Kern Audubon Society

Kern Audubon's Library

The book collection will be brought to the regular Chapter meetings by David Schaad. There are brief summaries of the books below. Check out a book at the meeting, return it at the next. If additional books are received, they will be added to the list. Last update: November 2017.


"John Xantus: The Fort Tejon Letters 1857-1859"

Reviewed by Scott Frazer

The descriptions of living conditions and hardship on the western frontier are just as interesting as the specific references to natural history of the landscape around Fort Tejon in 1858. John Xantus developed an association with Spencer Fullerton Baird, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, who was just beginning to build a network of scientific collectors.

John Xantus is a colorful character in his own right. Born in Hungarian Austria, he claimed to be a graduate of the Polytechnical school in Vienna. Expelled from Austria during the war with Hungry in 1948, Xantus enlisted in the US Army in 1855 due to a lack of any other job prospects. When Xantus died in 1894 at the age of 69 he had never accomplished anything so noteworthy as being a collector for Spencer Baird and the Smithsonian.

Functioning in a undeveloped landscape means that travel which we take for granted today was difficult and slow. Obtaining supplies for scientific specimen preparation was only possible with substantial effort and shipping materials in either direction to reach Fort Tejon meant travel through rugged country and occasional losses due to theft.

With the recent conservation agreements for protection of the Tejon Ranch (and the subject of Kern Audubon's February 2, 2010 program), we may have a renewed appreciation for how special this landscape was prior to extensive settlement. Consider this description of wildlife from the summer of 1857: "We have here grizlys in great abundance, they are really a nuisance, you cannot walk out half a mile, without meeting some..." Also " Not very far on the plains, there are large herds of Antelopes, we have some deers, Elks, Wolves, Foxes, the Panther, wild cat, immense quantity of Badgers, & others, Porcupine, Skunk, flying squirrel, Gopher, Mole, Bats and ground squirrel really in countless numbers...".

This book is available for check-out from the KAS library at the February 2nd meeting!


Books are listed alphabetically by title.

Audubon Animals (The imperial Collection) Text by John James Audubon, F.R.S. and The Rev. John Bachman, D.D. (Copyright 1967)
This is a monumental book! In one volume there is American history in the exploration and travels of Audubon, the collections of 150 of the finest animals paintings reproduced in full color for the first time since 1848, and the accurate, modern natural history of each animal included. This book will appeal to the historian, the artist, the naturalist, and to all book lovers who wish to read an American classic.

A Wilderness of Birds – Hope Jex with pictures by Sidney Bahrt (Copyright 1974)
“I was honored and pleased when I was asked to write the introduction to this book…. This is not a reference book which will help you to identify birds; rather it will stimulate you to look at birds in a somewhat different way, simply as things of great beauty, vibrant with life.” Roger Tory Peterson


Bird Brains (A Sierra Club Book) – Candace Savage (Copyright 1995)
The corvids, members of the crow family, appear to have powers of abstraction, memory, creativity, and insight that puts them on par with many mammals, including, in some instances, higher primates. The life and behavior of 16 representative species of corvids are described. Candace suggests that they may apply their mental powers to choose mates, build nests, teach their young, search for food, and communicate with each other. Meet those that recognize each other as individuals, remember and relocate thousands of hidden food caches, engage in true teamwork, and exhibit an extraordinary degree of sophistication. Are they really featherheads?


Bird Songs Les Beletsky (copyright 2006)
250 North American bird songs by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We often hear birds before we see them and this will teach you their songs so you know what bird you are looking for. It is divided into four sections: Seabirds, Shorebirds, and Water birds; Forest birds; Woodland birds; and Open Country birds.

Birding Babylon (A soldier's journal from Iraq) Jonathan Trouern-Trend (Copyright 2006)
"Here are soldiers in every war who have a naturalist eye" said Jonathan, who kept and published this diary from February 15, 2004 to February 1, 2005, his tour of duty. He set up a blog while in Iraq and kept it when he returned to his hometown of Connecticut and his wife and 5 children. He includes 122 species found in Iraq or Kuwait.

