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Prairie Spring: A Journey Into the Heart of a Season Hardcover – March 19, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Dunne (Golden Wings) presents an intimate account of a two-month trek—accompanied by photographer wife Linda—following the coming of spring across Americas prairie grasslands. Theirs is an odyssey into the time of beginning that weaves together spiritual insight, plant biology, geology lessons and American history—and a plethora of bird sightings, from the mating trysts of the increasingly rare lesser prairie chicken to the plight of the threatened mountain plover. Their journey begins in New Jersey and continues to Nebraska, their arrival timed to witness the annual migration of half a million northbound sandhill cranes. Next come Colorado and a primer on how homesteading sodbusters transformed an ocean of vibrant prairie grasses into a devastating dustbowl; New Mexico and the Sixth Annual High Plains Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival; back through Colorado and the Pawnee National Grasslands for a glimpse of the threatened prairie dog, once (along with bison) among the environmental engineers of the 19th century Western plains; and into South Dakota, home to between 800 and 1,400 free-ranging bison. Dunnes melodic prose and rhapsodic connection with the natural world brilliantly entice an estranged audience to explore a... now alien environment. Photos. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Dunne, birder extraordinaire and author of numerous books (including Tales of a Low Rent Birder, 1987, and Pete Dunne on Bird Watching, 2003), now turns his pen to spring. In this first of four projected narratives on the seasons, Dunne begins the journey on Groundhog Day, the day halfway between the official first day of winter (the winter solstice) and of spring (the vernal equinox). With his signature mischievous writing style, Dunne tells of the travels he and his wife, Linda, took through the prairie regions in 2007. Although a theme of humanity’s effects on the prairie runs as an undercurrent throughout the narrative, it never overwhelms the sense of awe and wonder at the natural beauty of the grasslands and their inhabitants. Whether writing of the dance–cum–gladiatorial contest of the male lesser prairie chickens, or of racing a prairie storm to shelter, or of meeting a man he dubs “Johnny Earth Day” (whose goal is to pick up trash wherever he goes), Dunne brings the reader into his affirmation of nature and its wonders. --Nancy Bent
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (March 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618822208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618822201
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,206,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

PETE DUNNE is the author of many books, including Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion, Pete Dunne on Bird Watching, and most recently Prairie Spring, the first in a four-book series on the seasons. He is the vice president of the New Jersey Audubon Society and director of its Cape May Bird Observatory.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SGM on February 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is the first of four books that Dunne plans to write, each one focusing on a specific ecosystem during one of the four seasons.

In this narrative, Dunne chronicles a spring that he and his wife spent on America's grasslands. The journey starts on Groundhog Day at the Pawnee National Grasslands in northeast Colorado. As spring unfolds, the Dunnes move about America's heartland, stopping in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and South Dakota.

Birds, of course, figure prominently into the account, as many of the characteristic species of this region are encountered. However, unlike Dunne's previous Feather Quest, it does not focus exclusively on birds. It encompasses the entire ecology, and even history, of the American prairie. Topics range from birds to buffalo, farms to fire, wildflowers to weather.

If you've read anything by Dunne, then you know what to expect here (and if you haven't, you don't know what you've been missing). Humorous, insightful, educational, and just plain fun to read, his prose is amazing. I particularly enjoyed his analogy of a prairie-chicken lek and a baseball game. It seems a little weird, but it really worked. However, he stretches a bit too far at times, such as the conversation he had with a painted horse. It was just a little wide of the mark for me. But in most everything else, he was right on target.

But especially so in his description of watching Sandhill Cranes by the thousands descend upon the Platte River to roost. I was as completely enthralled by those birds, a thousand miles and many months distant, as Dunne and his companions obviously were.

This is nature writing at its best.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Hole on November 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
An excellent short introduction to both the North American central prairies and spring season. The author seems to spend most of his time not actually on the prairie but in the islands of non-prairie habitat within the greater geographical area. He still manages to give an overview of the ecology and history of area interspersed with lots of personal reflection.

Apparently this is the first of four books, eventually to cover all four seasons and four major ecosystems. I'm looking forward to the coming volumes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tero on March 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A must for Dunne fans. Very compact little book to carry around and read when you are out there, perhaps birding, or traveling. A small section of color pictures in the middle. Not that you could not read it cover to cover without. But it gives those outside the area a view of the scenery.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By 5/0 on November 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pete Dunne's book "Prairie Spring" is entertaining and informative, and thought-provoking. But it's not in the "must read" class. It presents a lot of good information about American prairies and their components but it also includes a lot of his personal philosophy (ies) which, after all, is not so much what a person looking to learn about prairies wants to spend any great deal of time on. Dunne's philosophies are interesting and sensible, to be sure, but they would fit better in a book titled "Prairie Home Companion" or some such. Of course Dunne is such a skilled writer he makes the whole book entertaining regardless. And those readers who enjoy a bit of philosophizing with their reading will indeed be very pleased with the clarity that Dunne demonstrates in his illumination of the connection between people and the Earth. Shades of Aldo indeed!
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