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Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them Hardcover – March 23, 2011
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"An intricate, illuminating window into the natural artistry of avian architecture."
-- Shelf Awareness
Small architectural marvels were hidden in storage for decades at the California Academy of Sciences until 2007, when artist Sharon Beals began unearthing them from cardboard boxes and wooden cabinets. She wanted to photograph nature's miniature masterpieces-birds' nests-which had been collected over the course of a century from a variety of species. Her images first appeared in Audubon's March-April 2008 issue and on its cover; they soar again in her elegant new book, Nests (Chronicle Books, $29.95). One by one, the structures appear in stark relief on a black background, exposing their exquisite intricacies-colored thread in an Altamira oriole's creation, seashells in a Caspian tern's-and, often, intact eggs. On facing pages, an illustration of the builder perches above companion text describing the species' nesting habits and construction methods. "Each nest is a scientific treasure trove," write the academy's Jack Dumbacher and Maureen Flannery in the foreword. "Each nest is also an amazing work of art." So is Beals's book.
-- Julie Liebach, editors choice, Audubon magazine
In her new book, Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them, photographer Sharon Beals brings to light an often-secreted piece of the lives of birds. From the collections of the California Academy of Sciences, the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, she has selected some of most ecologically unique, visually stunning, and just plain ingenious nests built by birds both familiar and exotic, from the marsh wren (Cistothorus palustris) to Kauai's akekee (Loxops caeuleirostris). The nests are, by turn, miraculously intricate, strikingly simple, sinister, strange, or sweet, but all are a testament to the resourcefulness of creatures who lack complex tools but have nonetheless evolved some of the most sophisticated, diverse architecture of any organisms on the planet.
Beals' beautiful photographs, a sampling of hundreds of nests carefully collected and preserved, are a testament to the power of these miniature masterpieces to inspire our imaginations and awaken our powers of observation.
-- Audubon magazine blog
Drawn from the exquisite collections of three California academies and institutes, the nests in these delicate, detailed images reflect the meticulous care and skill of their creators-50 species of birds, each described in facing-page text that is as free of scientific jargon as it is interesting.
-- American Photo magazine
About the Author
Award-winning photographer Sharon Beals is author of several books. She lives in San Francisco.
Jack Dumbacher and Maureen Flannery are ornithologists at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
Author and naturalist Scott Weidensaul has written more than two dozen books on natural history.
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"Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them" is a book I had intended to read for a few weeks before in the State Library I finally got myself around to it, but when I had a look I was both impressed and more than a little disappointed. Impressed because, even in books that specialise in nest identification - and there are more than a few of these - I have never seen such good pictures of the most beautiful of bird nests, and as a result it is a delight to see nests with eggs and birds so close. I know intuitively that these pictorial encounters are much closer than one would ever get to these birds in the wild, where one can as I know from trying to see animals in the city, not get very close. The hummingbrd nests, famously small, are especially beautiful when inspected this close.
Disappointed, because of the narrow focus of the book on birds of North and South America, and even the latter continent which has the most unique and diverse avifauna in the world is poorly represented without any justification from author Sharon Beals as to what she is actually covering. It may be true that birds from the geologically representative lands of Australia and Africa do not build anything like the beautiful, cotton-filled nests seen in this book, but even so, there is as I know from handbooks to Australian birds such wonders as the tailed nests of smaller Rhipidura species and the vast mud nests of the Corcoracidae that most people, including Beal, may not imagine. Then in Africa there is the Sociable Weaver's huge tube-like nests in the arid Kalahari, which would add variety to the types of nests discussed here.
All in all, this is an interesting book but rather repetitive for anything other than a genuinely narrow perspective.