Birding on Borrowed Time Phoebe Snetsinger (Copyright 2003)
This story is in the author's own words and tells how Phoebe saw more birds in her life than any other human being in the history of the world. She began at 34, when she first laid eyes on a resplendent Blackburnian Warbler. She began traveling across the globe, to all seven continents, observing and learning about the world's thousands of bird species. Her intensity and urgency quickened when a cancer diagnosis gave her one-year to live. This is a lively chronicle of birding adventures and a profoundly moving human document of a truly extraordinary woman.

California Native Plants for the Garden Carol Bornstein, David Fross, and Bart O'Brien (Copyright 2005)
Featuring more than 500 plants and illustrations with 450 color photos; this is a comprehensive resource that will appeal to every gardener who has an interest in California's unique flora. The authors are three of California's most experienced native plant horticulturists, and the beautiful book describes the best species for gardens and provides detailed advice on their cultivation, from landscape design and installation to watering, pruning, and pest control.

Complete Birds of North America National Geographic (edited by Jonathan Alderfer)
Definitive, comprehensive, and systematic, this profusely illustrated, indispensable desk reference is the ultimate compendium of North American birds, their plumage, behavior, habitats, and much more. Four thousand illustrations by the finest bird artists at work today, along with 150 stunning full-color photographs by masters of avian photography. More than 80 families and 960 individual species.

Discovery & Destiny An Anthology of American Writers and the American Land (Copyright 1986)
This book offers literary selections from over seventy authors: teachers, naturalists, ranchers, political leaders, and poets writing about our land, nature, and equally about ourselves as a people. Come join these writers for a journey through the American land and into the American mind.

Enslaved by Ducks Bob Tarte
ơbout the subtle and blatant ways animal companions take over our lives. It's impossible to read this book and not fall just a little bit in love with Bob Tarte, his charming, heroic wife, Linda, and their menagerie. A laugh-out-loud chronicle.

Enslaved by Ducks – Bob Tarte
…about the subtle and blatant ways animal companions take over our lives. It's impossible to read this book and not fall just a little bit in love with Bob Tarte, his charming, heroic wife, Linda, and their menagerie. “A laugh-out-loud chronicle.”

Great book Sydelle Troyer A reviewer
This is an amazing book. Bob and his Wife Linda go from a normal home to a completely crazy home that felt even more normal than before! They acquire what may be an insane amount of animals. They learn some hard lessons, and gain experience. You really get to watch them grow as people. With 7 or 8 pets in my house it was a great feeling to see what happened to me happen to someone else, even to a greater extreme. I was crying, laughing, and reading it to everyone in my family. You should give this book a chance. You wont put it down! I'm a terrible writer, but trust me when I say, everyone will love this book.

my favorite book--highly recommended
Betty, A reviewer

I rarely have ever read a book a second time, but I am just finishing this book once more, and may even read it again. I enjoyed the personal stories Bob shared. I never imagined that a book about someone else's life and animals could be so interesting and funny, even though I own many of my own animals. However, I decided to give it a try and checked it out from the library just to see what it was like. I ended up buying my own copy because I wanted to be able to loan it out to other people who might like it as well. (Also so I could read it again myself, of course!) I identified with the way he feels about his animals, and the amount of time and thought each requires. I hope he will write more stories in a future book. His humor reminds me of Dave Barry's.



Hawaii ’s Beautiful Birds – H. Douglas Pratt, author, with Jack Jeffrey as photographer (Copyright 1996)
The work of two highly regarded naturalists and photographers brings Hawaii ’s beautiful birds into sharp focus. With surprising completeness you will meet rare native birds now confined to remote mountain forests, colorful birds of ponds and taro fields, and wanders from surrounding seas, as well as the colorful songsters brought to Hawaii from around the world.

How the Dead Dream – Lydia Millet (Copyright 2008)
Struggling to maintain a relationship with his girlfriend and keep his mother on an even keel, T. slowly begins to lose control. In the wake of a series of painful losses, he begins to nurture a curious obsession with rare and vanishing species. Soon he is living a double life, building sprawling subdivisions by day and breaking into zoos at night to be with animals that are the last of their kind.

Important Bird Areas of California Daniel S. Cooper (Copyright 2004)
A team of dozens of technical advisors contributed hundreds of hours granting interviews, providing data, and reviewing sites, which were compiled and synthesized into this report. Approximately 150 important bird areas are treated here, making this the most comprehensive statewide analysis of sites in California ever attempted.

