Heinrich (The Snoring Bird: My Family’s Journey Through a Century of Biology, 2007, etc.) gets intimate with the plants and animals of summer.
Understandably, since the author lives in northern Vermont and inland Maine, much of his work heretofore has been associated with the colder months, but here he tackles summer with the verve particular to those who know that season as fleeting. He is an artful storyteller, crafting his explorations into nature as tight narratives. He’s also a bit of a nutty professor, as witness this interaction with bald-faced hornets: “This time I crept up slowly, lunged forward with a wad of toilet paper in my hand, and successfully plugged up their nest entrance hole before they had time to react.” Anyone who has experienced a bald-faced sting knows that this is an insane act, though undoubtedly fun to read about. The author finds, and generates, just as much excitement with the regenerative capacities of moss and lichen, or wading about in ponds to take the temperature of frog eggs. This is the kind of doorstep science that encourages you to take an interest in what is happening in your yard—to attend, as Heinrich does, to the organ-pipe mud dauber building its tunnels, or a flying crane doing its strange boogie. He can sing praise to a blackfly without stretching the point, radiate a communicable joy in seeing the first spring azure of the year and a purity of awe in the behavioral programming of creatures as they make precise choices in the scant hours they have to live and reproduce. He scrutinizes the bog alder and beaked hazel, the phoebe, woodcock and sapsucker (many captured in his elegant line drawings), and blends those observations with discussions of large phenomena: the movement of constellations, photoperiods, biological and circadian clocks.
As with the author’s Winter World (2003), Heinrich presents natural science at its engaging best.