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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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