In Condor Country

Kern Audubon Book Review by Scott Frazer

Anyone who has an interest in CA Condors, Gymnogyps californianus, and the Southern San Joaquin valley history will find the detailed descriptions in this book by David Darlington interesting. Darlington was working as a reporter in Berkeley when he first met Ian and Eben McMillan in 1980 and became acquainted with their environmental activism on behalf of the California Condor. The many story lines in this book parallel the decisions by state and federal agencies to take all of the wild Condors into captivity. Numerous visits to the McMillan ranches and opportunities to visit the dry landscapes that supported Condors and ranchers influenced the opinions of this author and many who have visited Condor country.

The stories contained in this volume run back to settlement of California in the 1860's, establishment of early ranches on the Carrizo Plain and evolution of agricultural and suburban developments that continue to present day. Stories that only the well informed or local sources would know are repeated, including how Kelly Truesdale of Shandon collected Condor eggs for collector’s who would pay up to $300 each, an amount equal to more than a years pay for a ranch hand. Eben McMillan accompanied Truesdale as an assistant in 1920. This illustrates how at least 70 Condor eggs were collected between 1859 and 1943, a significant number for the bird with the lowest natural reproductive rate of any North American bird.

A review of earthquakes along the San Andreas fault are analogous to the changes in modern society that effects all environmental issues. Published in 1987 many of the references are now dated but still thought provoking. The local insights and historical perspective are valuable and may allow us to consider events of our own time with a more informed perspective.


John James Audubon (The making of an American) Richard Rhodes
When reading Mr. Audubon's biography, it is nice to refer to the paintings described and some are found in the accompanying book The Audubon Society Baby Elephant Folio Audubon's Birds of America. John James Audubon came to America as a dapper eighteen-year-old eager to make his fortune. He had a talent for drawing and an interest in birds, and he would spend the next thirty-five years traveling to the remotest regions of his new countryدften alone and on footشo render his avian subjects on paper. The works of art he created have the world its idea of America. They have America its idea of itself. Here Richard Rhodes vividly depicts Audubon's life and career; his epic wanderings; his quest to portray birds in a lifelike way; his long, anguished separations from his adored wife; his ambivalent witness to the vanishing of the wilderness. This book is a magnificent achievement.

John James Audubon (The Watercolors for THE BIRDS OF AMERICA) (Copyright 1993)
All aspects of Audubon's genius come together in this one definitive, sumptuous volume. Recently conserved and newly photographed with painstaking care, these rarely seen works are reproduced here to reveal the original, brilliant colors. The text has been contributed by some of America's foremost art historians, conservators, and Audubon scholars. This book ties together al the elements of Audubon's rich, complex life and legacy. It is a fitting tribute to one of our greatest artists.

John Xántus The Fort Tejon Letters 1857-1859 – Ann Zwinger (Copyright 1986)
From his station at Ft. Tejon in California, Xántus carried on a lengthily correspondence with the Smithsonian, to whom he shipped the specimens he had trapped or shot in the surrounding sierra and deserts. He reported his findings as he bemoaned his circumstances and worried about his future. Ann Zwinger has assembled his unpublished letters of his trials and triumphs and reveals much about his dubious character.

Kingbird Highway (The story of a natural obsession that got a little out of hand) Kenn Kaufman (Copyright 1997) Author of Birds of North America
At 16, Kenn Kaufman dropped out of high school and hit the road, hitching back and forth across America. His goal began with trying to set a record for the most birds seen in one year. What began as a game, though, changed into a quest for a deeper understanding of the natural world. This book is a unique coming of age story, combining a lyrical celebration of nature with wild adventures and some unbelievable characters.

Listening to Whales (What the Orcas have taught us) Alexandra Morton (Copyright 2002)
These are spellbinding stories about Alexandra's career in whale and dolphin research. While at Marineland in California, she pioneered the recording of orca sounds by dropping a hydrophone into the tank of two killer whales. She recorded the varied language of mating, childbirth, and even grief after the birth of a stillborn calf. Jane Goodall wrote, ԍorton's descriptions of the whales' lives and their haunting underwater communications are so vivid that they will remain with you long after you have read the last eloquent page.

