A guide to Observation, Understanding and Conservation by Scott Leslie, Key Porter Books
Despite disappearing from the North American continent at a rate of about 150 acres every hour, gobbled up by human development, agriculture, roads and the like, many wetlands hang on, providing homes for hundreds of millions of birds. They are truly amazing places, rich ecosystems, seething with life and brimming with beauty. In the lower forty-eight states and Canada they cover approximately 700,000 square miles, approximately ten per cent of the total land area. Of the 650 or so bird species that regularly breed north of Mexico, nearly one half use wetlands in some measure during their life cycles, and about one quarter are completely dependent on them.
In this guide, naturalist and photographer Scott Leslie covers some 73 species, a representative selection of ‘core’ birds found throughout North American wetlands. Each species account provides details of appearance, behaviour, migration strategies, habitat, all important conservation concerns and range maps plus other helpful information. The book also contains some 100 images from Scott. The book features essays on present and future challenges facing wetlands along with selected important wetland sites in North America and Canada.
Scott Leslie is an award-winning photographer, naturalist and writer who lives in Nova Scotia. Wetland Birds of North America is the second in a series of three that also includes; Sea and Coastal Birds of North America (click here for review) and Woodland birds in North America (click here for review)
Birders wanting to familiarise themselves with the wetland birds of North America will appreciate the publication of this book.
On the Upper Bay of Fundy between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of Semipalmated Sandpipers stop over during their southbound migration each summer to feed on the abundant mud-shrimp. By some estimates, most of the continent’s entire population of this species depend on these rich feeding grounds. Hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes depend on Nebraska’s Platte River during migration every spring. Other places such as Last Mountain Lake in Saskatchewan are vital migratory stopovers for a wide variety of geese, ducks, shorebirds, cranes and birds of prey. However for every remarkable spot such as these there are thousands of small, apparently unremarkable wetland habitats that are vital to tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of North American birds.
The high proportion of endangered, threatened or vulnerable wildlife found in wetlands can be traced to two related facts. They are home to an inordinately large number of species in relation to their land area and a greater percentage of wetlands have already been lost (about half). Indeed of the eight species that have become extinct in North America in recent times, five of them were species that relied on wetlands. The loss of Eskimo Curlew, Carolina Parakeet, Bachman’s Sparrow, Dusky Seaside Sparrow and the Labrador Duck is in large part due to loss of wetland habitat.
The North American Waterfowl Management Plan along with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands must address some serious challenges if the diversity of birdlife on our continent is to continue for future generations.
As with Scott’s other guides, he is to be congratulated for bringing us face-face with our wetlands in such an accessible way.
You can buy this book at Amazon at a discount click here
Review by Martin Birch