!

For anyone interested to know more about these fascinating birds, this book is a must! Chapters cover their origins and relationships; their distribution and annual cycle; descriptions of their physical appearance and  the roles of both males and females; immature lyrebirds; song and mimicry;  and random and interesting extra information. I have always loved Pauline’s story about the 1930s flute player, who used to play two popular songs of the time ,‘Mosquito Dance’ and ‘The Keel Row’,  near his pet lyrebird, who incorporated the tunes into his song, then passed them on to his descendants, who melded them together in their territorial calls, still heard in 1969.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (510)

Where Song Began by Tim Low 2014

Australia has so many fascinating and unusual birds from the lyrebirds with their amazing mimicry to the Satin Bowerbirds, which build courting platforms, decorated with entirely with blue tobacco flowers, cornflowers, pegs, milk bottle tops etc); the scrub turkeys and mallee fowl, which build enormous incubation mounds; the male emus and cassowaries, who raise the young; the Laughing Kookaburra, which eats snakes, the territorial magpie, nominated by Canadian biologist, the aptly named David Bird, as ‘the most serious avian menace in the world‘, yet with such a beautiful melodious song; and its incredibly beautiful colourful and raucous parrots!

This is a fascinating book, primarily  about the origin of birds and their evolution. There is so much interesting information about birds and their behaviour, particularly our Australian species, and while I really don’t want to add any spoilers, some of the topics include the beginning of song and the origin of parrots (both in Australia);  the birds of New Guinea; gigantism in birds; rainforest pigeons and their role in forest evolution, the endangered Gouldian Finch; seabirds; and the relationship between people and birds.

It’s a very readable book, backed up by both the fossil record and contemporary research and genetic studies. I was fascinated to learn that flamingoes used to live in Australia 20 Million years ago, having always doubted the inclusion of flamingos in Swiss Family Robinson, a childrens’ book about a family, shipwrecked on a tropical island near New Guinea. Apparently, there were 3 species of flamingos at Lake Eyre, up until 1 Million years ago. And that I’m afraid, is as much as you get…!  Enjoy the book!

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Next, I will be discussing books about more fascinating animal life.