Master Guide to Birding #1 (Loons to Sandpipers) The Audubon Society (Copyright 1983)

Master Guide to Birding #2 (Gulls to Dippers) The Audubon Society (Copyright 1983)

Master Guide to Birding #3 (Old World Warblers to Sparrows) The Audubon Society (Copyright 1983)
These books were not only written for the birders of North America, but by them. The 61 authors contributed 835 species accounts in their areas of concentration or wrote special essays. They came from Florida to Alaska and California to Maine. While these books were designed to satisfy the advanced birder, they will also supply the beginning birder with what they need to know to start an absorbing hobby that can last a lifetime.

Naturalist Edward O. Wilson (Copyright 1994)
A smooth and unpretentious narrative, he tells us how a boy from Alabama became such a man, a person possessed of an amiable, fierce intelligence addressing himself to the crucial biological issues of our time. His style is gracious and lucid, the example of his life greatly inspiring. (Barry Lopez)


Of a Feather *
A brief history of American birding
Scott Weidensaul (copyright 2007)
This book traces American birding to its colorful origins: the frontier ornithologists who collected eggs between skirmishes with Indians; the first effective conservation movement; and the luminaries such as Alexander Wilson (a convicted blackmailer) and John James Audubon. He also surveys the explosive growth of modern birding that began in 1934 when Roger Tory Peterson published A Field Guide to the Birds.





Off The Beaten Path (Stories of Place) The Nature Conservancy (Copyright 1998)
You will be taken on a literary journey through wild and wonderful landscapes that focus on conservation in unusual ways by exploring the importance of place through the short story. The writers were asked to tell their stories of a visit to one of the preserves or an outdoor experience they had in their lives. From the ominous to the humorous, from the tall tale to the meditative monologue, these stories reflect the variety and character of our diminishing wildland and, in the end, lead us to laces in ourselves that only the best fiction can reveal.


Owls *Their natural and unnatural history – John Sparks and Tony Soper (copyright 1970)
The owl's habits of hunting, feeding, courting, nesting, and breeding are engagingly evoked to provide an accurate, interesting picture of owls in the wild, in captivity, and in folklore and mythology.

100 Birds and How They Got Their Names Diana Wells (Copyright 2002)
Discover the myths, legends, literature, history, and passions associated with our avian friends. Diana tells one hundred stories with a keen wit, a love of language, and an enthusiasm for the natural world. She digs up the curious and the captivatingئrom the medieval practice of Գwan-uppingԠto the origins of the nineteenth-century Sparrow War and from the diving and weaving erotic mating dances of great crested grebes to the story behind that partridge in a pear tree.

Providence of a Sparrow (Lessons from a Life Gone to the Birds) Chris Chester (Copyright 2004)
B fell twenty-five feet from his nest into the life of Chris Chester. The encounter was providential for both. B and Chester spent hours together playing games. They learned words in each other's vocabularies. B grew anxious if Chester was late coming home from work. Chester turned part of his house into an aviary and adjusted his social life to meet B's demands. This was a small price to pay, though, for the trust and comfort of a twenty-five gram friend who brought joy and wonder back into his life.

Red-Tails in Love Marie Winn (Copyright 1998)
The scene of this enchanting (and true) story is the Ramble, an unknown wilderness deep in the heart of New York's fabled Central Park. There an odd and amiable band of nature lovers devote themselves to observing and protecting the park's rich wildlife. When a pair of red-tailed hawks builds a nest atop a Fifth Avenue apartment house across the street from the model-boat pond, Marie Winn and her fellow regulars are soon transformed into obsessed hawk watchers. The hilarious and occasionally heartbreaking saga of the Fifth Avenue hawks as they struggle to raise a family in their unprecedented nest site, and the affectionate portrait of the humans who fall under their spell will delight and inspire readers for years to come.

Song of the North Wind (A story of the Snow Goose) Paul A. Johnsgard (Copyright 1974) The annual spring ritual of meeting the geese on their return from the south was more important to me than even the arrival of Christmas. The spring return of the geese represented my epiphany, a manifestation of gods I could see, hear, and nearly touch. By evening I would be wet, cold, and exhausted, but during the drive home my ears would resound with the cries of the wild geese and when I closed my eyes that night, I saw them still. I knew only that I must be there to see them, to become a vicarious part of something I couldn't begin to understand, but which to me represented the primordial energy of life.


The Adventure of BIRDS Charlton Ogburn (Copyright 1975)
This extraordinary book undertakes to account for the appeal of birds and the hold they maintain on countless thousands of people around the world. It is equally a comprehensive explanation of all that goes into making a bird what it is, a creature superbly adapted to land and water and to every climate. I don't think anyone is likely to get closer to the infinite variety and interest of birds than through Charlton Ogburn's book.
"..fascinating and full of profound observations. One of the best bird books I have read in a long time, and yet far more than a book about birds. This is a book about a man who knows that wilderness is never farther away than sundown." -Hal Borland


The Backyard Birdhouse Book– Rená and Christyna M. Laubach (Copyright 1998)
You will learn to identify, attract, and house some of North America's most fascinating cavity nesters, including Bluebirds, Purple Martins, Screech-Owls, Wood Ducks, and American Kestrels. There are detailed profiles of 25 species, featuring more than 100 color photographs of adult birds, eggs, and nestlings. Learn how to construct and mount 8 practical, species-appropriate nestbox designs, guard nestlings against predators, monitor and keep records of bird activity, landscape to attract birds, and organize and participate in conservation programs.

The Big Year – Mark Obmascik (Copyright 2004)

This is the Gumball Rally of birding – a rollicking, nonstop, transcontinental adventure. It’s the best and worst of birding in one grueling yearlong contest, and you have to admire the rare passion and dedication that a Big Year attempt requires. The three men who flew over the cuckoo’s nest in their search for avian glory will have you cawing with laughter.


The Birds Around Us Created and designed by the editorial staff of Ortho books (Copyright 1986)
you've ever wondered how an eagle flies, where to see migrating wood ducks, what a yellow-bellied sapsucker really looks like, or how to photograph a hummingbird in flight, then this book is for you. Learn background information about the anatomy, physiology, and behavior of different birds.

The Cambridge Illustrated Dictionary of Natural History R. J. Lincoln & G. A. Boxshall (Copyright 1987)
This covers the entire spectrum of life plants, animals, and micro-organisms. The topics include habitats, lifestyles, associations, feeding, reproductive strategies, behaviors and physiology, as well as the taxonomic names of all groups of living organisms, based on a modern system of classification.

The Family Life of Birds – Hans Dossenbach (Copyright 1971)

The world’s birds have survived in every conceivable habitat and routinely have undertaken voyages of truly epic dimensions, collectively logging more flight mileage than man, his moon shots notwithstanding, probably ever will approach. The driving force behind this activity is the mating game. See photographs of their courting customs, what their eggs look like, and much more inside this book.



The Waterfowl of the World Volume 1 Jean Delacour (Copyright 1954) Magpie Goose - Whistling Ducks, Swans and Geese - Sheldgeese and Shelducks.

The Waterfowl of the World Volume 2 Jean Delacour (Copyright 1956) Dabbling Ducks

The Waterfowl of the World Volume 3 Jean Delacour (Copyright 1959) Eiders Pochards - Perching Ducks - Scoters, Golden-eyes and Mergansers - Stiff-tailed Ducks

The Waterfowl of the World Volume 4 Jean Delacour (Copyright 1964)
General Habits - Reproductive cycle- Ecology - Distribution and species relationships - Fowling - Conservation and management - Aviculture - Domestic waterfowl - The anatomy of waterfowl - Fossil Anseriformes - Corrections and additions

To See Every Bird on Earth Dan Koeppel
What drives a man to travel to sixty countries and spend a fortune to count birds? Richard Koeppel's obsession began at the age of twelve, when he spotted his first bird, the Brown Thrasher, in Queens, New York, and promptly jotted the sighting in a notebook. He traveled to places both dangerous and dull---from the manicured parks of urban America to the fields and farmlands of Europe, and finally to the most remote corners of the Brazilian Amazon---for the sake of making a check mark in the notebook. The book is a son telling about his father's life long obsession to see every bird on earth.

Velvet Mites & Silken Webs Scott Camazine (A Kodak Wildlife Photographer of the Year) (Copyright 1991)
Over 40 exquisite full-page, color photographs of such small wonders as the velvet mite, swan's feathers, or an Amanita mushroom. Scott is a research biologist and naturalist, and writes about the nesting habits of the white-footed mouse, and the Canada goose; he tells of the mathematic progression that governs the growth of spirals in nature; and tells why migrating geese always fly in a V formation.


Copyright © 2019 Kern Audubon Society.